Judging by this long list of Aug ’19 events, South Asians Toronto have some great entertainment choices

Flower City Bhangra will be presenting its annual competition, Saturday, Aug. 10 at 1 p.m. at the Rose Theatre, 1 Theatre Ln. Brampton. This popular event attracts teams from North America. Photo: Flower City Bhangra

Thursday, Aug. 1

Event: Red Carpet, Mosaic International South Asian Festival (MISSAF)

Details: The Mosaic International South Asian Film Festival (MISAFF) returns for its 7th year from Aug.1–4. This year, the festival will showcase women-centric films as well as stories of familial struggles, love, etc. The red carpet/opening gala will take place at Cineplex, 309 Rathburn Rd., Mississauga at 6 p.m.

Contact: For the full schedule, visit here.

Friday, Aug. 2

Event: Thyaga Panchakam

Details: Head to the Toronto Public Library – Fairview Branch, 35 Fairview Mall Dr., North York at 6:30 p.m. to listen to Nrutha Kala Kendra’s Thyaga Panchakam, a dance odyssey inspired by the Pancharatna kritis. This dance and music extravaganza celebrates Saint Thyagaraja and will take the audience on a spiritual journey.

Contact: For more information visit here.

Sunday, Aug. 4

Event: Taste of India

Details: “You have around 10,000 tastebuds, kill them all,” says the teaser for this sumptuous food festival taking place at the Nathan Phillips Square. The event will run from noon to 10 p.m.

Contact: For more details, visit here.

Thursday, Aug. 8

Event: Berklee Indian Ensemble

Details: the Berklee Indian Ensemble, along with Grammy-winning vocalist Vijay Prakash will perform at the Long & McQuade Performance Hall, 4 Pardee Ave. Toronto, for an intimate and interactive live to Air performance on Thursday, August 8 at 7 p.m.
Contact: For tickets and more contact 1-800-811-2400 or email events@jazz.fm

The Berklee Indian Ensemble will be in Toronto to perform a couple of shows. On Thursday, Aug. 8 the ensemble along with Grammy-winner Vijay Prakash will perform at the Long and McQuade Performance Hall at 7 p.m. The artists will also perform at the TD Mosaic Festival, Aug. 9-10. Photo: Submitted

Event: Qaawali

Details: The Qaawali Music in Contemporary Pakistan with Umair Jaffar will take place at the Aga Khan Museum, 77 Wynford Dr., Toronto at 1 p.m. Umair will explore the changing face of qawwali, a devotional genre of music thought to have originated in Sufi shrines. Is the soul of qawwali fading? Umair delves into these questions and unravels the various interpretations of qawwali music in contemporary Pakistan.

Contact: For tickets and more, contact here.

Friday, Aug. 9-10

Event: Eid Bazaar

Details: There will be an Eid Bazaar at Pearl Banquet Hall, 1638 Aimco Blvd, Mississauga, ON L4W 1V1, with food, music, jewelry, clothing, etc. The event runs from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Contact: For more information visit here.

Event: TD Mosaic Festival

Details: The 14th Annual Mosaic Festival is taking place at the Celebration Square, 300 City Centre Dr., in Mississauga at 7 p.m. This year’s performers include: Ali Sethi, Vijay Prakash from India, Berklee College of Music Indian Ensemble from Boston, Shiamak Toronto Dance, Irshad Khan ensemble. and more. The festival runs from 5-10 p.m. on both days.

Contact: For the full festival schedule, visit here.

Saturday, Aug. 10

Event: Flower City Bhangra

Details: Dubbed as one of the most popular events in North America, the Flower City Bhangra is taking place The Rose Theatre in Brampton. The festival is hosted by Saath Foundation, a registered not-for-profit whose aim is to raise awareness about social problems. The competition will kick off at 1 p.m.

Contact: For tickets, contact here.

Event: Mississauga’s Tamils Got Talent

Details: The Positive Youth Development Committee and Mississauga Tamil Association will be hosting this talent show at the Meadowvale Theatre, 6315 Montevideo Rd. at 5 p.m.

Contact: For more details, contact here.

Sunday, Aug. 18

Event: Panorama India Festival and Grand Parade

Details: This annual event commemorating India’s Independence Day will take place at the Nathan Phillips Square from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Panorama India is hosted with the support of Consul General of India. Bollywood actress Lara Dutta will be the parade grand marshal.

Contact: For more details, visit here.

Event: Teeyan East End Diyan

Details: Navjot Thakural present Teeyan East End Diyan at The Brighton Convention & Events Centre, 2155 McNicoll Ave., Scarborough at noon.

Contact: For tickets visit here.

Thursday, Aug. 22-26

Event: Idol Ke Diwane Cruise 2019

Details: Enjoy five days and four nights of the cruise on a private chartered ship from Palm Beach, Florida to Grand Bahama and Nassau Bahamas. The cruise will feature Bollywood music, a meet-and-greet with artists and more.

Contact: For tickets and more visit here

Friday, Aug. 23

Event: Jonmashtomi

Details: Celebrate Jonmashtomi, birth Tithi of Lord Krishna at the Bangladesh Canada Hindu Mandir (Bangladesh Hindu Temple in Canada) at 16 Dohme Ave., East York at 7:30 p.m.

Contact: For more information, visit here.

Saturday, Aug. 24

Event: Sairam Dave live in Toronto

Details: International folk artist Sairam Dave will perform at the Sringeri community centre, 80 Brydon Dr. Etobicoke, at 6 p.m.

Contact: For tickets and more contact here.

Sunday, Aug. 31

Event: Maithry Onam

Details: Maithry’s Onam 2019 will be held at the Campbell Community Centre, 1050 Sandalwood Pkwy. W. from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Here’s a sneak peek at the highlights of the 2019 Mosaic International South Asian Film Festival (MISAFF) running Aug. 1-4 in Mississauga. Video courtesy, MISAFF

Bollywood crooners Nikhita Gandhi and Yasser Desai will perform at the 2019 Bollywood Monster Mashup concert in Mississauga

Bollywood singer Nikhita Gandhi will headline the Bollywood Monster Mashup concert, July 19 at the Celebration Square in Mississauga. The event will start at 4 p.m. with a host of other local artists and performers. Photo courtesy of Bollywood Monster Mashup

The good folks at the Bollywood Monster Mashup (BMM) not only orchestrate a couple of great outdoor concerts in Brampton and Mississauga with A list performers, each year, but they have always given Toronto Desi Diaries access to the artists. So, here’s a big shout out to all the behind-the-scenes wizards handling social media, PR, stage, and all the promotional duties. You guys, rock.

But, before you dive right into my Q&A with Nikhita Gandhi, here’s what you need to know about the July 2019 concerts:

What: The 9th Bollywood Monster Mashup

When: July 18-20 with back-to-back concerts happening at Mississauga’s Celebration Square

Who: Nikhita will take on the stage on Friday, July 19, and on Saturday, July 20, enjoy the soulful melodies of Yasser Desai with the man himself. You may have heard of Yasser’s voice belting out (Pallo Latke) and my absolute favourite Naino ne baandi from the Akshay Kumar starrer, Gold.  Friday’s show will also feature performances by Reign Yash Academy, Parichay, Waris Virse De, Peace & Love and R&B United Band.

Saturday evening witness The Shiamak Showkids, The Band Destiny, Nick Ft. Vedik Vibez Orchestra, Ankita Music, Desi Muziko Band, and Mehboob Orchestra, plus, the annual #BollywoodMonster Orchestra ( Vikas Kohli) will be teaming up with Univox Choir to perform hit songs from Bajirao Mastani, Agneepath and other films with over 20 voices on stage.
How’s that for a monster celebration, eh?

Yasser Desai, a Bollywood playback singer, will perform at the 2019 Bollywood Monster Mashup concert happening Saturday, July 20 at the Celebration Square in Mississauga. The evening will include performances by other local artists and bands including the Bollywood Monster Orchestra. Photo courtesy of Bollywood Monster Mashup.

“Nine years in, and we keep upping the ante on the free concerts and free activities for families in Mississauga, the GTA, across Ontario, and beyond,” noted Vikas Kohli, artistic director, MonstrARTity. “From Bollywood stars with their debut Canadian performance, to brilliant dance performances, KidZone crafts and games, food, shopping and more. Come on out and join us as we sing, dance and eat all weekend long.”

In conversation with Nikhita Gandhi

Pursuing her musical dreams meant, Nikhita, 27, had to ditch her plans to become a dental surgeon (she was in her fourth year of school) when fate staggered and took an unexpected turn, leading her into the world of music.  Nikhita’s idyllic childhood in Calcutta was spent in hours of riyaz (practice). Whether it was classical Hindustani music, Odissi dance or hitting the textbooks, this self-professed nerd appears to have mastered it all.

Since her debut in 2015, Nikhita has delivered a string of chart-toppers include Raabta, Qaafirana from Kedarnath, Ullu ka patha with Arjit from Jagga Jassos, Madaari from the Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir, and dozens of others including some regional hits.

Nikhita shares some details of her life including some surprising talents (hint: let’s say she’ll be more than at home at the Home Depot or Lowe’s).

Toronto Desi Diaries (TDD): How did you became interested in music?

NG: I am a “quintessential Bong.” My family (Bengali/Punjabi) is from Calcutta. Culture is huge in Bengal and so, that’s something I imbibed.

TDD: How was your life in Chennai?

NG: I moved to Chennai to do my bachelor’s in dental surgery. It (Chennai) is where I met Rahman sir (AR Rahman) and it was where I recorded my first song as a professional musician (Ladio).

TDD: Was there an ‘aha’ moment for you when your path as a singer became clear?

NG: When I started working with Rahman sir, I was still in college. I took everything that came my way as an experience and a new chapter.

The ‘aha’ moment was when I met Rahman sir after my first song and he asked me what my plans were. I told him, “Sir, I am in my final year and my plan is to finish this (dental surgery) and maybe do my master’s.”
He looked at me and said, “Are you serious? You’re now a singer. This is your life, now.”

And that was a defining moment.

TDD: What’s the life of a playback singer like?

NG: I am fairly new and just getting used to the rhythm out here in Mumbai. A typical day could be one that starts at 4 or 5 a.m. all the way until 3 a.m. the following morning. Or it could be one when I have nothing to do, so I am rehearsing or doing my own shows and cultivating my art. I am also a composer and songwriter. It’s all very unpredictable. I am a workaholic and love to keep busy.

TDD: What does an aspiring singer need to do in order to make it in the cut-throat music industry?

NG: There’s no formula, so, I can’t speak for everybody. But one thing I have been clear about is that; I always want to be true to myself. Whatever I do, I do what’s right. I don’t do things because it will position me in a certain way. I believe in hard work. I have enjoyed the journey because I think if you have a positive outlook, it makes things so much fun and interesting.

TDD: Who are your favourite singers, composers?

NG: I have been blessed to be able to work with the crème de la crème in my nascent years in the industry. Composers such as A.R Rahman, Pritam da, Sachin-Jigar, Amit Trivedi, Vishal Bhardwaj, Vishal-Shekhar, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, etc. I am really excited at some of the stuff that’s in the pipeline.

Singers? I sang my first Bollywood song with Arjit Singh.. he’s so fabulous. I love Sasha’s voice. I am a person who loves textures. I am a die-hard fan of Abida Parveen and other singers with amazing unique sounds.

TDD: What’s your most favourite thing to do?

NG: My most favourite thing to do is to dance to some song that’s been stuck in my head. I love dancing alone. When I have a chill day to myself, I play the tune that I have been listening to in a loop and dance. It’s the most liberating thing…

TDD: Who’s on your playlist?

NG: There are a lot of artists I have been tripping on – Post Malone, Kehlani (Ashley), Daniel Caesar(R&B) and others.

TDD: One thing no one knows about you?

NG: I am a real nerd. I also love fixing things and making furniture. At home, I am an electrician, painter and what not. I have a tool kit with drills, hammers, etc.

TDD: What can we expect from your upcoming performance at Bollywood Monster Mashup?

NG: I am really excited about performing at the Bollywood Monster Mashup. This will be my first public show in Canada. I am going to perform all of my songs including some of my regional stuff. So, please do come, whatever community you belong to. I am going to give a little something to everybody. It’s going to be super versatile and interesting.

This Tamil song from the movie Kalyana Smayal Saadhum by Nikhita Gandhi shows the singer’s prowess. Gandhi will perform both her Hindi as well as regional hits on July 19 at the Celebration Square in Mississauga.