Sathish Bala who founded desiFEST, shares the story of how it all started

Standard

We all have moments when our life’s work needs validation.

For desiFEST’s founder/ artistic director Sathish Bala, the moment came five years ago, albeit with a price.

The 2018 desiFEST takes place Saturday, June 2 at Yonge-Dundas Square from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

For years, Sathish—the rebel/disruptor—had resisted the path his family hoped he would chase (Engineering). Instead, he struck out and decided to kick-start a free music concert in Toronto (Yonge-Dundas Square). This music was far cry from the classical Carnatic ragas that courses through the vein of every South Indian.

Manjeet Rai aka Manj Musik sits on a white platform against a green backdrop.

Manjeet Rai, aka Manj Musik, an internationally-renowned singer/songwriter/composer known for his Bhangra and Hip-Hop infused music will perform at the 2018 desiFEST, June 2. Supplied photo

It was Hip-Hop, Reggae, rock, Bhangra-fusion, and other genres that his traditional South Indian family did not understand.

Sathish’s dad was an engineer. The apple turns out fell far away from the tree. Disappointment festered between father and son over his career (music).

Time went by and the strained relationship continued. Over time, desiFest found its feet in the multicultural cauldron that is Toronto. As Sathish’s name began to appear in the media, his father slowly came around. The critic became his son’s cheerleader. Then, five years ago, one day after that year’s desiFest, Bala Sr. breathed his last.

The genesis of desiFEST

Sathish came to realize the therapeutic as well as the addictive power of music in his teens when he became a DJ.

“Early in 2000, I joined a club called Bombay Martini where I would spin Punjabi, Bollywood and English music together,” he recalled. “Learning to connect to other cultures through music was a great lesson. From there on, I learned to negotiate with venues and do marketing and advertising…”

All he needed was to connect all of the pieces to a bigger purpose. And that’s how desiFEST happened.

Photo of Tamil rapper set against the backdrop of high-rise buildings

Lady Rolex Rasathy, a Sri Lankan rapper is among those scheduled to perform at the 2018 desiFEST, June 2 at 4:35 p.m. The free music festival runs from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. at the Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto. Supplied photo

“I come from a generation of South Asians whose teenage years were influenced by urban music,” Sathish said. “Our original music was fused and we faced challenges trying to find space to display this music. We were by name and sound ‘ethnic’ so mainstream wouldn’t book us either.”

Sathish decided to bridge the musical void.

What now?

Even though Sathish did not opt to become an engineer, he had a natural flair for entrepreneurship. In 1999, while at the high school, he launched his first company, which he later sold. Since then, he has set up several digital marketing and tech enterprises later scooped up as acquisitions.

Sathish Bala wearing a salmon-coloured shirt with a blue bow-tie.

Sathish Bala, the founder of desiFEST, hopes the festival will serve as his legacy for the future generation of artists. Supplied photo.

“Our mission at desiFEST is to have a 12-hour conversation with the community through music,” says Sathish, the Indian-born transplant to Canada who came here via Singapore in 1989. “For desiFEST, we look at what are the different reactions we can create within a diverse community. 25 per cent of our audience is not South-Asians, so that’s important as well because they get to experience our culture and learn about our food, music and not just Bollywood, but the version of the next generation.”

There is a bit of Bollywood in desiFEST. The rationale is to display the talents of young artists who have incorporated Bollywood music into their own arrangements and melodies.

Having artists like Abhithi aka Amitha Mundechira a dancer/singer and a physician perform at the concert (1:55 p.m.) is Sathish’s not-so-subtle message to desi parents. He wants to tell them pursuing art alongside a profession doesn’t have to be an either-or situation. When the passion is powerful enough, it will pull you.

The desiFEST is Sathish Bala’s legacy to the next-generation of desis/South Asians in Toronto and elsewhere in the world. He wants them to take it and run with it.

Artists at this year’s desiFEST include Parichay, Divine, The Roach Killa, The Prophec, DJ Prodiigy and dozens of others. Check out their website for schedules. Also performing at the concert is Manj Musik, a singer/songwriter whose Bhangra and Hip-Hop infused work has been creating ripples around the world.

 

 

Advertisements

June is when all music moves outdoors and Toronto desis finally ditch their toques

Standard
Haviah Mighty performing

The 2018 MonsterWorldMashup is a two-day festival of music, comedy, and art happening in Brampton June 1-2. Hip-Hop artist Haviah Mighty is one of the performers at the concert taking place June 2 at the Garden Square in Brampton.

Friday, June 1-2

Event: MonsterWorld Mashup

Details: The folks that bring the #Bollywood Monster Mashup each year are offering a two-day festival of music, art, spoken word and more in Brampton. The MonsterWorld Mashup runs Friday, June 1, an exclusive ticketed event will feature series of comedy acts, an art show and yes, a secret concert. The action takes place at The Den, Sheridan College, Davis Campus, 7899 McLaughlin Rd. Brampton at 6 p.m.

Saturday, June 2 has the heavyweights such as Movin’ Cool, Stay Out Late, Los Poetas and HANHAN performing on stage at the Garden Square (outside Rose Theatre) at 5 p.m.

“We’re presenting unique acts who represent the changing voices and faces of the GTA,” says Vikas Kohli, executive director, MonstrARTity. “The June 1 launch party will be a unique experience for the audience with Brampton’s first-ever sofar secret concert and side-splitting comedy acts with comedians like Amish Patel, Keesha Brownie, Nitish Sakhuja, Crystal Ferrier, Chris Robinson and Paul Thompson. Most of all, it will be a great time, so join us.”

Contact: MonsterWorldMashup

Saturday, June 2

Event: desiFEST

Details: Now in its 12th year, desiFEST is a free event and is the largest South Asian Music Concert, taking place on Saturday, June 2 at Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Contact: 2018 desiFest

Event: Vande Janani (A Tribute to Motherhood)

Details: Keralite Art Lovers Association (KALA) is hosting this dance concert by Divya Unni at the Erindale Secondary School, 2021 Dundas St. W. at 5:30 p.m.
Contact: Keralite Art Lovers Association

Saturday, June 9

Event: EID bazaar

Details: PGA International will be putting together its annual Eid Bazaar June 9 – 14 at the Swagat Banquet Hall, 6991 Millcreek Dr. Mississauga from 1 p.m. to midnight.
Contact: PGA’s EID bazaar

Thursday, June 14

Event: Through Her Lens

Details: A photo exhibit celebrating women of colour will take place at the Chinguacousy Library and Civic Centre, 150 Central Park Dr. in Brampton at 8:30 p.m.
Contact: Through Her Lens

Sunday, June 17

Event: SOCH workshop on coping with anxiety

Details: Supporting Our Community Health (SOCH), an organization host a series of mental health workshops, Sunday, June 17, at Chinguacousy Library and Civic Centre, 150 Central Park Dr. in Brampton from 1 to 3 p.m.

The idea is to increase awareness and education about anxiety and how it can be treated. These interactive workshops will take place in both English and Punjabi.

Contact: Supporting Our Community Health (SOCH) 

Tuesday, June 26

Event: Speed Dating

Details: This Mississauga speed-dating event for South Asians will take place 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at The Port House Social Bar & Kitchen, 139 Lakeshore Rd. E. Mississauga, ON L5G 1E5.
Contact: Mississauga Speed Dating

Event: Toronto Curry Awards

Details: Pukaar News UK will be hosting the first-ever Toronto Curry Awards from 6 p.m. until midnight at the Holiday Inn Toronto International Airport, 970 Dixon Rd., Toronto, ON M9W 1J9.
The awards will celebrate this rich heritage of curries to highlight the finest examples of South Asian cuisine and praising the restaurateurs dedicated to serving up our beloved curries.
Contact: Toronto Curry Awards

10 things you should know about the 2018 International Film Festival of South Asia (IIFSA) Toronto, May 10-21

A booklet featuring IFFSA Toronto schedule
Standard

The 2018 IIFSA Toronto taking place has a mix of commercial as well as arthouse films.

This year’s festival will include some 150 films in 15 languages, 50+ events across the 7 cities in the GTA over 12 days. Whew! That’s something.

Did you know?

Sunny Gill, the founder/president of International Film Festival of South Asia (IFFSA) Toronto was not an avid fan of films or music until five years ago?

Fate—and opportunity—threw Gill into taking on the helm at what he says is “one of the biggest film festivals in North America and the “voice of South Asians in Toronto.”

“I have always considered myself as a non-filmi person,” said Gill, an engineer/MBA professional. “I had not attended any film festival anywhere when we launched the IIFSA. So, when drew the blueprint, we did it from an audience perspective, but over the years now, we have learned that festivals are not just about a song and dance but they have to give certain values to the stakeholders and so that’s why we have the ‘seriousness’ of a festival.”

Here’s a curated list of 10 things from the 2018 IFSSA that will likely appeal to the desi audience here in the GTA

    1. Irrfan Khan (Life of Pi, The Lunchbox) starrer the Song of Scorpions will have its North American premiere in Toronto. The film also stars Waheeda Rahman (Guide, Pyaasa, and others) as well as Iranian actor Golshifteh Farahani (About Elly, Patterson). The film directed by Anup Singh will make its North American premiere at IIFSA Toronto. Screening happening on Thursday, May 10, at Cineplex Odeon Orion Gates Cinemas, 20 Biscayne Ave. Brampton at 6:30 p.m.
      Film poster of the movie The Song of Scorpions showing the faces of a man and a woman across a dessert.

      Anup Singh directed film starring Irrfan Khan, Waheeda Rahman and Iranian actor Golshifteh Farahani will have its North American premiere at the International Film Festival of South Asia (IFFSA) Toronto, May 10 at the Cineplex Orion Odeon Cinemas at 6:30 p.m.

    2. A Letter to the President: Screening on Saturday, May 12 at the Cineplex Odeon Orion Gates Cinemas at 1 p.m. is Soraya’s story. She’s a low-ranking government official, is imprisoned when she defends a woman from village lords. She writes a letter to the Afghan president asking for help from behind bars.
      A silhouette of a woman in profile

      Afghani film A Letter to the President by Roya Sadat will have its North Amerian premiere at the International Film Festival of South Asia (IFFSA) Toronto May 12 at the Cineplex Odeon Orion Gates Cinemas at 1 p.m.

    3. The Hungry: Naseeruddin Shah and Tisca Chopra play central roles in this film that follows Tulsi Joshi, a single mother and bride-to-be who comes to her own wedding seeking revenge for the brutal murder of her first-born son. The film is “a macabre fairytale set in the elite circles of north India.” It runs May 12 at 3 p.m. at Cineplex Odeon Orion Gates Cinemas.
      A woman wearing a blue veil

      Naseeruddin and Tisca Chopra star in this thought-provoking film screening as part of the International Film Festival of South Asia (IFFSA)Toronto May 12 at 3 p.m. at Cineplex Odeon Orion Gates Cinemas.

    4. Ajji: Sushma Deshpande, Sharvani Suryavanshi, and others are part of this acclaimed film by Devashish Makhija. Screens, Saturday, May 12 at 5 p.m. at Odeon Orion Gates Cinemas.
      A painting of a woman or mother staring sadly

      This acclaimed film by Devashish Makhija. Screens during the International Film Festival of South Asia (IFFSA), Saturday, May 12 at 5 p.m. at Odeon Orion Gates Cinemas.

Events, masterclass, and workshops

  1. Masterclass: Anurag Kashyap (Dev D, Bombay Velvet) and Hansal Mehta (Shahid, Simran, Omerta) two renowned filmmakers are hosting a masterclass at the Courtyard Mariott Brampton, 90 Biscayne Ave. Tickets cost $50/person
  2. Director’s Workshop: Anup Singh will lead this workshop aimed at young filmmakers taking place at the Courtyard Mariott Brampton, 90 Biscayne Ave. at 10 p.m. on Sunday, May 13.
  3. Fest in the Park: A lively outdoor concert happening at the Sheridan College, Davis Campus, May 19 at 3 p.m.
    A young Sikh boy wearing a turban has his face painted.

    The International Film Festival of South Asia (IFFSA) Toronto will host a Fest in the Park, an outdoor concert at the Sheridan College, Davis Campus, May 19 at 3 p.m.

  4. Sounds of South Asia Concert will kick off at the Rose Theatre, 1 Theatre Ln. in Brampton at 5:30 p.m. on May 21 with a live concert by Bilal Saeed, a Pakistani singer/songwriter
  5. There are several after-parties in and around Brampton. Check out the IFFSA Toronto Schedule
  6. The IFFSA Toronto Gala is happening at Mississauga Convention Centre,
    75 Derry Road West, Mississauga, Ont. On Friday, May 11 (invitation only).
A booklet featuring IFFSA Toronto schedule

IFFSA Toronto runs May 10 to 21 across the GTA and celebrates more than 150 films in 15 languages.

For schedules, venues and ticket prices, visit the IFFSA Toronto website.