Toronto’s Giggle Queens present dance with a dollop of laughter

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Jennalee Desjardins (L) and Ria Aikat are the Giggle Queens, a dancer/choreography duo who fuse Hip-Hop with Bollywood/Bharatnatyam. The duo will perform at the 2020 BollywoodMonster Mashup concert happening Friday, July 24 via Facebook Live.

If you ask Ria Aikat, 30, and Jennalee Desjardins, 33, to describe an unusual element in their dance routines, they will likely say—laughter.

Meet the Giggle Queens.

The Toronto-based performance/choreography duo are empresses of a distinctive style that combines Hip-Hop and Bollywood as well as other Eastern styles such as Bharatnatyam. There’s some helping of humour thrown in for good measure as well.

You can catch them Friday, July 24 when they perform at the 2020 BollywoodMonster Mashup. This year’s #StayHome concert is happening live via Facebook at 6 p.m.

Ria and Jennalee’s pieces combine Bhangra, Bharatnatyam and other genres with Waacking (a Hip-Hop style that was popular in the LGBTQ clubs in L.A. during the 70s).  

“How did the name Giggle Queens come about? well, it was an organic move,” Ria explained. “We noticed there wasn’t a whole lot of room for laughter in the pieces we saw. So, we felt we had to make a small corner for ourselves in the dance world.”

Ria Aikat, dancer/choreographer, and one-half of Giggle Queens

Ria and Jennalee met in Ottawa in 2012 through Culture Shock Canada, a Hip-Hop organization. Later, they moved to Toronto and began to explore the dance world here.

 “My introduction to Bhangra was definitely through Ria,” Jennalee admits. “I had watched few (Bollywood) movies and enjoyed the music but it wasn’t a serious pursuit until we decided to do something fun and different.”

The hallmark of anything “fusion” according to me is that it should blend two distinct styles, flavours, or genres flawlessly. If the transition is choppy, it defeats the purpose. The Giggle Queens pull that off.

Which is probably the reason why music is the centerpiece in all of Giggle Queens’ performances.

How does Hip-Hop/Bollywood fusion work?

In their piece (choreography reel, 2020) Jennalee and Ria’s synchronized movements has elements of musical theatre. It has actors, props and scenes all unfolding to a Bollywood tune.

“We like to embrace laughter and comedy into our dance,” Jennalee explained. “Music starts our process or creation. What I like about Bollywood music is that there’s room for a lot of passion. To me, it felt as though Waacking was always made to go with Bollywood music.”

Their movements are set to high-energy beats. If you observe carefully, you might notice Ria and Jennalee’s footwork and arm moves subtly mimic some Bharatnatyam moves.

“The overarching theme of our upcoming performance will be that we will showcase the two distinctly different sides of a warrior woman,” Ria explained.

Jennalee Desjardins (L) and Ria Aikat are the Giggle Queens, a dancer/choreography duo who fuse Hip-Hop with Bollywood/Bharatnatyam. The duo will perform at the 2020 BollywoodMonster Mashup concert happening Friday, July 24 via Facebook Live.

Toronto’s Nick Pandya will sweep you off your feet with his voice at the 2020 BollywoodMonster Mashup

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Toronto Desi Diaries is baaack.

It was a long hiatus. This blog’s purpose was always to connect me to my true passion, writing. There was a disconnect. I had gotten lost.

Anyway, the Summer of 2020—much like the year itself— is all about recalibrating, readjusting and gradually merging into the lanes of normalcy (whatever that is).

If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught me, it is: Life will keep delivering the same lesson until you learn from it.

***

This year’s, BollywoodMonster Mashup (BMM) will take place Friday, July 24 and Saturday, July 25 via Facebook. Tune in to Facebook.com/BollywoodMashup at 6 p.m. (EST) to go on a scintillating evening of dance and music. 

Headlining the virtual concert on Friday, July 24 is Canada’s most popular transplant to Bollywood – Sunny Leone. Sunny will perform a few of her hits, and afterwards take part in a live chat.

Arjuna Harjai, a critically-acclaimed Bollywood composer/ singer of the Choti Choti Gal (Motichoor Chaknachoor) and O Soniye (Titoo MBA) fame, will also present a selection of his foot-tapping Bollywood melodies.  

On Saturday, July 25, Meet Bros and Khushboo Grewal will take on the entertaining responsibilities. Meet Bros (Harmeet and Manmeet Singh) are the men behind chartbusters such as “Lamborghini” (Jai Mummy Di), “Main Tera Boyfriend” (Raabta) and “Babydoll” (Ragini MMS 2).

***

When you watch Nick Pandya’s excellent cover of Mere Sohneya from the movie Kabir, two thoughts will hit you simultaneously. First, his voice. Oh, what a voice.

Second, the cookie-cutter homes set against the backdrop of a man-made body of water will be oddly familiar. Yes, the video was filmed in a subdivision near Mayfield Road and The Gore in Brampton.

After months of being cooped indoors because of the pandemic, Nick decided to venture outside. This music video was a tribute to tasting life’s small pleasures— fresh air, sunshine and music.

Within the Toronto and nearby areas, Nick, 28, is somewhat a homegrown celebrity and a YouTube sensation. His covers of popular Hindi and Gujarati songs are worthy of a listen or two.

An alumnus of Bramalea Secondary School, Nick has performed alongside Shankar Mahadevan, Jonita Gandhi, Chinmayi, Sukhvinder and others.

“Besides my parents, the person who inspires me the most is Shankar Mahadevan (Bollywood singer/composer),” said Nick who did a show in Toronto with Mahadevan. “When a reporter asked Shankar where he saw himself in life, Shankar replied that as a musician and human being, he wanted to be second because that way, he could continue to learn from the person in the first place.”

Mental health and Music

Nick works as a psychotherapist. When he’s not helping alleviate mental health and addiction issues, he’s fully immersed in his musical career and running Darshan Entertainment with his Dad.

“I believe in having a balance between music and my day job,” Nick said. “My job gives me the drive and the motivation to do better in my music and my career. I use music as a way of self-care.”

Nick Pandya, singer/co-founder Darshan Entertainment

Nick’s introduction to music started at 9 when he began taking tabla lessons. He studied the Indian skin instrument for 12 years and is acquainted with the elements of rhythm. This may be why his vocal prowess has that special something, an easy familiarity with the notes.

In 2008, he was the first runner- up in a reality TV contest judged by the well-known Pandit Jasraj. The contest, which unfolded over nine months, gave the audience a chance to know Nick and his vocal range. Soon after, opportunities came knocking.

It’s evident one of Nick’s parents are his biggest influence and their relationship appears to be one filled with mutual love. His parents are his biggest cheerleaders.

During Navratri, Dandiya with Pandya (a second family business), is booked solid. Incidentally, Nick’s cover of a well-known song Moti Veerana by Osman Mir and Amit Trivedi is a viral hit. It has garnered more than 70,000 views on YouTube and is one of the most requested songs during his live performances.

“I think the most important thing with music is even though I would love to do it full-time, I am enjoying myself fully doing it part-time, and that, to me is the most important thing,” he says.

Toronto’s Nick Pandya, singer, co-founder, and producer of Darshan Entertainment and Dandiya with Pandya has performed alongside Shankar Mahadevan, Jonita Gandhi, Chinmayi, Sukhvinder and other Bollywood artists. On Friday, July 23, Pandya will perform at the 2020 BollywoodMonster Mashup happening via Facebook live.

On BollywoodMonster Mashup

Nick says BMM is a professionally-run concert that continues to give him a platform to showcase his craft to one of the biggest audiences in the GTA.

Nick will perform at the BMM Friday, July 24.

 

Dear International Students to Brampton, ON:

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This is a guest blog post by Jaskaran (Jazzy) Chahal, a proud Bramptonian, a high-school teacher, and blogger.

Before you read Jaskaran (Jazzy’s) insightful piece on the contentious issue of international students from Punjab who have gained notoriety for their disregard for Canadian laws and way of life, I want to direct y’all to the commenting guidelines of Toronto Desi Diaries. Happy reading.
This picture from 1989 is of Jazzy’s dad who came to Canada as an international student. Jazzy says, “He(dad) was 20 years old at the time and he never did any of the things that are mentioned below. Times have definitely changed.”

I want to start this off on a positive note and humbly welcome you to Canada! This is simply an incredible country to live in with plenty of opportunities to chase your dreams. I wish you all the best in your studies and careers. I praise your work ethic and I understand the sacrifices that you had to make for the pursuit of a better life. It’s not easy to pack your bags, leave your family behind, and begin a new life in a foreign country. I commend you for your determination, perseverance, and resilience. You have nothing but admiration and encouragement from me!

What follows is a special note for international students from Punjab, India, as well as other Sikh students who have chosen to come live in Brampton and its surrounding areas. I’ve been living in Brampton for over 20 years now and I have personally witnessed the influx of students within the past decade. I live in the neighbourhood right beside Sheridan College where a significant number of international students are admitted, and my family has provided accommodation to several international students over the years before they moved out and rented out their own place.

While this land welcomes you with open arms, it doesn’t give you the right to take advantage of its kindness, strut around like you own the place, and disturb its inhabitants. It is a privilege to be able to come here and be able to make a name for yourself, it is not a right. I’m probably going to sound like a grumpy old man to many of you, but my words are influenced by my genuine observations and experiences over the past few years. You don’t have to listen to me, but just know that I’m not the only one who feels this way. Many relatives, friends, colleagues, and fellow citizens have expressed the same sentiments as I have. I just decided to make it a bit more permanent in writing so you can refer to it. Once again, I’m not prohibiting you from doing these things because I’m obviously in no position to do so. I’m simply reinforcing the possibility that you can choose not to do them anymore! Here’s a list of things that you don’t have to do anymore in the 2020s and beyond:

  • You don’t have to buy a car as soon as you arrive here. If you do, you don’t have to buy a Dodge Charger, a Dodge Challenger, a Ford Mustang, or a Jeep Wrangler. There are thousands of other cars to choose from that are less expensive and can help you get from point A to point B.
  • You don’t have to buy a custom license plate that costs $300 and spells something absurd, such as “blackia,” “dabbka,” “bandook,” or “jatt.” You are not a smuggler, you are in no position to scold anyone, you can’t legally own a gun unless you have a valid license, and you shouldn’t be promoting an obsolete caste system here.
  • You don’t have to display an enormous silver or gold Khanda hanging from your rear-view mirror inside of your car. A bigger symbol doesn’t mean it’s a bigger and better religion. I’ve seen so many of them that I’ve begun to think it’s the new Dodge logo.
  • You don’t have to blast Punjabi music on residential streets at 3am on weeknights. Most people are trying to get some sleep and they aren’t going outside to do the bhangra with you. There are a time and place for everything.
  • Speaking of Punjabi music, you don’t have to idolize singers who promote gangs, drugs, and violence. It’s not a lived experience for 99% of them and listening to gangster music doesn’t magically turn you into one. Just a small reminder that this isn’t Los Angeles or New York City, it’s Brampton. Our nickname is literally Flower City.
  • You don’t have to drive like a maniac and have road rage 24/7. One of you once drove your car into oncoming traffic on the left side at night just so you could surpass my car in the right lane. Somebody could’ve lost their life that night, but I guess you watched one too many Fast and Furious movies.
  • Speaking of movies, you don’t have to Snapchat the opening credits of one while sitting in a theatre. Nor do you have to text or literally take phone calls while the movie is playing. It’s extremely distracting for the viewers sitting around you and its one of the reasons why some people are opting out of going to the movie theatre altogether.
  • You don’t have to continuously stare at people while walking or driving. Some of you stare at people as if you’re about to snatch their soul straight out of their bodies. It doesn’t make you look tough; it just makes you look creepy.
  • You don’t have to buy expensive name brand clothes or accessories to try and be “western.” Just be yourselves and dress accordingly. Your $600 Gucci belt holding up your pants is doing the exact same job like any other belt.
  • On the other hand, you don’t have to purposely wear flip flops and slides outside in the winter, especially when it’s snowing. In this case, I recommend investing in a pair of shoes or winter boots so that you don’t get frostbite.
  • You don’t have to use or speak the Punjabi language in a derogatory manner. Sprinkling in profanity throughout your entire conversation doesn’t make you sound tough. It ruins the purity of the language and makes it seem like you have a very limited vocabulary.
  • You don’t have to disrespect the gym environment and its equipment. This includes slamming your dumbbells or barbells down on the ground, leaving them there without putting them back on the rack, screaming your lungs out while lifting, and taking a few hundred pictures of you flexing in the mirror. I know that the Punjabi rap music playing in your headphones has you feeling some type of way, but you don’t have to boost your ego by losing your sanity.
  • You don’t have to get into physical fights with other international students because of a senseless argument or disagreement. Among other incidents, you took humanity back to prehistoric times with that fight in the Sheridan College Plaza. It literally looked like a bunch of cavemen yelling, grunting, and fighting with sticks and stones.
  • You don’t have to keep promoting this show-off culture that seems to be engrained within our DNA. Much of this is transferred from our parents, like when they feel the need to throw their child an extravagant wedding reception and invite over a thousand guests to flaunt their status. You can be the one that changes this and puts an end to this mentality of showing off because it simply doesn’t make you look cool and it’s not impressive to anyone.
  • Last but not least, you don’t have to forget about the generous hospitality and accommodation that your relatives or family friends provided for you before you moved out. Whether they allowed you to stay in their home for 8 months or 8 weeks, you owe them a debt of gratitude. You owe them a simple text or phone call to show appreciation for what they did for you, even if its just once a month. These are the people who helped you set yourself up in a new country across the globe and supported you when no one else would. If you slept in their bed, ate at their dinner table, drove their car, borrowed their money, or used their internet, the least you could do is a check-in with them from time to time to see how they’re doing. We live in an age where smartphones and social media supposedly bring us closer together, yet we drift further apart.

I don’t have any prejudice or bias against international students, nor am I trying to compromise their reputation or embarrass them. There are many of you who are amazing individuals and work extremely hard to make your families proud. Some of you work two to three different jobs in a week while still managing to attend class. I honestly look up to you and I admire your journey of establishing yourselves in this new environment. The list above is for the “bad apples” of the bunch, whose behaviour and attitude influenced me to write about what’s going on in my city. Hopefully, some of you read this and realize that you can do things a little differently and you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. For the rest of you, I wish you good fortune, success, and happiness in this beautiful country!

Sincerely,

Jaskaran Chahal, A Citizen of Brampton

You can read Jazzy’s blog – Jazzy Writes here.

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

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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

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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

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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

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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. 

Butterfly

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

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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

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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.

Judging by this long list of Aug ’19 events, South Asians Toronto have some great entertainment choices

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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