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"blending activism and filmmaking"




Ekta Fundraiser Fuses
Entertainment & Awareness

Vandana Makker
Staff Reporter

OAKLAND, Calif. - Ekta, a Bay Area-based South Asian organization that emphasizes artistic statement, sociopolitical dialogue, and community building, used its creative network to stage a powerful and highly entertaining fundraiser for the victims of the Gujarat earthquake.

The event, held March 10 at the California College of Arts and Craft, was billed as "an evening of spokenword, film, and performance." Attended mainly by enthusiastic twentysomething South Asian American hipsters, the show seemed nearly sold out, with audience members sitting in the aisles to get a better view of the performers.

The first portion of the event, the spokenword performances, stretched beyond traditional spokenword to include instrumental and vocal music as well.

Notable performers included Shailja Patel, with her powerful spokenword piece, hip-hop performer Karmacy, Asha Mehta and Raj Vedanthan, with a poetry and tabla composition, and Vhaskar Roy, who performed traditional Bengali folk songs.

After a brief intermission, during which sumptuous Indian snacks were sold, the performance continued with a screening of documentarian Yasmine Kabir's latest film My Migrant Soul.

The film tells the tragic story of Shahjahan Babu, a Bangladeshi who left home for Malaysia, in search of a better life.

Babu sent audiotapes home to his mother in Bangladesh which were filled with his hopes, desires, heartaches, and disillusionments. The tapes are all that remain, as Babu died under "mysterious circumstances" in a Malaysian work camp.

The film was heart-wrenching, and left many in the audience in tears. Kabir's last film, Duhshomoy, was screened at Ekta's "Traveling Film South Asia" festival earlier this year.

The third portion of the event included another round of absolutely amazing performers. First up were vocalist Raj Dutt and tabla artist Shabi Farooq. Dutt, who has been studying Hindustani classical singing for eight years under Ustad Hamid Hossain, is an accomplished performer.

Farooq has been a student of tabla maestro Zakir Hussain for several years, is a founding member of the South Asian DJ collective Azaad Kru, and is a frequent performer at San Francisco's Kandyflip club.

Together, the two performed a semi-classical devotional piece and a bhajan from a 1950s film. Perhaps most importantly, the duo's performance broke down the stereotype that classical music is something only older generations perform and enjoy.

Farooq and Dutt were followed by a wonderful performance by San Francisco-based Fat Chance Belly Dance's student group, Third Tribe.

The dancers, clad in colorful costumes of velvet and satin, with heavy silver jewelry and shimmering tassels, performed in the unique American Tribal style of belly dance. The style is a fusion of tribal dance styles from India, the Middle East, Central Asia, North Africa, and Spain.

Dancers A.M. Lalwani, Carli Schultz Kruse, Caryn Oka, Jennifer Narvaez, Jennifer Valiente, Kathleen Crowley, Sandi Ball, and Saira Mathew showed off the distinct beauty of belly dance and thrilled the audience.

After the belly dancers came Los Angeles-based choreographer Parijat Desai, who presented two contemporary bharatanatyam pieces. The first, an alaripu, aptly showcased Desai's skill as a choreographer. She has been studying dance for 15 years and holds a master's degree in fine arts, with emphasis in choreography, from UCLA's department of World Arts and Cultures.

It was Desai's second piece that had the audience cheering, however. She announced that she would be performing a padam (in which the dancer interprets the lyrics of a song), and then used bharatanatyam to express the meaning of "Killing Me Softly" by the Fugees.

The audience was in stitches as Desai used her eyes, hands, and feet to combine bharatanatyam with hip-hop. It seemed only natural that a young performer would combine two different influences into one fluid piece.

The final piece of the evening was an Odissi performance by Asako Takami, a dancer of Japanese descent who has studied Odissi for more than 17 years. Her two pieces were breathtaking and helped familiarize the audience with one of India's oldest dance styles.

An after-party featuring DJ Rhino _FX spinning South Asian breakbeat rounded out the evening.

Ekta raised over $2,000 at the event, all of which will be given to Janvikas, a grassroots NGO operating relief efforts in Gujarat. The group should be commended for bringing together such a wide variety of performances and creating an event that all could enjoy.

© India West. Reprinted with permission.

Ekta raises $ 3181 for
J a n v i k a s

an Ahmedabad-based NGO operating relief efforts in Gujarat

under the aegis of the
Janpath Citizen's Initiative

Ekta Fundraiser Fuses Entertainment & Awareness
By Vandana Makker

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