Autumn in Toronto: when leaves are flowers and events are all just as mellow

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fall colours

This file photo by the late Fred Loek, Metroland photographer, captures the surreal beauty of autumn at Erindale Park in Mississauga.

Saturday, Nov. 4

Event: Tribute to Mohammad. Rafi
Details: Mehboob Shaikh will recreate the dulcet tones of one of India’s greatest musicians – Mohammad Rafi. The concert is taking place at Port Credit Secondary School Theatre, 70 Mineola Rd. E. from 5 to 8:30 p.m.
Contact: Here

Event: Meri Awaz hi pehchan hai
Details: It’s the audition for Mere sung gaa’s 2nd season, Bollywood karaoke singing. Bring your voice and energy to Rehearsal Factory, 1611 Finfar Crt. in Mississauga at noon.
Contact: Here

Event: Flower City Bhangra
Details: Saath Foundation is presenting Canada’s first-ever live-only Bhangra Competition at Rose Theatre, 1 Theatre Ln. Brampton at 11 p.m.
Contact: Here

Saturday, Nov. 18

Event: Grand finale of Meri Awaaz
Details: The final showing of talent of the Mere Sung Gaa is happening at the Chinguacousy Secondary School, 1370 Williams Pkwy. at 5:30 p.m.
Contact: Here

Thursday, Nov. 23

Event: Passage to Bollywood
Details: A Passage to Bollywood is a vibrant show with foot-tapping music, colourful costumes and a gripping plot. Show happening at the Rose Theatre, 1 Theatre Ln. at 8 p.m.
Contact: Here

Saturday, Nov. 25

Event: Parampara
Details: Toronto Tabla Ensemble is presenting a concert, Parampara at the Harbourfront Theatre Centre, 235 Queens Quay, Toronto at 7 p.m. The tabla concert will feature Sare Nau, a composition in a 9 1/2 beat rhythmic cycle, Bhumika (birthplace or grounding) and other select pieces from Ritesh Das’ upcoming TTE CD, Bhumika.
Contact: Here

Events: Swayamvar 2017
Details: Desi events is hosting a singles event for South Asians between the ages of 26 to 47 at the Novotel Toronto, 3670 Hurontario St. Mississauga at 1 p.m. There’s a similar Swayamvar happening Dec. 23 as well.
Contact: Here

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Eid events and urban desiFEST take over June 2017 in Toronto

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11th Annual Desi Fest

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

Aroha

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

Let’s all get filmy in Toronto this May

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May ’17 South Asian events in Toronto offer a heady and healthy mix of films, theatre, music and dance. Check out our desi events calendar.

Monday, May 1

Event: IFFSA
Details: Controversial film Lipstick Under my Burkha, Shahrbanoo Sadat’s Wolf and Sheep and dozens of others are part of the line-up. Guess what? Akshay Roy ‘s Meri Pyaari Bindu starring Parineeti Chopra and Ayushman will make its North American premiere e May 15 at the festival. IFFSA runs 11 to 22.
Contact: Here

Event: Ask the Sexpert
Details: Toronto’s International documentary festival 2017 Hot Docs will showcase an array of documentaries from across the globe including Vaishali Sinha’s Ask the Sexpert, a film is about Dr. Mahinder Watsa, a highly popular 93-year-old sex columnist for Mumbai Mirror. The film will screen at Hot Docs May 1 to 3 at the TIFF Bell Lighthouse. Festival runs until Sunday, May 7
Contact: Here 

Friday, May 6

Students from Nachdi Jawani showcase their dance at the Carassauga Festival of Cultures. Photo by Rob Beintema

Event: Nachdi Jawani
Details: Punjabi Virsa Arts and Culture Academy will be hosting its 17th annual Nachdi Jawani Youth Festival, at 1370 Williams Pkwy. Brampton from 10 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. Event will feature gidha and bhangra competitions.
Contact: Here

Event: Taraang
Details: Enjoy a Bollywood musical concert at Glenforest Secondary School, 3575 Fieldgate Dr. Mississauga. The Taraang Ek Sureela Kaarvaan starts at 6 p.m.
Contact: Here

Sunday, May 7

Event: Gujarati Comedy Show
Details: Enjoy a Gujju comedy show at Chinguacousy Secondary School, 1370 Williams Parkway, Brampton at 5 p.m. The three-hour LOL riot features Dr. Jagdish Trivedi.
Contact: Here

Thursday, May 13

Event: Hindustani Music Concert
Details: Raag-Mala Music Society presents Hidayat Khan (sitar) and Manjusha Patil (vocals) at this spring concert at McLeod Auditorium, Medical Sciences bldg., 1 King’s College Circle at 7 p.m.
Contact: Here

Saturday, May 20

Event: Zumba Party
Details: A Bollywood-themed Zumba fitness party is happening at the Harold Braithwaite Secondary School, 415 Great Lakes Dr. in Brampton at 4 p.m.
Contact: Here

Friday, May 26

Event: Carrasauga
Details: Mississauga’s festival of cultures beckons you to take a trip around the world for chump change. While you’re globetrotting, stop by the India pavilion at the Hershey Centre, community rinks at 5500 Rose Cherry Place, Mississauga. Festival runs until Sunday, May 28.
Contact: Here

Saturday, May 27

Event: Malhar SpringFest
Details: Malhar Group will present its annual SpringFest at the Molson Canadian Studio at Hamilton Place, 1 Summers Ln. Hamilton, at 6:30 p.m. Concert will feature: Subhranil Sarkar (sitar), Kaivalya Kumar (vocals), Abhijeet Banerjee (tabla) and Sanatan Goswami (harmonium)
Contact: Here

 

MuslimFest builds bridges with humour, food and culture

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Volunteers of MuslimFest are the backbone of the hugely popular summer festival. This year's event will run Aug. 2-3 at Celebration Square in Mississauga, Ont. Photo courtesy of MuslimFest.

Volunteers of MuslimFest are the backbone of the hugely popular summer festival. This year’s event will run Aug. 2-3 at Celebration Square in Mississauga, Ont.
Photo courtesy of MuslimFest.

An ardent wish of every event organizer in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) would be perhaps be this: to replicate the success MuslimFest.

In the summer of 2004, three organizations— Sound Vision, DawaNet, and Young Muslims Canada (which is no longer associated)— came together to put out their first event at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga. That first year, the festival was largely vendor-driven event and included the wares of entrepreneurs who sold everything from jewelry, mouth-watering halal food, eye-catching hijabs and clothing. The event saw 8,000 people. Nine years later however, the festival became a magnet for both the young and the old. Attendance soared to 13,000 visitors.

“The idea for the MuslimFest came about three years before the first event,” said Lina Rahman, artist development and management and legal advisor for MuslimFest told Toronto Desi Diaries. “There was a meeting of minds on what we could do for the youth in our community and what is it that will unify our youth. There wasn’t really any major event in and around Toronto at that point that focused on youth engagement. The idea was for the festival to be responsive to youth. The response however was huge.”

Masses of people pour in for what has become a multi-day celebration of the art, culture and heritage of Muslims in the Greater Toronto Area.

From Left to Right: Mississauga Ward 6 Councillor Ron Starr presents the flag of the city to MuslimFest's Rina Rahman, artistic development & management and legal advisor, MuslimFest and Saffraz Khan, event director, MuslimFest 2013.

From Left to Right: Mississauga Ward 6 Councillor Ron Starr presents the flag of the city to MuslimFest’s Lina Rahman, artistic development & management and legal advisor, MuslimFest and Saffraz Khan, event director, MuslimFest 2013.

For the past two years, MuslimFest has been held place at Celebration Square in Mississauga to accommodate large number of people that gather. New components including acts by several stand-up comedians, performances by emerging and well-known artists and a vendor bazaar, all add to the overall appeal.

It would then be apt to say MuslimFest has successfully branded itself as an event that celebrates the diversity in the Muslim community through humour, food, art and entertainment.

“There are a couple of reasons that make this event popular,” Rahman said. “First of all, it was the first of its kind to address youth in the community, what I mean is although there were others, they were more religious in nature. MuslimFest focused on the creative side, which until then had not been addressed. Secondly, MuslimFest was able to bring the entire community together. It was always intended to be the representative of the whole community.”

Organizers have kept an ear to the ground and incorporated suggestions that came their way because ultimately the idea is to give folks something they enjoy.

To that end, in 2011, the festival invited stand-up comic Rabbi Bob Alper to headline at MuslimFest. What was interesting was that Alper was a perfect conduit to promote friendship between two cultures—Muslims and Jewish.

That year, the festival made headlines because of the tongue-in-cheek headline organizers added to their press release, which announced: 10,000 Muslims laugh at a rabbi.

“I was thrilled to receive the invitation to appear at MuslimFest,” Alper noted in a press release. “During the past seven years I’ve seen repeatedly how shared laughter diffuses suspicion and builds bridges between formerly unconnected communities.”

Alper, considered the world’s only practicing clergyman doing stand-up comedy internationally, helped silence critics of MuslimFest who were eagerly waiting to stir-up controversy.

After it pulled off a creative coup with Alper, in 2012, organizers did not rest on their laurels. They sought to offer new attractions and artists by bringing in comic book creator Naif Al Mutawa the creator of THE 99; the first Muslim-inspired comic book and other Canadian and internationally renowned names such as Tom Vandenberg, Irfan Makki, Junaid Jamshed, Baba Ali Zain Bikha and Raef.

MuslimFest celebrated its 10th anniversary last year with some 26,000 revelers. If that’s not success, what is?

Kitchener, Ont. native Dawud Wharnsby, a Canadian singer/songwriter/poet best known for his work in musical poetic genre interacts with his young fans at the MuslimFest. Photo courtesy, MuslimFest.

Kitchener, Ont. native Dawud Wharnsby, a Canadian singer/songwriter/poet, best known for his work in musical poetic genre interacts with his young fans at the MuslimFest. Photo courtesy, MuslimFest.

“MuslimFest is supposed to be a celebration of our culture, our art, our history specifically within the Canadian context,” Rahman said. “Our mandate is to build bridges. It’s not necessarily the element of fun or the carnival environment that brings people together, but comedy and food. We make conscious decision every year on who can we bring that’s not only fun, but would be able to speak to the wider community.”

Other cities and organizations have desperately tried to duplicate the success, but none have succeeded.

“It (MuslimFest) has broken stereotypes,” Rahman says. “The most important thing for all of us serving in the festival’s committee is: yes, we’re Muslims, but we are also Canadians…”

The 2014 MuslimFest is scheduled for Aug. 2-3 at Celebration Square in Mississauga.

 

 

Move over butter chicken, the Kerala chicken curry is here

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Kerala, a coastal state in India, boasts of cuisine that's full of flavours. The Kerala chicken curry is especially a universal favourite

Kerala, a coastal state in India, boasts of cuisine that’s full of flavours. The Kerala chicken curry is especially a universal favourite.

In the earlier posts, I attempted to capture some sights and stories of South Asians in Toronto.

Well, it’s time to direct the rickshaw towards some culinary delights. A highlight Toronto’s multicultural identity is that the city offers its patrons a whole variety of ethnic food to choose from. Some are wildly popular, others remains hidden gems. If I asked you to cough up the names of some Indian dishes, you are more than likely to answer: butter chicken, naan, chicken tikka or palak paneer.

Since the Canadian palate appears to have fallen in love with the mild flavours of the ubiquitous butter chicken and its perfect dance partner, naan, most restaurateurs are wary of introducing anything else on their menu. If it works, why fix it, right?

Here’s the thing; Indian cuisine, much like the country itself is vast and varied. Each region has its own distinct culinary style.  Many of the dishes will tantalize the taste buds and send you to food nirvana.

Yes, it’s great, butter chicken and the samosas have nudged their way right into the mainstream fare, but these are not the prototypes of India’s mind-boggling gastronomy. Allow me to introduce you to some less-known, nevertheless great mouthwatering dishes.

Nestling amidst swaying coconut trees and lush greenery, is Kerala. A coastal region in the Southern region of India characterized by groves of mango, jackfruit and coconut trees, punctuated with rubber, coffee and tea plantations, cashew nut trees and orchards redolent with spices such as cardamom, cinnamon and pepper.

Often referred to as God’s Own Country, Kerala definitely lives up to its moniker. What’s unique about Kerala’s cuisine is that unlike the calorie-laden richness of butter chicken, food hailing from this region is light (as it’s steamed or cooked with minimal oil). The dishes sport rich flavours tempered usually by a paste of coconut, ginger, green jalapeno, black pepper, nutmeg, cardamom and other spices.

Fish, fowl and vegetables are an integral part of Kerala’s cuisine. At the time of festivals, weddings and other occasions, food is served and eaten on a banana leaf.

Here’s a recipe for Kerala chicken. You can substitute the fresh powdered spices with (Eastern brand Chicken masala) readily available in any Kerala store in the GTA.

Kerala cuisine is redolent with spices such as cardamom, peppercorn and coconut. Image courtesy Zastavki.com

Kerala cuisine is redolent with spices such as cardamom, peppercorn and coconut.
Image courtesy Zastavki.com

KERALA CHICKEN CURRY

Serves six

You will need:

Chicken – 2 lbs. bite-sized pieces

Onions – 1 large chopped

Tomatoes – two large diced

Ginger/ garlic paste – 1½ teaspoon

Oil (Canola/vegetable) – 3 tablespoon

Coconut (grated) – 1/3 cup

Red chilly powder— 1 teaspoon

Fennell seeds — ½ teaspoon

Cumin seeds — ½ teaspoon

Peppercorn— ½ teaspoon

Cloves — 4 nos.

Cinnamon— 1-inch stick

Cardamom — 3 nos.

Lemon juice — one lime/lemon

Yoghurt— 3 tablespoons

Prep work:

Marinate chicken pieces in lemon juice, yoghurt and salt. Refrigerate for a couple of hours

Dry roast on low flame and powder: Fennel seed, cumin, cloves, peppercorn, cardamom and cinnamon

Kerala's cuisine boasts of staples such as coconut and fresh aromatic spices such as peppercorn, cardamom and cinnamon.

Kerala’s cuisine boasts of staples such as coconut and fresh aromatic spices such as peppercorn, cardamom and cinnamon.

Instructions
1. Heat oil in a non-stick or heavy-bottomed pan. Toss and saute the onions.

2. Add ginger, and garlic paste. Cook until onions turn golden brown.

3. Add diced tomatoes till it softens and has a sauce-like consistency. Add salt, red chilly powder and Eastern chicken masala. Turn the heat to minimum.

3. Toss in coconut (grated either fresh or frozen) and about 1 ½ tablespoon of powdered spice mix. Add very little water and make a paste.

4. Add coconut and spice paste to the simmering sauce. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Add half-a-cup water.

5. Now add in the chicken pieces. Cover and cook in medium-low heat for 20 minutes. Check to ensure chicken is fully cooked. Sprinkle remaining dry spice mix. Cover and let the flavours sit.

Enjoy it with steamed white rice or tortillas