‘Tis is the season for garba, kolu and Durga maa and Toronto has it all

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Jonita Gandhi seen here with AR Rahman during one of his stops in North America. A documentary film One Heart touches on the tours’ highlight. Rahman will also be performing a concert in Brampton, Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. at Brampton’s Powerade Centre, 7575 Kennedy Rd.

Juggling multiple projects with a wary eye on looming deadlines is never a good idea. I should know. I am swamped.

So, I have decided to work smart. Here’s news, in bite-sized chunks to tide you over until I can get to that in-depth profile.

AR Rahman will be stopping by Brampton, Friday, Oct. 20 at the Powerade Centre, 7575 Kennedy Rd. at 7 p.m. Grab those tickets now.

On a related note: Our own nightingale Jonita Gandhi on whom I have written numerous stories makes an appearance in a just-released documentary on AR Rahman on his North American Intimate Tour (NAIT) series.

The film, One Heart features in-depth interviews with Rahman as well as members from his tour and is playing in Cineplex theatres across GTA.

“Being the lead female singer on the AR Rahman North America Intimate Tour was an unforgettable experience,” said Jonita in a press release. “I’m so grateful that Rahman sir trusted me with the task of delivering so many of his hits live on stage. I learned a lot about myself as a singer and performer during those 18 shows, and I’m so happy that parts of it have been captured and presented so beautifully in One Heart for everyone to enjoy.

It was Gandhi’s cover of a popular Christmas song (the video was shot in downtown Brampton some years ago by her brother)  that caught Rahman’s interest. Soon after, he invited her to be part of his tour.

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Desi Royals Entertainment is hosting Garba 2017 at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga, Saturday, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m.

‘Tis is the season for Garba.

Navratri (festival of nine days), celebrated by Hindus in India, signals to us that it’s time to roll up the sleeves and get ready to juggle rush-hour commute and office deadlines with some serious partying and prayers and rituals.

Here in Toronto, notice there’s an air of anticipation because the working mom and dads, dressed in business casual clothes from 9 to 5, toss them aside as soon as they get home to garb themselves in stunning ghaghra/choli, Kanjeevaram sarees, kurta/pyjamas and head to temples, homes, arenas for participating in pooja followed by dance and revelry.

So, on Saturday, Sept. 16, the Desi Royals Entertainment, is hosting its Garba 2017 at the Hershey Centre, 5500 Rose Cherry Pl. Mississauga at 7 p.m. It’s one of the biggest celebrations happening here in the GTA.

Hemant Chauhan and group will deliver string of Garba/Dandiya tracks to keep you in synch with your dancing partner. Interested? visit www.desiroyals.com.

 

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Dream merchants

Marriages are made in heaven, right? but weddings are more earthly and hell, need to be just perfect.

It’s pretty obvious that Suhaag: The wedding show clearly fills a much-needed service when it comes to your wedding needs. Mandap, clothes, jewelry, gifts, food, fashion and more catering to specific desi tastes. Those opulent sets are so awesome and intricate, you’ll want to get hitched, again.

The annual Suhaag show is happening Sunday, Sept. 17 at the International Centre, 6900 Airport Rd. from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. There will be fashion shows.

For more visit here.

Bit of house-keeping here: If you want your events included in the monthly events calendar, please send me the details, including where, what, when and who along with a high-rez photograph from previous years. Your listings must reach us a month in advance. Send the submissions to: toronto.desidiaries@gmail.com.

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Festival season gets underway in Toronto

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Saturday, Sept. 2

Event: Onam in Mississauga
Details: The Coptic Centre. 1245 Eglinton Ave. W. is the venue for an Onam celebration happening noon onward. There will be an onasadhya, entertainment and more. Even hosted by Mississauga Kerala Association.
Contact: Here

Saturday, Sept. 9

Event: Onam in North York
Details: The Toronto Malayalee Samajam is hosting an Onam celebration at Senator O’ Connor College, 60 Rowena Dr., North York at 4 p.m.
Contact: Here

Event: Classical concert
Details: Raag-Mala Toronto will be hosting a two-part concert series with Sougata Roy Chowdhury (sarod) and Mitali Bhawmik (vocal) at the McLeod Auditorium, 1 King’s College Circle, Toronto at 7 p.m.
Contact: Here

Event: Navratri Ramzat
Details: The Gitanjali Group is hosting a Navratri Ramzat at the Vaughan Sporsplex, 8301 Keele St. Concord at 7 p.m.
Contact: Here

Event: Ehasaas
Details: Ehasaas: An evening of soulful music, a concert featuring Gautan Dabir will take place at the Sringeri Vidya Bharati Foundation, 80 Brydon Dr. Etobicoke, ON M9W 4N6 at 7:15 p.m.
Contact: Here 

Saturday, Sept. 16

Event: Arohi Music Festival
Details: The 5th annual Arohi Music Festival will take place at Chinmaya Mission Hall, 8832 The Gore Rd. Brampton from 4 p.m. onward. The classical Carnatic music concert will feature: Chintan Upadhya (Dhrupad), Sriram Suryanarayan (mridagam). RVS Ganeshamoorthy (nadaswaram), A. Manoharan (thavil) and mor
Contact: Here

Sunday, Sept. 17

Event: Suhaag Wedding Show
Details: Planning a wedding? Then the annual Suhaag show is a must see. A day-long packed agenda at the International Centre, 6900 Airport Rd., (Hall 3) Mississauga, will include fashion shows, lifestyle extravaganza, fashion designers and more.
Contact: Here

 

 

 

The band, baaja and Red Baraat at the Beaches Jazz Festival in Toronto

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Red Baraat: The large, loud and over-the-top Indian wedding procession on the streets of India always lifts my spirits.

The ambience and mood of band of men, all dressed in regimented uniforms, accessorized with glittering brass buttons blasting Bollywood tunes and snarling the traffic says, “here’s life, seize it.”

If you’re nostalgic for the heady feeling of being transfixed on music that’s indescribable, yet so addictive, you’re in luck.

New York-based octet Red Baraat will take on the main stage at the Beaches Jazz Festival, Saturday, July 29 at 9 p.m. Brace yourself for never-heard-anything-like-this sounds that’s a fusion of jazz, hip-hop, rock and bhangra.

It’s obvious the eight-member group not only shares a passion for music but also has a dry sense of humour. Their albums—Shruggy Ji (2013), Bhangra Pirates (2017) and their name—Red Baraat have a touch of whimsical brilliance.

Sunny Jain (dhol/band leader/vocals) helps unravel the musical mysteries behind their brand in this chat.

TDD:  The members of Red Baraat are?
SJ: Rohin Khemani (percussion), Sonny Singh (trumpet/vocals), Chris Eddleton (drumset), Jonathon Haffner (Soprano Sax), Jonathan Goldberger (guitar) and John Altieri (Sousaphone/rap).

TDD: How did you all meet and the story behind the name – Red Baraat?
SJ: I put the band together in 2008, having already been living and playing in NYC for 10 years prior to that.

I had the privilege of meeting and playing with many of the guys in different musical settings during my early years in NYC. When I had the idea for the band, I thought of the best combination of musical personalities and instruments that I thought would work.

The name (Red Baraat) comes from the musical inspiration and vision for the band: baraat and the Indian Brass Band tradition dating back to the 18th century. Red because that is the color of love, energy and revolution.

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Members of New York based group Red Baraat will perform at the Beaches Jazz Festival, Saturday, July 29 at 9 p.m. Photo by Shervin Lainez.

TDD. How did the idea to fuse Bhangra with jazz, Latin and other styles happen?
SJ:  As a South Asian-American, I grew up with a variety of music from my cultural heritage: Jain Bhajans, Bollywood songs of the 70’s and 80’s, Punjabi music, Ghazals and Hindustani classical. Born and raised in America (Rochester, NY), I was also listening to what was on the radio and what my siblings handed down to me: classic rock, progressive rock, 80’s music, Brit Pop, hip-hop.

When I started studying drums and specifically, jazz music, my drum teacher (Rich Thompson) always told me to be open to learning and playing all styles of music. He cultivated the idea of a large musical vocabulary for the sake of versatility when improvising. So all of these experiences are reflected in my approach to composing and performing music.

Music and art is about expression and I’m always searching for the expression “OF” and “IN” the moment.

Thought and technique must disappear in the moment. The idea of genre and traditions must disappear in the moment. The only truth of the moment is the sound that comes out THAT MOMENT. Red Baraat’s sound is based on this idea and with that, each musician in the band brings their own musical personality into the full sound of the band. Each of them is a studied and deeply soulful musician, in their own unique way.

TDD: What’s the crowd’s reaction to your unique musical style?
SJ: Typical response is, “Holy shit, I’ve never heard anything like that before. Your music has [insert 5 genres of music] in it.” So yeah, I think people like our sound and our show. We’ve been touring solid for 8 years, with hardly any breaks.

TDD: How do you describe the sounds in Shruggy ji and to what do you attribute from the album becoming the portal to your success?
SJ: Shruggy Ji was our 2nd album that debuted at #1 on Billboard World Music charts in 2012. While we were very fortunate to have had that bump, we don’t necessarily attribute that album to our portal of success. We focus on the joy and passion we have for playing in this band. The songs. The fans. The cities we travel and the experiences we have. We’re very lucky and grateful for our old and new fans that support us. 

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Sunny Jain (dhol/band leader/vocals) and member of Red Baraat, a New York-based band. Red Baraat will perform at the Beaches Jazz Festival, Saturday, July 29 at 9 p.m. Photo courtesy Red Baraat.

TDD: Bhangra Pirates…what is the story/who is responsible for these quirky names? SJ: The music and energy of bhangra just seems to go hand-in-hand with the spirit of a pirate: rebellious, adventurous, wild natured. There’s also something to be said about Pirate Codes; the camaraderie, the support system among the crew. In fact, history teaches us that pirates were pioneers in democracy. Perhaps most importantly though, the Pirate Codes were revolutionary in their method of taking power away from any one man, and placing it in the hands of the majority. We kind of need some Bhangra Pirates in the States right now.

TDD: And is it a deliberate attempt to have these names. Who’s Shruggy ji? And the rationale behind the “Pirates?”
SJ: Shruggy Ji is a personality or character that we believe lives in all of us. As dusk approaches, we see our shadows lurking and slowly growing as night time falls on us. That’s the time our inner “Shruggy Ji” comes out. “Shrug your shoulders, and twist your wrists. Move your body and shake those ships.” We take time and thought into everything we do…the music we make, the song titles and the album titles. I think every artist does.

TDD: Any incident that you can reference that brings back a chuckle or a laugh or was kind of sobering?
SJ: I think we always laugh when people come to see Red Baraat and they are expecting us to be in colonial marching band outfits and play traditional baraat music. I love the Indian Brass Band tradition and have great respect for the musicians, but the colonial outfit represents just that, colonialism; something that directly affected my parents and family during partition. I’d never pay tribute to any colonizer.

The Beaches Jazz Festival StreetFest runs July 27 to 29. Red Baraat will perform at Woodbine Park, Saturday, July 29 at 9 p.m.

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New York based Red Baraat. Photo by Richard Gastwirt.

Odysseo brings the ‘wow’ factor out for its audience in Toronto

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Cavalia’s Odysseo is a show that features horses, acrobats, stilt-walkers and more. Show’s running at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga until July 16. Photo by Dan Haper/Cavalia

So, while I do realize the event I am recommending doesn’t have any South Asian element to it, but nevertheless, I feel obliged to share this because quite frankly, I have not seen a show of this calibre. It took my breath away.

First, a disclaimer: I was offered a pair of complimentary tickets to catch the Cavalia’s Odysseo show in Mississauga recently.

What I write here is my purely my personal experience.

So, what’s Odysseo?

It’s a two-and-half-hour show featuring horses, stilt-walkers, dancers, acrobats and musicians. To me, it felt as though all my senses were on assault. The sheer beauty of all the elements coming together was a sight to behold.

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An acrobat performs a stunt. Odysseo is a show that features horses, human and technology. Show running until July 16 at the Big Top next to Hershey Centre. Photo by Chris Waits/Cavalia

The audience’s standing ovation for the cast, both human and the equine, told me that the feeling was universal.

If you have watched Cirque du Soleil, now reimagine that with beautiful horses, live music faintly reminiscent of a Anya playlist, set designs that are jaw-dropping and never-seen-before death-defying acts.

In this show, the horses dance, prance, trot, gallop and more, in synchronized choreography against a larger-than-life screen that transports you to places—deserts, snow, mountains…drums and vocals added a mystical element.

The show features 65 sleek beauties (horses), 48 artists and demonstrates the beautiful relationship and trust between man and horse.

Cavalia Inc., the Montreal headquartered entertainment company was founded by Normand Latourelle and Dominique Day. I thought it was a perfect way to celebrate Canada’s 150 birthday.

At the show I was at, there were 1,000 Syrian refugees in the Big Top all equally enthralled. Cavalia had generously given away tickets away to the newcomers in the spirit of everything Canada stands for.

Tickets are priced from $39.50 to $139.50 + applicable taxes and fees.

Matinee and evening performances for Odysseo are scheduled through July 16 and are now on sale online at www.cavalia.com or by calling 1-866-999-8111.

Happy 150th Canada! Let’s party desi style and celebrate the true north

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Sana Umer is at the 2nd annual South Asian Canada Day held at Mississauga Valley Park in this file photo. Photo by Claudio Cugiliari, courtesy of Mississauga News

Saturday, July 1

Event: Little India: Village of Dreams
Details: Nina Beveridge’s intimate documentary Little India: Village Of Dreams, will premier on TVO at 9 p.m. The film captures the stresses of old world conflicts and New World challenges that have reshaped Little India on a stretch of Gerrard Street.
Contact: Here

Event: Odyesso-Cavalia
Details: This spectacular equestrian event featuring acrobats, stage-art and more is happening at the White Big Top, adjacent to the Hershey Centre, 5399 Rose Cherry Place, Mississauga until July 16.
Contact: Here

Saturday, July 8

Event: Ehsaas
Details: Ehsaas: A Feeling of Eternal Love, a live concert features Bhavin Shastri and will kick off at the Rose Theatre, 1 Theatre Ln. Brampton at 8 p.m. Shashtri will deliver a mix of old Bollywood songs as well as some Sufiana ones.
Contact: Here

Sunday, July 9

Event: Rung De’ One
Details: The Holi-type event celebrating Canada’s diversity will take place outside Sheridan College in Mississauga, 4218 Living Arts Dr. from noon until 6 p.m.
Contact: Here

Friday, July 14

Event: Vibrant Brampton
Details: Garden Square in Downtown Brampton be filled with samples of South Asian culture July 14 to 15. Organized by Arts and Culture Initiative of South Asian (ACISA) Vibrant Brampton.
Contact: Here

Saturday, July 15

Event: BMM does Brampton
Details: Bollywood Monster Mashup (BMM) does Brampton is an evening of stand-up comedy, spoken word and urban music showcase. Action starts and ends at the Rose Theatre, 1 Theatre Ln. at 4:30 p.m.
Contact: Here

July 15 to 17

Event: Punyah Krishna
Details: Sampradaya Dance Academy will present Home Season production Punyah Krishna other works by Parshwanath Upadhye at the dance academy’s theatre, 3250 Ridgeway Drive – Unit #4, Mississauga.
Contact: Here

Saturday, July 22
Event: BMM Concert
Details: Bollywood Monster Mashup, a hit summer staple, is back again with its characteristic masti. The concert portion featuring a celebration of Bollywood includes Brampton gal Jonita Gandhi, Aakanksha Sharma, the voice of Sunny Leone in “Main Adhoora to the main stage. Events start at 2 p.m.
Contact: Here

Make some ‘Noyz’ for this hip-hop artist

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Amrit Singh aka “Noyz” continues to create waves in the hip-hop scene in Toronto. Supplied photo.

When you have to rely on tone, cadence and a stream of words, without a medley of instruments, you have to be pretty darn good at what you do.

That’s probably why Noyz seems to be on everyone’s playlist these days.

Having never met him, but just exchanged few emails and a phone chat, I can say with absolute degree of certainty Amrit Singh, 30, aka Noyz, a rising hip-hop star is not only a great wordsmith, MC, producer and mental health advocate, but Mr. Nice Guy: polite and modest to boot.

Two solo projects, a few albums created in collaboration with like-minded artists (God Degree, Grey Matter, Degrees of Freedom etc.) and dozens of concerts appear to have solidified his brand.

Early this year, Noyz dropped his first EP with B Magic (Movin’ Cool) So Far Gone.

“What makes rap such an effective medium is that the MC speaks in a conversational way, so as a listener, it’s as if you’re getting direct insight to the person’s thoughts,” he explained. “The lyrics are written in an honest way. So, you’ve to go deep into your own experiences to truthfully tell the story.”

Noyz began writing rhymes in Grade 6. He was influenced at that time by the music his cousins heard (Tupac, Biggie, Nas).

Young Amrit inexplicably was drawn to boom rap and R&B. (Boom rap, for those unfamiliar, is a style of production in the hip-hop genre. Drum sounds sort of dominate the music and hence the name.)

Phil Witmer, a writer for Noisey, an interactive music magazine, was at a Toronto concert featuring Noyz and B Magic and watched the duo bring the crowd to its feet.

Hip-Hop artist Amrit Singh aka Noyz is making waves in Toronto. Submitted photo.

“Their chemistry (Noyz and B Magic) resulted in an old-school-modelled presence that managed to transport the previously unmotivated crowd from the bar onto the floor,” wrote Witmer. “The duo prowled the stage as one unit, reading each other as they nonchalantly traded bars and emphasized the other’s punch-lines even on their own solo material. It was a block party, Brampton-style.”

30-year-old Noyz has experienced depression, but before he was handed the official diagnosis, he struggled with the symptoms and idiosyncrasies of a mind that well, had a mind of its own.

So, when he realized there was a need to educate the South Asian diaspora about mental health and remove the shame and stigma tethered to the issue, he used his voice. His video for #BellLetsTalk last year raked some serious views.

Growing up, Noyz admits to watching Bollywood movies, but he didn’t have the same deep connection with it as he did with hip-hop. His songs tackle oppression immigrant experience, mental health and what not.

“There’s so much space to be filled in a 16-bar rap verse that MCs have to go deep into their own minds and experiences to truthfully tell the story,” he said. “Because of the breadth of writing that needed for each verse, song and album, you get an insight into who the MCs are as people.”

When I was researching Noyz’s music, I came across a video of a Brampton Cypher. Cyphers are hip-hop jam sessions, BTW. Enjoy. Visit http://noyzhiphop.com/ for his music.

 

 

 

 

 

Eid events and urban desiFEST take over June 2017 in Toronto

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The 11th annual Desi Fest is happening Saturday, June 3 at the Yonge-Dundas Square. Photo by Shahaab Sheikh

Saturday, June 3

Event: DesiFest 2017
Details: Canada’s # 1 urban desi festival, the 2017 desiFEST is a 12-hour entertainment bonanza running from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. at the Yonge-Dundas Square. Hosted by Sathish Bala/CEO/founder. This year’s line-up includes Mizz Taj, Raj and the Martin Express, Hash, Lady Kash and others.
Contact: Here

Sunday, June 4

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Anjali Patil

Event: Aroha Arts Workshop
Details: Anjali Patil is hosting a fine arts workshop: Emotions and expressions in Dance at The Citadel, 304 Parliament St. at 2 p.m. Class is open to professional and pre-professional dancers 18 and above.
Contact: Here

Saturday, June 10

Event: Eid Festival

Details: OK, so, the largest Eid Festival in the GTA is a two-part, 11-day affair. On June 10-11 the event is at the Sagan Banquet Hall, 7180 Edwards Blvd. from 1 p.m. till 12 a.m. (midnight). There will be a fashion show, food, henna and more.
Contact: Here

Saturday, June 17

Event: Eid Festival 2017

Details: Organizers are calling this, “the largest Eid Festival” and inviting you to Maple Banquet Hall, 1325 Eglinton Ave. E. Food, fashion, entertainment and music are all in the cards. Runs from June 17 to 25.
Contact: Here

Tuesday, June 20

Golf flyerEvent: Indo-Canadian Golf
Details: The Indo-Canadian Golf Association Charity Tournament will take place, Glencairn Golf Club, 9807 Regional Rd. 25 in Milton at 10:30 a.m. This year is the 20th year. Proceeds will support Trillium Health Partners.
Contact: Here

Friday, June 23

Event: Eid Bazaar

Details: PGA International will be hosting an Eid Bazaar at the National Banquet Hall, 7355 Torbram Rd., in Mississauga from 2 to 11 p.m.
Contact: Here

Chhakka

Event: Chhakka
Details: “Fire up your femme and fierce, because you’re about to get blessed,” reads the blurb on the website. Chhakka is Canada’s biggest queer Bollywood event and a fitting start to the Pride weekend. It’s all happening at Club 120 at 120 Church St. from 10 p.m. onward.
Contact: Here

Saturday, June 24

Event: Yugpurush

Details: A Hindi play chronicling the life of Father of Nation Mahatma Gandhi will be showcased at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, 190 Princes’ Blvd. Toronto at 3 p.m. Play has been directed by Rajesh Joshi.
Contact: Here