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

Jonita Gandhi0

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.


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.



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.


Festival season gets underway in Toronto



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




Here’s how Toronto’s JoSH got Indian record labels to say, ‘hell, yeah’ after several no’s


L to R: Qurram Hussain (Q) and Rupinder Magon (Rup) of JoSH THE BaND, a well-known Indo-Canadian rock group, will be playing a couple of free ONtour concerts in Brampton and Mississauga Sept. 1-2 as part of Ontario 150 celebrations. Photo courtesy JoSH.


Indo-Canadian rockers Rupinder Magon (Rup) and Qurram Hussain (Q) of the popular band JoSH have verve and drive, but theirs is a story of perseverance.

JoSH the BaND  has sold some four million albums worldwide, performed in over 100 countries, recorded 4 studio albums and collaborated with heavy-weights such as Sukhbir, Apache India, Nelly Furtado and others.

They have also been irresolute when faced with rejection, time and time again.

There’s ‘Q’ in JoSH?

The band-mates and friends, originally from Montreal, appear to have seized the competitive South Asian market with their signature melodies— a mix of hip-hop, pop sprinkled with traditional sounds of India and Pakistan.

Q and Rup met in the mid-1990s after Rup founded JoSH and had sort of made a name  within the South Asian community in Montreal.

Q who was playing with mainstream bands, found JoSH’s or rather Rup’s approach to fusion music intriguing and interesting. They collaborated.

For the past 10 years, the duo call Toronto home and are yes, true Toronto desis.

Flashback: after the aspiring artists put finishing touches to their demos on Main Hoon Tanha (I am lonely), ten years ago, they hopped on to a plane and headed to India convinced the country and the record labels will woo them till cows come home.

“Our belief was that no one would be listening to music Punjabi, Hindi, or Urdu lyrics in Canada,” Rup notes in a presser. “You turn the radio on, and you hear English music, and rightfully so. It’s one thing to appeal to the world music market, and another to be on mainstream radio. So with that dream in mind, we went to India with our story of two Canadian boys who hadn’t lost their roots, and we thought they would eat it up.”

Except, no one had an appetite. They faced rejections from at least half-a-dozen record companies.

“Even though we were turned down by six different record companies there (India), the comment we heard most frequently was that our music was ahead of its time,” Rup says. “I’ve coined this phrase ‘charming persistence,’ to describe what we did for the next five years, making an annual trip to see those same record companies and letting them hear how we were developing our sound. After five years, we got a deal.”

That’s something, isn’t it? When you believe in yourself so completely that the “no” loses its power.

India, meet Nelly Furtado

The band’s pivotal moment happened in 2000 at the Bollywood Music Awards in New York. An Indian A&R rep watched their interview with CNN and reached out to them.

JoSH’s next 2004 album Kabhi, was a smash hit and they became the first Canadian band to be named MTV India’s Artist of the Year. A year later, they became MTV Pakistan’s Artist of the Year.

Josh with Nelly

L to R: Q (Qurram Hussain), Shah Rukh Khan, Nelly Furtado and Rupinder Magon (Rup). Photo courtesy of JoSH The BaND’s Facebook page

Their third album, 2006’s Mausam (weather) was a remix of Nelly Furtado’s hit Powerless, Promiscuous and Maneater. The sounds became club sensations.

“Around the time that Kabhi came out, we saw Nelly on the Grammys and the song she sang had a line in Hindi,” Rup said “That got us thinking: she’s Canadian, we’re Canadian, and apparently she likes Indian music, so let’s pitch doing something together. I literally found her management’s address on Google, and our charming persistence kicked in again. About a year after that she decided to do an Indian remix of Powerless and overnight we were couriered all the tracks and told to do whatever we wanted.”

Their version of Nelly’s hits became instant hits. So much so, Indians loved Nelly.

Two years later when Nelly performed Kabhi to 75,000 people in Mumbai. That’s when it felt real.

“For us, it was instant validation,” Rup said. “It told people that we were for real and we were here to stay.”

JoSH The BaND will be performing couple of free concerts, Friday, Sept. 1 at the Garden Square in Brampton and Saturday (Sept. 2) at the Celebration Square in Mississauga. The ONtour concert also include performances by Amanda Marshall, Kardinal Offishall and Anjulie. It starts happening at 6 p.m.

Photos and press release courtesy of ONtour 2017.



Jai ho! India, film festivals, concerts and MuslimFest to rock August in Toronto


Atif Aslam (L) and Sonu Nigam will perform at the Air Canada Centre (ACC), Saturday, Aug. 5 at 7:30 p.m.

July 30 to Aug. 4

Event: Gramma
Details: Sawitri Theatre Group will present a play by Jasmine Sawant—Gramma at Sampradaya Theatre, 3250 Ridgeway Dr. Unit 4 Mississauga. The play, inspired by Dr. Jane Fraser’s book by the same name follows a young woman on a treasure hunt through her family’s ancestry. What she unearths will change her view on her Canadian life, heritage and how she perceives herself.
Contact: Here

Friday, Aug. 5-6

Event: MuslimFest
Details: One of Canada’s largest events is back again for another year at the Celebration Square in Mississauga from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. This year’s lineup includes standup comic Dean Obeidullah. MuslimFest will also host live performances by local musicians Yusra and Moez Shihab, Dawud Wharnsby, Native Deen, comedian Preacher Moss along with renowned French light calligraphy artist Julien Breton.
Contact: Here

Aug. 3 to 5

Event: MISAF
Details: The 2017 Mosaic International South Asian Festival (MISAF) will kick off at the Cineplex Cinemas Mississauga, 309 Rathburn Rd. W. with 14 feature films, 4 documentaries, and 15 shorts.
Contact: Here

Saturday, Aug. 5

Event: Sonu Nigam/Atif Aslam Concert
Details: Two of the biggest vocal superstars from India and Pakistan will be stopping by Toronton’s Air Canada Centre (ACC) at 7:30 p.m. Atif known for hits such as Bheegi Yaadein, Mahi Ve and Sonu Nigam? Everyone knows him.
Contact: Here

Event: Masala Masti Boat Cruise VII
Details: All aboard this boat of fun. The Masala Masti Boat Cruise VII by PGA International will glide off into the waters of Lake Ontario from 242 Cherry St. in Toronto at 1 p.m.
Contact: Here

Friday, Aug. 18

Event: Monster Rock Orchestra
Details: The Monster Rock Orchestra a group of musicians hand-picked by artistic director Vikas Kohli will take over the Garden Square in Brampton at 6 p.m. Vikas describes the concert as “union of bright lights electronic pop, grungy style of rock n’ roll, and a splash of classical orchestra talent.” Watch Hamilton-based metal group Sumo Cyco in the video below.
Contact: Here

Saturday, Aug. 26

Event: PIRH Independence Day
Details: The Proud Indians of Richmond Hill (PIRH) in partnership with the Town of Richmond Hill are celebrating India’s 70th Independence Day noon at the Municipal Offices of the Town of Richmond Hill, 225 East Beaver Creek Rd. Richmond Hill.
Contact: Here

Sunday, Aug. 27

Event: Eid Bazaar
Details: PGA International is bringing this Eid Bazaar on two days: Sunday, Aug. 27 from 2 p.m. to midnight at Swagat Banquet Hall, 6991 Milcreek Dr. in Mississauga and on Thursday, Aug. 31 from 2 p.m. until midnight at the Mississauga Convention Centre, 175 Derry Rd. E. Mississauga. Great bargains on jewellery, henna, good and more to be had.
Contact: Here 


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


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.


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. 

Red Baraat2

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.


New York based Red Baraat. Photo by Richard Gastwirt.

Bollywood Monster Mashup brings crowd favourite Jonita Gandhi

Bollywood Monster Mashup

In this file photo, headliner Jonita Gandhi with some of her fans at the opening night of Bollywood Monster Mashup. This year too Jonita will wow the crowds with Kamal Khan, Saturday, July 22 starting at 6 p.m. at Celebration Square in Mississauga. Photo by Bryon Johnson/Metroland Media.

Two exceptional artists pursuing musical careers in two neighbouring cities in the GTA until their paths cross. With that begins the start of a friendship rooted in mutual respect, love for their craft and the journey leading to Bollywood.

Also, whenever Bollywood Monster Mashup (BMM) announces its line-up, there she is. So, Toronto Desi Diaries (TDD) asked Vikas Kohli, founder/artistic director, BMM to talk about Jonita Gandhi/ vocalist and well known Bollywood singer.

And he obliges.

TDD. When did you first meet Jonita?

Vikas: Years ago, a promoter was putting on a talent competition and asked me to be one of the judges. After a few acts, a young singer did a Capella performance. The other judges clearly knew the singer because when they gave their critique, they referred to her by her first name, Jonita. When my turn came, I simply said, “that sounded great” because I thought all this singer needs is some good songs.

Sometime after that we ended up working on getting some original material and recordings together, but both of us got too busy. Fortunately, amazing musicians like A.R. Rahman and Sonu Nigam recognized her talent and the rest is history.

The last time I saw Jonita, a group of us were having Punjabi style pizza at her parent’s place.

TDD. What was it about her that struck you? First impressions?

Vikas: It’s always refreshing when you work with a singer that is professionally trained, understands both western and Indian music and doesn’t need autotune!

TDD. Should young creative desis stuck studying business and science ditch all that to pursue music like Jonita?

Vikas: Well, if you’re “stuck” in anything you should consider a change. Music is amazing but not the only thing. Good business sense is critical because artists are fundamentally entrepreneurs. And science is just plain awesome. When I’m not working in my studio, my getaway is reading about chaos theory, behavioural economics, physics and anything that gets us closer to Star Trek 🙂

TDD. What makes Jonita tick?

Vikas: She shines when giving a live performance. It’s more than her voice. It’s also her ability to engage the crowd because that’s where her heart is. She cares about giving an amazing show, and she does every

TDD. Who’s got the crazy, untamed side, Jonita or yourself?

Vikas: Isn’t everyone a little bit crazy?

8) What can folks expect at #BollywoodMonster Mashup (BMM) this year?

Vikas Kohli

Vikas Kohli, founder/artistic director, Bollywood Monster Mashup.

Vikas: Thousands of happy people eating delicious food, getting free Bollywood dance lessons, having fun in our free KidZone, and hundreds of the best artists, comedians, a VIP reception, andthree massive free concerts.

We’ve gone crazy this year with Jonita flying in straight from the IIFAs, Kamal Khan famous for Ishq Sufiana flying in straight from taping the Voice of Punjab finale, and Aakanksha Sharma famous for Sunny Leone’s voice in Main Adhoora for her first ever performance in Canada.

And special Canada 150 programming, including three massive orchestras performing hit Bollywood and Canadian songs. There’s too much to talk about, so find out more on our website BollywoodMonsterMashup.com.

And Desi Diaries readers get a chance to meet our Bollywood stars, get discounts on hotels, and other free offers when they go to BollywoodMonsterMashup.com and use coupon code Desi . Why? Because we love our audience.

Gee, thanks, BMM.

Re: Who’s crazier? Our bet is on Vikas, because we can’t think of a single person that reads chaos theory for recreation, except for the fictitious Dr. Sheldon Cooper ~Toronto Desi Diaries.

#BMM events will kick off Friday, July 21. Jonita will take over the stage, Saturday, July 22. Finale events start at 6 p.m., but Celebration Square will be abuzz from 2 p.m. onward.


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

danharper cavalia

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.

Chris Waits Cavalia

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.