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

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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.

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

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P-South Asian Canada Day-WS-7

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

Saturday, July 1

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

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

Saturday, July 8

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

Sunday, July 9

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

Friday, July 14

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

Saturday, July 15

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

July 15 to 17

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

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

Make some ‘Noyz’ for this hip-hop artist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Eid events and urban desiFEST take over June 2017 in Toronto

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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

Documentary peels off the taboo surrounding sex and sexuality

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Ask_the_Sexpert_PosterOne film featured in the 2017 Toronto Hot Docs Fest that caught my eye was Ask the Sexpert.

Produced by Mridu Chandra and directed by Vaishali Sinha, Ask the Sexpert, chronicles the life of the 93-year-old Dr. Mahinder Watsa, a gynecologist/advice columnist and sex expert for the Mumbai Mirror.

The blurb featured “India” and “sex” in the same sentence, so I decided to see for myself Vaishali’s treatment of the subject. As I watched the film, I was struck by Dr. Watsa’s inimitable and wry sense of humour and his honest diagnosis of the dilemmas posed to him.

Mind you, some questions were so outrageous I almost choked on the tea I was sipping. Then, it hit me: In India, sex and sex education are both relegated to tawdry corners of the Internet and sleazy magazines. Understandably there’s this vacuum. This chasm, to me, has unleashed several horrifying consequences such as rape, the objectification on women in Bollywood films and this whole taboo around sex.

Dr. Watsa’s role in de-mystifying the human sexuality should be applauded instead we are told there are at least half-a-dozen lawsuits filed against the good man and the daily he writes for.

In the nine years he has been doling advice, Dr. Watsa has tackled some 40,000 letters. He started his career as a columnist in the 60s as a medical columnist for several women’s magazines. He quit that when one of the editors insisted on censoring the questions.

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Dr. Mahinder Watsa, 93, a sex columnist for an English daily in India, was the subject of the documentary, Ask the Sexpert. The film featured in the 2017 Toronto Hot Docs festival. Supplied photo.

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Toronto Desi Diaries (TDD) chatted with Vaishali Sinha, 37, director, Ask the Sexpert

TDD: Tell me about yourself?
VS: I’m Mumbai-born filmmaker currently living in Brooklyn, New York. Filmmaking is what brought me to the U.S. This is where my independent show-making career flourished, simply, because in the U.S. there is more support for the arts than in India. The U.S. still has a ways to go in supporting the arts, especially in these times.

TDD: What drew you to the subject of Dr. Watsa?
VS: I was interested in exploring a film on sex and sexuality in urban India especially through the lens of therapist because talking about sex is such a taboo.

TDD: Once you became interested, how did you envision you would tackle the issue of sex considering India’s a prude?
VS: I wanted a character-driven story to be a lens into larger society tackling issues of sexuality. Dr. Wasta and his work went above and beyond my expectations.

TDD: Every film/story has one point/element that changes the trajectory of the narrative, what was yours with this project?
VS: I was fortunate that I ended up with finding characters I was hoping to find to be able to tell the story I was hoping to tell. To find so many people speak candidly and openly about these controversial issues was a pleasure.
What I did not prepare myself for was the enormous personality of Dr. Watsa. The depth and breadth of his work is astounding. Telling the story through his lens allowed me to bring in another element, another character.

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Vaishali Sinha, director, Ask the Sexpert

TDD: What were some of the challenges?
VS: The topic of Sexuality is an ever-growing one in India and I want to make sure my film speaks to the timeless aspects of it. Finding a balance between topical and timeless elements was hard work.

TDD: Who funded the project and how long did it take you to make it?
VS: Funding trickled in over the course of three and a half years. Early funders include:  Catapult Fund, MacArthur Foundation, Tribeca Film Institute and the iTVS (co-production partner).

TDD: Were you hoping to ruffle feathers with this film?
VS: Stylistically, character-driven stories are my forte.I wanted to make a film that would push sex education and sex positivity to the forefront of the conversation.
Dr. Watsa is such an iconic personality in India and this is the first ever film on him. I’m happy those two interests, of character and sexuality, were able to come together in Ask the Sexpert.

TDD: Anything else?
VS: Ask the Sexpert is an universal story even though it’s situated in India, I hope this opens a conversation in a positive manner not just in our community, but other communities too.

TDD: Is the film screening anywhere in India? Where can people watch, if they are interested? VS: Not yet, but keep your eyes and ears open.

 

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

 

Sounds from the tabla and taiko will make history in Toronto concert

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On Saturday, April 15 the walls at Greenwin Theatre at Toronto Centre for Arts 5040 Yonge St., will be a site for a concert featuring two ancient far eastern instruments, the tabla and taiko (Japanese drums) featured above. Supplied photo.

Musical savants like Ritesh Das and Kiyoshi Nagata are always in pursuit of cerebral pursuits that confront them into taking journeys that test their craft and creativity.

Ritesh, a tabla maestro and director of the Toronto Tabla Ensemble, through his inquisitiveness and aptitude for all things percussion, has helped bring the tabla into centre stage of mainstream music here in Toronto.

Whereas, trailblazer and innovator, Kiyoshi (taiko soloist and artistic director of Nagata Shachu) has likewise resurrected the powerful sounds taiko, a Japanese drum, in North America and elsewhere to stand irresolutely on its own.

So when the duo decided on a cross-cultural percussion undertaking, it became one for the history books.

On Saturday, April 15 the walls at Greenwin Theatre at Toronto Centre for Arts 5040 Yonge St., will reverberate (hopefully, the theatre has strong insulation) with sounds of tabla and taiko (Japanese drums) in a never-seen-before Toronto collaboration.

Imagine, the massive taiko—a mostly barrel-shaped percussion instruments made with hollowed tree trunk tautly tied with cowhide—and the diminutive, but strong and pure sounds of two skins meeting in ether and forging a harmony of notes. The history-making concert starts at 7 p.m.

“You can play the tabla with any instrument in the world,” said Ritesh, a tabla maestro that has learned with Ustad Zakir Hussain and Pandit Swapan Chaudhari. “The tabla and taiko are two instruments with different sounds. The challenge then was to figure out how one can compose music based on their sound vibrations without losing the integrity and spirit of both.”

That serendipitous meeting:

When Ritesh met Kiyoshi (more than 20 years ago), it was a meeting of two brilliant minds.

The two artistic heavyweights’ musical partnership started in 1994 when they performed as part of Kiyoshi’s world percussion ensemble Humdrum. Then, in 1996, they came together to compose the piece Asahi.

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Ritesh Das, a tabla maestro and director of the Toronto Tabla Ensemble. Supplied photo.

This upcoming concert however marks the first time two eastern ancient musical heritages—the tabla and taiko— will interact in such a large-scale on the stage.

“When we first rehearsed just a couple of weeks ago, it really didn’t seem like some 20 somewhat years had passed,” Kiyoshi remarked.

Seeking to create an elusive “something” through the combination of two percussion sounds required Kiyoshi and Ritesh to look beyond their individual musical sight lines. And boy, does it work (check the videos).

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Kiyoshi Nagata, taiko soloist and artistic director of Nagata Shachu. Supplied photo.

Clash of the titans

At the concert, the audience will experience the sounds from different taikos (some are huge and placed on upright stand, while others are flat-bodied) and the several artists playing the tabla.

“In order to compose a music (that will be true to both) you have to have a strong background of understanding your art form first before you start collaborating with someone else,” Ritesh observed. “Imagine the spinal chord as the taiko and the tabla as the ribs that encase it. There was a whole of exploration with the culture and tradition (of the instruments) that went into the planning of this concert.”

The five-and-a-half challenge

The tabla-taiko concert will feature 10 artists bringing the strength of two percussion instruments steeped in history, heritage and the ancient science of Nad (sound) yoga.

“The taiko is a very loud instrument compared to the tabla,” Kiyoshi said. “How do we achieve those balances? I was totally up for the challenge of working on a piece in five-and-a-half. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but, when you get down to the bare bones and understand the foundation of music, then we can translate that into our own taiko language and that’s where the true collaboration starts.”

OK, here’s quick refresher on what the “five-and-a-half” reference here is.

“Saade paanch (“five-and-a-half” in Hindi) is a rhythmic cycle,” Ritesh explained.

The collaborative piece between the two ensembles is set in a rhythmic cycle of five- and-a half-beats, which is rare in Indian music, but unheard of in Japanese music.

So, how did the two maestros pull off the incredible feat? I guess, you will have to watch the show. Also, a single from Ritesh’s upcoming album, Bhoomika will be released that day.

For tickets and more, visit http://torontotabla.com/ or www.nagatashachu.com.