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August 2006 
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Masala! Mehndi! Masti! 2006
A multitude of events in music, dance, theatre, visual arts...

Masala! Mehndi! Masti! 2006 (M!M!M!) was a huge success at the Exhibition Place Bandshell Park and Better Living Centre from July 26th to July 30th, 2006. M!M!M! showcased the best in contemporary and traditional South Asian culture from Canada and across the globe!

This internationally acclaimed festival opened on Wednesday July 26 with the largest Opening Reception and Open House M!M!M! has ever had, consisting of artists, media, organizers and sponsors. Performers for the night included the Devis & Divas ensemble of Rebecca Nazareth, Priya Nayar and Radio Voice Co-host and Canadian Idol Top 16 finalist Devika. Event organizers and key sponsors welcomed the guests.

Late night parties featured this year at MMM were MyBindi Thursday, Besharam and Desivibe in the North Pod of the Better Living Centre featuring DJs Jiten, Amita and Kamran respectively.

On Friday July 28, Brandy Leary gave a performance that had the crowd gasping in amazement with her presentation of Aerial acrobatics on the mainstage, called ‘Descent of the Ganges’.

The third Brit InvASIAN concert on Friday July 28, featuring Trickbaby from the UK had the crowd singing and dancing along to their smash hits ‘Sabse Bada Rupaiya’, ‘Parde Ke Peeche’, ‘Neela’ from Abhishek Bachchan’s super blockbuster movie ‘Bluffmaster’

A multitude of events in music, dance, theatre, visual arts, a Meena Bazaar and more were joined by provocative seminars and succulent South Asian dishes creating the largest festival of its kind in North America.

A view of the audience

Masala! Mehndi! Masti! highlights:


Also new to M!M!M! was 'The Bangladeshi Culture Show'. This wonderful ensemble of over 40 artists presented songs from Bangladesh (Classical, Semi Classical, Folk and Modern). The show was interspersed with dances and choreography leaving the audience enlightened about their culture. Priya offered a unique blend of Pop and modern R&B highlighted by her soulful vocals which the audience received with great enthusiasm. The 'SAAE Seminar: How Does A Desi Artist Reach The Mainstream', was an excellent opportunity for all to discuss the realities of the mainstream music industry included leading experts on the panel. This was produced Vikas Kohli (FatLabs).

Back by popular demand was SW Storm as he excited the crowd with his outgoing spirit and phenomenal energy. He rocked the mainstage with his songs as the crowd ‘jumped up’ along. DJ Boomerang And The Carnivale Dancers prepared us for Caribana weekend with the bright costumes and the music you just couldn’t help but shake your hips to! 

Also back by popular demand were the inimitable Rajasthani gypsy group Kerap. Their heartwarming and heart wrenching singing, music and kalbelia dancing were a huge draw, despite the sudden cloud burst that happened just before their first performance.

The ghazal concert by Munni and Afzal was so popular with the audience that when the time came to close the show, there was much disappointment. 

This year's special M!M!M! festival finale was a blast once again... the ever popular Bhangra Blast! This year’s performances included Bhangra Divas (from CASSA), Nach Di Jawani and came to a close with the earth shaking sounds of Bhangra dhols, featuring Josh (Montreal).


High energy performances by winners of the  South Asian Alliance Culture Show included University of Toronto and York University. The cheering echoed through the festival site drawing in a crowd dedicated to their performance. Dedication was showed by all of our festival attendees through the heavy short-term rainfall through our one of a kind Kathakali dance performance. The audience took quick shelter only to join our all popular 'Dandia Dhamaka 2006' immediately after it ceased. The wet and sloshy grass didn’t deter anyone from joining in. 

Shiamak's Indo Jazz Dance Movement lit up the mainstage with their quick, concise, high energy dance movements which left audiences mesmerized Bollywood style. An absolute spectacle of dance – also featuring members of the junior dance company, which further delighted the enormous crowd.


The exquisite Tushar Unadkat’s Photography Exhibit touched the hearts of many in understanding his theme of ‘Home Away from Homeland’, concerned with exhibiting the experience of various generations of Indians living abroad who try to retain aspects of the life they remember before leaving India. The three day exhibition was joined by “Five Yards of my Soul”: (Interactive, onsite artist workshops in textile art) An onsite textile art project especially designed for Masala! Mehndi! Masti! 2006. The artists, Mona Kamal, Susan Anderson, Shawn Grey and Raf Zawistowski, all engaged the audience with their skill and artistic talent developing their art on Saris, 4 gorgeous sari’s which were sold in a silent auction. The visual arts component was curated by Asma Arshad.

A view of the volunteers

Social Issues Seminars:

Expanding intellectual horizons with the Chillin' in Your Brown Skin Collective, comprising of four ethno-specific community based organizations. The Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA), The Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAP), The South Asian Women's Centre (SAWC) and The South Asian Legal Clinic (SALCO) presented a series of panel talks/activities to raise the profile of social justice issues within the South Asian community. Seminar discussion topics included The Changing Face Of Sex In Film And Music, Improving Access To Justice, The Children’s Movement Against Child Abuse, Identity and Race, and South Asian Voices Through Image.

The venue for this programming proved inadequate and though the seminars were of immense value to the community, they did not receive appropriate attention. It has been understood that this area of programming will be revised for next year’s festival


On July 29-30 seminars and workshops ran throughout the day. Noted Yoga practitioners: Sarita and Shiv Sud hilariously presenting Laughter Yoga Club and Puja Amin and Sonia Dhillon featured with Yoga lessons and workshops. 


Theatre programming at this year’s festival was the biggest challenge and with a venue not geared to accommodate theatre programming appropriately, it did pose some problems with sound and staging of the readings and performances in the outdoor venue.

The fifth annual South Asian Theatre Festival featured something new to M!M!M! Youth Workshop Productions by Maya Theatre presented for the first time Gorilla Theatre - an opportunity for the young artists to present their works, drawing in crowds from passer byers. It was free, outdoors, and it was high energy. New Playwrights, writers and novelists by Dalbir Singh, Anar Ali and Dr. Sherry Duggal were a real treat to eager ears. Indigenous Words presented by Sawitri Theatre Group created quite the scene expressing themselves through the play “Savita Weds Satish“. This year at M!M!M! spoken word was presented by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Muslim Rizvi, Sherry Duggal, and Sheniz Janmohamed.

Comedians Ali Rizvi and New Zealander Tarun Mohanbhai had everyone laughing as they delved deep in to their lives to share hilarious experiences with the audiences.

M!M!M! Volunteers:

Over 60 hard working volunteers directed festival attendees to events and helped  keep the festival alive with their smiling faces seen all across the festival grounds. Truly the backbone of the festival, this team worked tirelessly to keep things in order.

RESTAURANT and BAZAAR: Rogers Masala! Mehndi! Masti! Many enjoyed all types of culinary delights that left them coming back to try more – The bazaar featured vendors selling handicrafts, South Asian fashions and other special cultural products at incredible prices.

Rogers Masala! Mehndi! Masti! 2006 was co-presented by TD Canada Trust and OMNI Diversity TV. The festival is produced by Satya Arts Association and was generously supported by Magic Feet Canada, Heritage Canada, British Council and Gold Sponsors State Farm Insurance.

[Photos by: Todd Nichol]






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