An Interview with Sathish Bala

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By A Correspondent

desiFEST, North America’s leading outdoor South Asian Music concert will celebrate its tenth year and will feature a star studded line up of emerging and established musical artists and performers at Yonge-Dundas Square on May 28, 2016 with 12 hours of non-stop musical entertainment.  The creator of this festival is Sathish Bala who founded this grassroots organization to foster and grow the large South Asian Arts Community in Toronto and across Canada. 

The organization also helps to unify, create awareness and develop new showcase opportunities for artists and has helped hundreds of artists and bands to gain exposure, collaborate on new music and strengthen the community. Bala says desiFEST ( also helps to build local arts communities, inspire youth and support arts across Canada.

 “It is important for us to continue evolving the original concept of desiFEST. Ten years ago, there was a need to find and showcase desi urban artists and today there is an equally important need to help in nurturing, educating and building bridges for our community. That is a future I look forward to with desiFEST,” says Bala.

Besides the May 28 event, desiFEST will also host She Rocks – All Female Lineup on Wednesday May 25, Open Scream Night on Thursday, May 26, Discussion on all aspects of the South Asian Music Industry in North America on Friday, May 27.

When was desiFEST established and why?

We started desiFEST in 2007 to meet a growing need for 2nd generattion South Asian youth, making music that blended EAST and WEST and didn’t have a platform to showcase their music. While we had a feeling of how ‘big’ this concert can get, we had no idea that over 40k+ fans will come and support the artist each year!

What is the mandate of the organization?

Our mandate is to inspire the next generation of South Asian musicians through the creation of innovative music platforms.

Why did you feel there was a need for such an organization in Toronto?

10 years ago, you either sang Bollywood songs or didn’t. The reality was that we have a lot of South Asian artists who needed a platform and we didn’t have one. Too often, our music was lost in private parties and wedding receptions. We wanted to elevate the music and create global awareness for Canadian artists. 

Can you tell us the selection process for musicians?

The process looks at current progression of the artist submitting to play at desiFEST. Amateur artists are anyone without a video or music out and most likely performing cover songs. New artists usually have an EP or a few songs with at least one music video. The established artists have been in the music business for over 5 years. With 25 slots available, we review each submission to look at the fit.

What do we expect this year?

More of the awesome desiFEST show and some surprises for the 10th.

Why the need for an all-female concert this year?

Over the last few years, we have seen an increase the number of music musicians and we wanted to celebrate it more than just desiFEST. To encourage more female artists to come up, we felt that in addition to desiFEST, a unique show spotlighting female music would open more doors and break stereotypes.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Encouraging our artists’ community to believe in themselves and also encouraging the community to support and celebrate our musicians the same way we celebrate our academic success stories.

Which cities in Canada has desiFEST been organized over the years?

We have been in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver the first 5 years.

(desiFEST takes place Saturday, May 28, 2016 from 10 AM – 10 PM at Yonge-Dundas Square)

JULY 2018

Vol. 12 - No. 12


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