September was a cultural bonanza for Californian Indian Americans

Sonia Dhami-

The Bay area is blossoming with Indian shows ranging from music and dance to poetry and theatre. I was fortunate to see a few memorable experiences on show this month, bringing alive Indian art and culture for Bay Area residents in California.

GHADAR GEET –BLOOD & INK (September 10, San Francisco)
The world premiere of ‘Ghadar Geet – Blood and Ink’ was staged in the heart of downtown San Francisco at the Yerba Beuna Gardens.

Joti Singh of the Duniya Dance and Drum company merged music, dance and recitation to create a vibrant ensemble telling the captivating tale of the Ghadar revolution, birthed here in California in 1913 with the goal to free India from colonial rule.

The dancers had the audience doing fun Bhangra moves to the throbbing beats of live Punjabi music and West African drums powered by Ishmeet Narula singing Punjabi songs.

The 103rd birth anniversary of Amrita Pritam, a brilliant Punjabi poet and novelist was celebrated at an event organized by Art and Tolerance, a Fremont based non-profit.

Ishmeet Narula, a popular Bay area singer, spellbound the audience with her heartrending singing of the iconic poem “Aj akhan waris nu” which poignantly captures the pain and anguish of India’s Partition. This poem was penned by Amrita Pritam in 1947, after she arrived in Dehradun as a refugee from Lahore.

Sukhamrit Singh accompanied Ishmeet on the violin as also his father Rajinder Singh who sang an emotion filled “Rab khair kare mere veedae thi”. Pashaura Singh, a celebrated poet from Fresno CA widely known for his poems “Dheeyaan” and “Umber di Shehzadi” enhanced the afternoon.

Dr Harminder Kaur spoke eloquently about Pritam’s work with the talented filmmaker and theatre personality Ish Amitoj reciting another of her popular poems “Main tainu pher milange” followed by Dr. Rupinder Brar reciting “O Geetanwali”.

Vishwabandu, a multi-talented artist and Gagandeep Kaur sang “Main tidke kare da pani” as a duet. Jessi Kaur, a much-loved author and speaker, who had translated some of Pritam’s poems when she worked as a journalist in Delhi, shared her experience meeting the writer as did Ravinder Dhillon and Rupeet Sethi. Each participant made this a memorable afternoon, celebrating Amrita through recitations and singing of her selected works as well as introduced her work to those who did not know her.

ANARKALI – A MUSICAL (September 24, Dublin)
Vaishnavi Misra and her ensemble dramatically retold the immortal love story of the court dancer Anarkali and the Mughal crown prince Salim on stage in Dublin.

Talented actors dressed in gorgeous ghagras and dupattas danced to the timeless songs of the legendary film Mughal-e-Azam, against spectacular backdrops. This beautifully staged narrative was created by Vaishnavi Misra and her team including the off stage professionals. This musical was an absolute treat to watch.

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