Wishing you a happy Pongal, Lohri, Lunar New Year and a great 2020

The festival of Lohri, which celebrates the winter solstice, will fall on Jan. 14, 2020 and will be celebrated by Sikhs and Hindus across the world. Photo: Flickr

This is the last blog post for 2019. Toronto Desi Diaries wishes you health and happiness for 2020.

Saturday, Jan. 4

Event: Kushi! NYE – after party

Details: Don’t put away your party shoes, yet. Besharam invites you to the Revival Bar and Event Venue, 783 College St. Toronto with DJ Amita. Doors open at 10:30 p.m.
Contact: For more information visit here.

Event: Desi Nights

Details: Desi You will be hosting Desi Nights —the hottest Bollywood party in Mississauga. All action will happen at the Kolkata Club, 488 Eglinton Ave. W. Mississauga. Doors open at 10:30 p.m. DJ Alfaa, DJ Vicious and DJ MO.D will be spinning the latest as well as retro Bollywood and Bhangra Bangers, Top 40, and Spanish tracks.
Contact: For more information visit here.

Friday, Jan. 11

Event: Barrie’s Lohri Jashn

Details: Barrie Indian Association is very honoured to host the 2nd Annual Lohri Festival in The City of Barrie. Lohri is a popular winter-time Punjabi folk festival, celebrated primarily by Sikhs and Hindus from the Punjab region of the Indian-subcontinent. This celebration will take place at the Ferndale Banquet Hall, 24 Ferndale Industrial Dr., at Barrie, Ont. at 7 p.m.
Contact: For more information visit here.

Sunday, Jan. 12

Event: MustBeKismet Wedding Show

Details: This one-day bridal event will take place at the International Centre – Hall 1, 6900 Airport Rd. Mississauga from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The show will feature dozens of exhibitors showcasing products such as cakes, confectioneries, clothing, and services couples need to host the wedding of their dreams.
Contact: For more details visit here.

Saturday, Jan. 18

Event: The ’90s: Golden Era of Bollywood

Details: Saksham Entertainment will host a musical evening paying tribute to the chartbusters from the 90s (Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Duplicate, Aashiqui, etc). The event is taking place at the Lester B. Memorial Theatre, 150 Central Pkwy. Dr. Brampton at 6:30 p.m. “It won’t just be a musical evening, it will be a memorable experience,” say organizers.
Contact: For tickets and more visit here.

Tamil Thai Pongal, a Tamil, and Hindu harvest festival will fall on Jan. 15, 2020. The two-day celebrations include offering prayers and thanks to the Gods for the harvest and preparing a sumptuous feast that includes several variants of rice-based dishes.

Sunday, Jan. 19

Event: Thai Pongal

Details: TSKG will be hosting its annual Taipongal Festival at the Swagat Banquet Hall, 6991 Millcreek Dr. in Mississauga at 11 a.m.
Contact: For more details visit here.

Friday, Jan. 24

Event: Bharathi Vizha in Toronto

Details: The Thamil Isai Kalaa Manram of Ontario (TCCCA) is will present: Bharathi Vizha in Toronto, a Tamil-Canadian Tribute to Bharathi, to support a project to name a park in Toronto as “Bharathi Park” after Mahakavi Subramaniya Bharathiyar. Mahakavi Bharathiyar was a poet, freedom fighter and social reformer. The group wants to host an online campaign and welcomes people to submit videos, poems, audio clips, etc.
Contact: For more details visit here.

Saturday, Jan. 25

Event: Unchained Melodies

Details: Rajdhani Sweets Restaurant and India Sajawat & Puja Hut present a Nirvana production – a live musical concert featuring Bollywood melodies from the ’90s to present. The event takes place at the Maja Prentice Theatre, 3650 Dixie Rd. in Mississauga at 6:30 p.m.
Contact: For more information visit here.

Sunday, Jan. 25

Event: My Skin is Not my costume

Details: Aadhe will explore the viewpoint of a first-generation Torontonian, and the issue of culture and race as a costume. The event will take place at 1 Carlaw Ave. at 6 -10 p.m. The evening will start with aAadhe’s showcasing their Glow Truths collection for Fall/Winter 2021, followed by musical and spoken word performances by artists from Toronto.
Contact: For more information visit here.

Tuesday, Jan. 28

Event: Speed-dating

Details: This Mississauga speed dating event is geared towards young professionals with an Indian / South Asian background looking for a classy and fun way to meet other like-minded individuals within their culture. It takes place at the Port House Social Bar & Kitchen139 Lakeshore Rd. E. Mississauga at 7:30 p.m.
Contact: For more information visit here.

Desi Torontonians: check out the Dec. 2019 events calendar before saying goodbye to the year

Dec. 2019 events calendar for South Asians in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) has a variety of offerings. Photo courtesy of Pixlr.

Saturday, Dec. 7

Event: Gita Jayanti 2019

Details: The Chinmaya Mission Toronto (Shivalaya) at 8832 The Gore Rd. will host the Gita Jayanti from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event will feature a special celebration for Tapovan Jayanti.
Contact: For more details visit here

Event: Indian Christmas Concert

Details: A Fusion Indian Christmas concert and dinner to create an awareness of world Christmas traditions, hosted by Neeraj Prem will take place at the St Andrews United Church, 479 Upper Paradise Rd. in Hamilton ON L9C 5E2 from 5:30 -9:30 p.m. The event will feature music from various cultures and showcase Christmas traditions as well as a sumptuous South Asian food.
Contact: For more details contact here.  

Sunday, Dec. 8

Event: Self-healing Series

Details: SOCH Mental Health will host its self-healing series at the Cyril Clark Library, 20 Loafers Lake Ln. (program room) from 1:30 – 3 p.m. to feature Kundalini Yoga facilitated by Yogi Shannon. SOCH is a mental health promotion initiative started by two Registered Nurses from Brampton, tailored at providing the South Asian community with awareness, skills, and knowledge about mental health.
Contact: To participate or for more information visit here or email info@sochmentalhealth.com

Event: Christmas Bash/Speed-dating

Details: This annual Christmas bash + Speed dating event kicks off at the Bukhara Grill, 190 Main St. S. Brampton at 4 p.m. It’s open to South Asian singles.
Contact: For more details visit here

Sunday, Dec. 15

Event: Rhythm of Roots 2019

Details: DanceShala, a Brampton-based dance studio will host its annual recital Rhythm of Roots 2019 at the Meadowvale Theatre, 6315 Montevideo Rd. Mississauga at 2 p.m. The event will feature Bollywood, Bhangra, classical dances, etc.
Contact: For more details contact here

Saturday, Dec. 21

Event: Stand Up comedy/Bollywood Party

Details: Desi Dreams and Laal Button will present this show at the Station Kitchen and Bar, 866 Bloor St. W. at 7:30 p.m.
Contact: For more information visit here

Event: The 2019 South Asian Wedding Show

Details: VIPclubevents will host its wedding show at the Swagat Banquet Hall, 6991 Millcreek Dr. in Mississauga from 2-10 p.m. and feature a fashion show and expo showcasing the creations of top designers, makeup and hair artists, décor, food, and other vendors.
Contact: For more information visit here.

Friday, Dec. 27

Event: Gujarati Alliance’s Takeover 2019

Details: The 4th annual Takeover will take place at Eros Convention Centre, 2360 Lucknow Dr., Mississauga at 7 p.m.
Contact: For tickets and more, visit here.

Tuesday, Dec. 31

Event: PGA International —New Year’s Eve 2020 Toronto

Details: PGA International will host its annual New Year’s Eve celebrations at the Moonlight Convention Centre, 6835 Professional Crt. Mississauga at 7:30 p.m.
Contact: For tickets and more visit here

*** There are simply too many New Year’s Eve celebrations happening around the GTA to list them all here. ***

A Fusion Indian Christmas concert and dinner to create an awareness of world Christmas traditions, hosted by Neeraj Prem will take place at the St Andrews United Church, 479 Upper Paradise Rd. in Hamilton ON L9C 5E2 from 5:30 -9:30 p.m. Video courtesy of Neeraj Prem.

Diwali ’19 is a month-long affair for Toronto desis with celebrations spilling into Nov. ’19

Image shows an artist with guitar singing. The singer is a member of Junoon, a sufi-rock band.
Junoon or the “Sultans of Sufi Rock” as they are known, will perform in Toronto, Friday, Nov. 1 at the CAA Centre, 7575 Kennedy Rd. S. Brampton at 8 p.m. Photo courtesy: the web.

Friday, Nov. 1

Event: Junoon: Live in Concert

Details: Brian O’Connell, Ali Azmat and Salman Ahmed, known as “Sultans of Sufi Rock” will perform at the CAA Centre (formerly the Powerade Centre), 7575 Kennedy Rd. S. at 8 p.m.
Contact: For tickets, visit here.

Swayamvar, a singles event for South Asians looking to get married will take place at the Novotel Hotel in Mississauga, 3670 Hurontario St. on Saturday, Nov. 2.

Saturday, Nov. 2

Event: Swayamvar – in Toronto

Details: This singles event for South Asian suitors interested in finding a life partner will take place at the Novotel Hotel Mississauga, 3670 Hurontario St. Mississauga at 1:40 p.m.
Contact: For more details, contact here.

Sunday, Nov. 3

Event: Royal Diwali Bash

Details: The Royalton will host its Royal Diwali Bash at 8201 Weston Rd. Woodbridge, Ont. at 5 p.m. with an indoor fire show, dancing, live music, food, etc.
Contact: For more information, visit here.

Event: Diwali Celebrations at Chinmaya Mission

Details: The Chinmaya Vedanta Heritage Centre, 8832 The Gore Rd. will celebrate Diwali with Glories of Ramayana with Swami Prakashananda, Head of Chinmaya Mission, Trinidad Soul-touching bhajans and devotional dances, preeti bhoj and fireworks.
Contact: For more information, visit here.

Saturday, Nov. 9

Event: Sapan Vermal & Angad Singh

After touring across the world and raking in over 50 million views on the internet, East India Comedy’s Sapan Vermal and Angad Singh Ranyal are bringing their laughs from India. The show takes place at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, 27 Front St. E. at 7 p.m.

Contact: For tickets and more visit here.

Sunday, Nov. 10

Event: Lavish Dulhan: Bridal Show

Details: Lavish Dulhan Bridal Show, a bridal show will take place at the Embassy Grand Convention Centre, 8800 The Gore Rd. Brampton, Ont. at 12 noon to 7 p.m. and will include: 100 vendors, an interactive are, couture fashion show, etc.
Contact: For more, visit here.

Well-known Indian mystic Sadhguru will be in Toronto to deliver his course, Inner Engineering on Monday, Nov. 11-12 at the Metro Convention Centre, Toronto.

Monday, Nov. 11-12

Event: Inner Engineering by Sadhguru

Details: As there is a science and technology to create external well-being, there is a whole dimension of science and technology for inner well-being ~ Sadhguru. Inner Engineering is a technology for well-being derived from the science of Yoga. It is offered as a comprehensive course for personal growth that brings about a shift in the way you perceive and experience life, your work, and the world that you live in. This two-day event will take place at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, 222 Bremner Blvd. Toronto.
Contact: For tickets, course details, etc. visit here.

Saturday, Nov. 16

Event: Atif Aslam Concert

Details: Pakistani playback singer/composer Atif Aslam, well-known for his Bollywood chartbusters such as Bas ek pal (Tere Bin), khair Mangda (A Flying Jatt), Hoor (Hindi Medium), etc. will perform at the Paramount Centre, 5600 Rose Cherry Pl. Mississauga at 7:30 p.m.
Contact: For tickets, etc. visit here.

Saturday, Nov. 23

Event: Taj Express: Bollywood Musical Revue

Details: Taj Express: The Bollywood Musical Revue will run at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, 27 Front St. E. There are several shows. The musical is set to the soundtrack featuring the songs of  A.R. Rahman. It’s a show filled with colour, high-energy music and dance, choreographed by Vaibhavi Merchant and directed by Shru Merchant.

Contact: For showtimes and tickets, visit here.

Event: Expressions: An evening of geets & ghazals

Details: This musical evening will take place at Swagat Banquet Hall, 6991 Millcreek Dr., Mississauga at 7 p.m.
Contact: For tickets and more, visit here.

Atif Aslam, well-known Pakistani singer, composer and actor will perform at the Paramount Centre, 5600 Rose Cherry Pl, Mississauga, on Saturday, Nov. 16.

Vidya Vox’s music blends western pop sounds with Indian notes

Vidya Vox (Vidya Iyer) is an American-desi with over six million YouTube subscribers. Her mashups featuring western pop hits with Indian notes. In July 2019, Vidya Vox released her album Mad Dreams.

After I accidentally stumbled upon Vidya Vox (Vidya Iyer’s) videos on YouTube, I went on a devouring spree if you will, of her music for weeks afterward.

Every song I listened to demonstrated her incredible ability to meld western pop hits with Indian sounds. What’s more, her music is deeply rooted in her training as a classical musician. She sings in an array of languages: Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, etc.

Even though this blog veers away from the geographic mandate of Toronto Desi Diaries, I hope I can get away with it.

Let’s start with the basics, so, who’s Vidya Vox?

Vidya’s an Indo-American artist and YouTube sensation. Her videos have amassed huge followings (600 million views and over six million subscribers). She made her debut on YouTube in 2015, since then she has had dozens of chartbusters. In 2017, Vidya dropped her debut EP of original songs in Kuthu Fire.

While on a pre-med track at George Washington University, Vidya began to indulge in her passion for music. She did so by posting YouTube videos. Upon graduation, Vidya took the leap and decided to pursue a music career full time.

With over 153 million views, one of Vidya’s most successful videos, Be Free, is an original song from Kuthu Fire. This song is mixed with the Malayalam folk song “Pallivaalu Bhadravattakam.” Vidya’s mashups have since gained worldwide recognition from the likes of Major Lazer, Diplo & Hrithik Roshan.

This Kerala boat song is my favourite. It evokes memories of my childhood.

What’s new with Vidya’s music?

In July this year, Vidya released Mad Dreams. This album features five original songs (songs written by Vidya and composer Shanker Tucker) that exhibit the American desi’s ease in both worlds —U.S. and India.

In her own words: Vidya Vox

About Mad Dreams

Growing up in the west as a first-generation Indian-American, I always felt like I was living a double life.

At home, I was immersed in a traditional Indian culture, eating dosas, singing Carnatic music, and listening to A.R. Rahman, and the second I stepped on my school bus, I would eat pizza and listen to Destiny’s Child and Backstreet Boys. At school, I was an outcast and felt embarrassed about being different. Mad Dreams represents a pivotal time in my journey to reclaim and embrace my bicultural identity while sharing messages of hope and empowerment.

Here’s what she says on each of the five tracks

Appadi Podu Di

Is incredibly personal. As only 1 of 2 Indian kids in middle school, the other kids had many questions for me. ‘Does your house smell like curry?’ ‘Why are your elbows so dark?’ All questions were about why I looked different. To this day, we are sold products and images to cover these “differences.” I took all the things that were said to me and reclaimed them in this song. My favorite line is Dark knees, dark eyes, no powder, my sun-filled skin holds power. The lyric Appadi Podu Di, in Tamil literally translates to “Give it back!” and my uncle often said it to me growing up as a reaction to one of my snarky comebacks. As a South Asian woman, this song is an anthem about loving the skin you’re in.

Indo-American singer/songwriter has amassed some six million followers on her YouTube channel. Vidya Vox released Mad Dreams, an intensely personal album featuring five songs. Image courtesy, Vidya Vox.com

Mad Dreams

was inspired by the story of Indian goddess Parvati, who was doing penance to gain the affections of Lord Shiva, the Destroyer and Lord of Dance. The mridangam and chalanga dance bell sound in the chorus are traditional sounds used in traditional Shiva songs. Hearing this story growing up, Parvati’s concentration always amazed me. I always wondered, would this infatuation and chase drive her mad? She’s in her world of mad dreams. 


is about the process of taking risks and finding your footing, which is difficult but always worthwhile. I always feel better in the end. I tend to hide in my cocoon when the going gets tough. However, it’s important to be proud of who you are, take a leap of faith and find your wings!

Lose the Night

is about a particular memory of when Shankar and I were visiting New Delhi many years ago. We were in an auto-rickshaw driving around at night. It was hot and hazy, and although the streets were crowded, it felt like we were the only two people in the city. 

Look at the Lights

Brings me back to when I was living with my mom. I had big dreams of moving to Los Angeles. Some days, I felt that I’d never be able to leave home. Other days, I was more hopeful. Making the move to Los Angeles was life-changing, but once the lights went out, I still missed home. The instrumental sarangi line that echoes throughout the chorus represents a longing for home, wherever you may be. 

Mad Dreams is available on iTunes, Spotify, and all streaming platforms.

Happy Dussehra, Thanksgiving, and Diwali 2019, Toronto

Hindus across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA will celebrate Dussehera 2019 and Diwali across various venues. Photo: Pixabay

Saturday, Oct. 5

Event: Navratri Raas Garba 2019

Details: Saptak Musical Group will host a Navratri Raas Garba at the Mississauga Secondary School, 550 Courtneypark Dr., Mississauga from 6:30 p.m. onward.

Contact: For tickets, contact here

Event: Diwali Razzmatazz

Details: Indo-Canada Arts Council will host Diwali celebrations at Mississauga’s Celebration Square from 2 p.m. There will be dance performances, musical concerts, artistic displays and more.

Contact: For more information, visit here

Event: Bhangra and Gidda in the 6ix

Details: Shaan Punjab Dee will host its annual Bhangra and Gidda competition at the Living Arts Centre (Hammerson Hall), 4141 Living Arts Dr. in Mississauga at 2 p.m.

Contact: For tickets, etc. visit here

Sunday, Oct. 6

Event: Shaan’s Love in concert

Details: Well-known Bollywood singer Shaan will be at the Living Arts Centre, 4141 Living Arts Dr. Mississauga at 7:30 p.m.

Contact: For more information, visit here

Event: Aaru Padai Veedu

Details: The Shilompoli Shethra Dance Academy will present Aaru Padai Veedu, a dance drama based on the six holy places of Lord Muruga. The event is happening at the Chinese Cultural Centre, 5183 Sheppard Ave. E. Scarborough at 5 p.m.

Contact: For more information, visit here

Event: Hariharan Concert

Details: Padmashri Hariharan, a Ghazal, classical and Bollywood singer will perform at Brampton’s Rose Theatre, 1 Theatre Ln. Brampton at 7:30 p.m.

Contact: For tickets, visit here

Friday, Oct. 11

Event: Garba with Gujju Rocks

Details: Jagruti Bhatt presents Garba with Gujju Rocks at the Brampton Soccer Centre, 1495 Sandalwood Pkwy. E. at 7 p.m.

Contact: For tickets and more, visit here

Event: Sugar Sammy – Canadian tour 2019

Details: Montreal’s tri-lingual comic – Sugar Sammy (Samir) will perform at the Rose Theatre, 1 Theatre Ln. in Brampton at 7:45 p.m.

Contact: To purchase tickets, visit here

Saturday, Oct. 12

Event: Svarita Garba

Details: Harita Desai and Rajan Desai will perform at the Svarita Cultural Forum’s Garba. The event will take place at Bramalea Secondary School, 510 Balmoral Dr. Brampton from 8 p.m. onward.

Contact: Cost of tickets is $18/person and can be purchased here

Saturday, Oct. 12-13

Event: Navratri Garba 2019

Details: Ma Ambe Entertainment presents the Sri Atul Purohit Navratri Garba 2019 at the International Centre, 6900 Airport Rd., Mississauga Saturday, Oct. 12-13 at 7 p.m. on both the days. There will be an Indian food festival hosted by Veggie Planet at the venue.

Contact: Cost of tickets is $25 + service fee ($0.75) and can be purchased here

Wednesday, Oct. 16

Event: Mandala

Details: Sampradaya Dance Creations will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Living Arts Centre with a kinetic work that bridges the gap between Tibetan Buddhists and Hinduism through music and dance. The event runs at the Living Arts Centre, 4141 Living Arts Dr. Mississauga at 7p.m.

Contact: For more information visit here

Friday, Oct. 18

Event: Diwali Dhamaka 2019

Details: K.C Group will host a Diwali Dhamaka 2019 at Bombay Palace Banquet Hall, 200 Advance Blvd. Brampton at 6 p.m.

Contact: For tickets and more, visit here

Event: Sid Sriram

Details: Chennai-born, San Francisco native Sid Sriram blends eastern and western sounds with his pop/soul, alternative music. He will perform at the Danforth Music Hall, 147 Danforth Ave., Toronto at 7 p.m.

Contact: For more details, visit here

Hindus will celebrate Diwali 2019, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. Image: Pixabay

Thursday, Oct. 24

Event: Festival of Lights/Queer-wali celebration

Details: The Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention will host its Queer-wali celebration at 459 Church St. (2nd floor), Toronto at 5:30 p.m. There will be drag performances by Seema Dikshit, a bazaar and more

Contact: For details visit here

Jaipur Literary Festival (JLF)— Toronto will showcase the rich flavours of Indian literature via the authors


Imagine being invited to a buffet on a cheat-day

That’s precisely how I felt when the good folks at C2C Communications reached out inquiring if Toronto Desi Diaries wanted to chat with any of the renowned authors scheduled to speak at the Jaipur Literary Festival —Toronto (JLF) ?

The event running Friday, Sept. 27-29 at Toronto’s historic Distillery District has dozens of author sessions with literary giants such as Amitava Kumar (Immigrant Montana: A Novel), Anosh Irani (The Bombay Plays: The Matka King & Bombay Black), MG Vassanji (The Gunny Sack), Vikas Swarup (Q&A which became the mega-successful Slumdog Millionaire), etc.

I confess I was l salivating at the prospect of interviewing some of the literary superstars whose pens have inspired millions of people around the world, including myself.

So, what’s JLF?

Here’s a rather apt definition of the festival on its website. “JLF Toronto recreates the magnificent spirit of Jaipur’s annual literary carnival bringing its inclusive and infectious camaraderie to the vibrant capital of Ontario with a heady mix of writers, thinkers, poets, balladeers, and raconteurs.”

In this blog, festival producer and managing director of Teamwork Arts Sanjoy Roy shares some interesting perspectives.

Here’s more from Sanjoy. Enjoy.

Jaipur Literary Festival —Toronto (JLF) producer Sanjoy Roy seen addressing the crowd at the festival’s launch. JLF – Toronto will run Friday, Sept. 27 – 29 at Toronto’s historic Distillery District. Photo by Tom Sandler.

TDD. What can Toronto audiences expect from JLF?

SR: JLF will bring to Toronto a flavour of what we do in many parts of the world. A diverse program reflective of our philosophy to address local writers and their issues of identity, belonging, migration, travel, food, philosophy, science, fiction, and poetry.

TDD. What went into the planning of JLF – Toronto? Will the audience get a glimpse of India via its literature, history, and the lineup of authors?

SR: JLF brings India to the world and takes the world to India. In the international editions, JLF explores each others’ stories and creates platforms for excellence and the written word.

TDD. Hosting art festivals in a world ravaged by divisiveness, political and religious strife and what-not, seems like a brilliant idea, how have you been able to make this festival economically viable? Relevant?

SR: Politics is a reality of all times, divisiveness too. What sets our times apart is the new narrative of hatred which has become the dominant voice. Art and literature are one of many ways to bridge the divide and bring to pass the fear of the other.

Festivals take time to break even and create traditional wealth. What they do is create intangible wealth and contribute enormously to local economies.

TDD. Who are your favourite writers? Anything you read recently that made putting the book down difficult?

SR: I tend to read 5 – 6 books at a time. I am presently reading William Dalrymple’s Anarchy, Namita Gokhale’s Things to leave behind, Sandeep Unnithan’s Operation X on the Bangladesh war, Anoush Irani’s The parcel and Sharad Paul’s book on genetics.

TDD. Can you share an anecdote or two from the previous JLFs? something that you look back on and chuckle or something that was profoundly deep?

SR: There are numerous stories – from lost passports and mislaid documents, to trees falling, protestors vowing to destroy us, controversies that are as old as history, incredible sessions where you learn and celebrate knowledge and so much more

TDD. One or two pieces of advice to aspiring writers…

SR: Write not necessarily to entertain but because you have the volition to write. Bury your ego and listen to your inner voice.

Post Script: The JLF has several free outdoor street festival and marketplace. For the full schedule, tickets, etc. visit here.

The Jaipur Literary Festival will make its debut in Toronto Friday, Sept. 27-29 at the Distillery District.

The 2019 MuslimFest, Shreya Ghoshal, Phalguni Phatak concerts and the Jaipur Literary Festival are highlights of September ’19

Bollywood crooner Shreya Ghoshal will be performing at the Paramount Fine Foods, 5500 Cherry Pl. on Sunday, Sept. 8 at 6 p.m.

Friday, Aug. 30 to Sunday, Sept. 1

Event: MuslimFest

Details:  This is undoubtedly one of the biggest events happening in Mississauga this weekend. The 2019 MuslimFest featuring an array of performers, vendors, artists, etc. will take place at the Celebration Square in Mississauga for three days.
Contact: For schedule and more, visit here

Monday, Sept. 2

Event: Kal, aaj aur kal with Tushar Shukla

Details: Tushar Shukla, a poet, radio personality and author, and Kaajal Oza Vaidya, author and screenwriter will be at the Michael Power-St. Joseph High School, 105 Eringate Dr. in Etobicoke at 5 p.m. for an intellectual conversation.

Contact: For details contact here

Thursday, Sept. 5 – 15

Event: Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)

Details: One of North America’s biggest film festivals kicks off Sept. 5-15 this year across various venues. Each year, the festival welcomes several Bollywood actors, directors and industry stalwarts. The Sky is Pink, starring Priyanka Chopra and Farhan Akhtar is part of this year’s offering.

Contact: For schedules, red carpets, etc. visit here

Saturday, Sept. 7

Event: Falguni Pathak in Toronto

Details: The dandiya queen of India Falguni Pathak will be at the International Centre, 6900 Airport Rd., Mississauga at 7 p.m. for Dandiya Dhoom.

Contact: For tickets and more visit here

Garba queen Falguni Pathak

Event: Guelph Ratri before Navrathri 2019

Details: This event featuring traditional Ras Garba with Darshana Thaker and Vishnu Joshi will take place at the Evergreen Senior Community Centre, 683 Woolwich St. in Guelph, Ont. starting at 6:30 p.m.

Contact: For tickets, etc. visit here

Event: Dharma Samvadam Family Retreat

Details: Shrishti Foundation will host a two-day spiritual retreat at the Guruvayurappan Temple of Brampton, 2580 Countryside Dr., in Brampton Sept. 7-8. The event will be guided by Swami Chidananda Puri, Muktananda Yati and Divakaran Nambudiri and feature, discourses, discussions, Q&A, meditation, etc.

Contact: For more details visit here

Event: Stree Shakti: Celebrating Women in Music

Details: This classical music event by Raag Mala will take place at the Aga Khan Museum, 77 Wynford Dr. in Toronto at 7 p.m. It will feature Shubada Joshi-Athawale (harmonium), Vidushi Arati Ankalikar (vocalist), Mukta Raste (Tabla). This event is part of our 2019/20 Performing Arts season, Listening to Each Other, which pays tribute to the role of the performative arts in connecting communities, preserving culture, and spurring social change.

Contact: For tickets, visit here

Arati Ankalikar Tikekar (above) along with, Shubhada Joshi–Athawale (harmonium) and Srimati Mukta Raste (Tabla) will perform at Stree Shakti: Celebrating Women in Music, Saturday, Sept. 7 at 7 p.m. at the Aga Khan Museum, 77 Wynford Dr. Toronto  

Sunday, Sept. 8

Event: Shreya Ghoshal Live

Details: Bollywood crooner Shreya Ghoshal will entertain audiences in Toronto as she takes over the stage at 6 p.m. at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre, 5500 Rose Cherry Place in Mississauga.

Contact: For tickets, contact here

Event: Trijjan 2019

Details: This Punjabi cultural event is taking place at the Speranza Hall, 510 Deerhurst Dr. in Brampton at noon. Artists include Gurnam Bhullar, Rajvir Jawanda, Mankirt Aulakh, Harjit Harman and others.

Contact: For tickets, contact: Gift Emporium (Airport and Morningstar) or call 905-677-8686                            

Saturday, Sept. 21


Details: This is the first year for the Brampton-based event hosted by PGA International. The 905FEST featuring performances by local artists, food, activities for children, etc. will take place outside the Sheridan College, Davis Campus, 7899 McLaughlin Rd. in Brampton between 2-10 p.m. This year’s proceeds will benefit SHIVAS (Shining Hope in Vital Autism Society) a not-for-profit organization.   

Contact: For more details visit here

Sunday, Sept. 22

Event: Energy Flow Recital

Details: Pure Soul Energy Bollywood Dance will present a dance recital of its students at noon at the Hindu Heritage Centre, 6300 Mississauga Rd.

Contact: For more details visit here

Pure Soul Energy will present a dance recital at the Hindu Heritage Centre, 6300 Mississauga Rd. Sunday, Sept. 22

Thursday, Sept. 27 – 29

Event: Jaipur Literary Festival

Details: This high-profile literary event whose roots are planted in India will be making its Canadian debut this year to take place at Toronto’s Distillery District.

The 2019 JLF – Toronto will feature a lineup of award-winning writers, actors, culinary stars. You do not want to miss it.

Contact: For full roster visit here  

The Jaipur Literary Festival will make its debut in Toronto’s Distillery District, Sept. 27-29.

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.

Jazzy B, Nikhita Gandhi, Yasser Desai, and others to perform at free outdoor concerts across the Greater Toronto Area, July’19

Jazzy B, the King of Bhangra and his band, will headline Vibrant Brampton Festival’s free outdoor concert, Sunday, July 28 at the Garden Square. Photo: Vibrant Brampton Festival

Happy Canada Day! Here’s your South Asian event calendar for July’19

Monday, July 1

Event: Canada Day

Details: Dancing Damsels Inc. will be hosting a Canada Day celebration at the Albert Campbell Square, 150 Borough Dr. Scarborough from 5-8 p.m. This free event will include participation from Canada’s truly multicultural cauldron.
Contact: For more information visit here

Tuesday, July 2-6

Event: Toronto International Dance Festival Workshops

Details: A series of dance workshops in preparation of the Toronto International Dance Festival will take place at the Albert Campbell Square, 150 Borough Dr. in Scarborough. Participants will be introduced to different dance forms by different instructors.
Contact: For information about the workshop, contact here

Thursday, July 4

Event: Rath Yatra

Details: A Lord Jagannath Dev’s Rath Yatra will take place at the Bangladesh Canada Hindu Mandir, 16 Dohme Ave. East York at 7:30 p.m.
Contact: For more information, contact here

Saturday, July, 6

Event: Tabla recital

Details: Toronto Tabla Ensemble will present the 2019 Student Recital at the Westedge Community Church, 157 Lakeshore Rd. W. at 6 p.m. The concert will feature performances by students from across the GTA. Cost of tickets is $20/person.
Contact: For more information visit here

Event: Standup by Kanan Gill
Details: Kanan Gill, a well-known comic will perform at the Ryerson Theatre, 43 Gerrard St. E, at 7 p.m. as part of his solo show Teetar.
Contact: For tickets and more visit here

Saturday, July 13-14

Event: Festival of India

Details: Toronto’s 47th Annual Festival of India will launch with a spectacular parade that will cruise down Yonge Street, beginning at Yonge & Bloor, and make its way down to the lake. During the parade, three ornate, 40-foot tall floats will be hand-pulled by participants amidst ecstatic singing, drumming, and dancing creating a wondrous, carnival-like atmosphere.
Contact: For information about the festival, visit here

Event: Festival of South Asia

Details: Gerrard St. E. between Glenside and Coxwell Avenues is “Little India.” On July 13-14, the streets will come alive for the Festival of South Asia, a multi-disciplinary arts and food festival showcasing a slice of South Asian culture. Festivities run from noon to 11 p.m. on both the days. Contact: For more details visit here

Monday, July 15 – 28

Event: Visual Arts of South Asia Festival

Details: V.A.S.A. – Arts Festival and exhibition’s aim is to introduce the unique flavour of South Asian art with an underlying objective of bringing together Canadian artists from different cultures. The event showcases South Asian culture as it evolves in this country and integrates with Canadian values. The exhibition will take place at Beaux-Arts Brampton, 70 Main St. N. Opening reception is taking place on July 18 from 6-9 p.m.
Contact: For gallery, hours visit here

Monday, July 15-18

Event: Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi) in Toronto

Details: She’s known as the “hugging saint” and she will be at the Delta Hotel by Marriott- Toronto Airport, 655 Dixon Rd. Toronto, ON M9W 1J3. There are morning as well as evening programs, retreats, and Devi Bhava.
Contact: For more information visit here

Thursday, July 18-20

Event: Bollywood MonsterMashup

Details: This three-day family event is a celebration of all things music and Bollywood and its influence in Canada. On Thursday, the popular festival will kick-off the #BollywoodMonster launch party & comedy night showcasing a lineup of hilarious standup comedy acts and a silent disco. This is a by-invite-only event.

The public can take in two free concerts at Celebration Square in Mississauga July 19-20. This year’s performers are Bollywood crooners Nikhita Gandhi and Yasser Desai. Nikhita (“Qaafirana” from the movie Kedarnath) will perform Friday, July 19, whereas Yasser (‘Naino ne baandhi” from Gold) will take the stage, Saturday (July 20).
Contact: For more details visit here

Saturday, July 27-28

Event: Vibrant Brampton

Details: Organized by the non-profit group Arts and Culture Initiative of South Asia (ACISA,) the 4th annual Vibrant Brampton will bring two fun-filled days of music and dance. On Saturday, you may want to head to the Rose Theatre, 1 Theatre Ln. in Brampton at 6 p.m. to listen to the Indian Idol winner Sreerama Chandra. Sunday’s outdoor concert bring Jazzy B to the Garden Square in Brampton.
Contact: For more details visit here

Toronto’s 47th Festival of India (Rath Yatra) will take place July 13-14.