Entertainment & Awareness
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
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
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
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
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