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Archive for August, 2013

Electrifying performance by Godfather of Bhangra Channi Singh: TD Mosaic Festival Day #7


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The evening of Saturday, the final day at TD Mosaic Festival 2013 was destined to experience a historic performance by Channi Singh OBE, the founder of Alaap and better known as the Godfather of Bhangra Music.

I could see people of all age groups from young to many from middle aged to seniors from Mississauga, Brampton and as far as from Richmond Hill came to hear their favorite bhangra music hero. The lawns was almost near full capacity from the outset.
Before the show began, I talked to a middle aged lady Harjeet Kaur, who had come early to occupy the front row. “ I have not seen him yet, but I have danced on his music all my life, on weddings, manjas , and other occaisions.”

While introducing Channi Singh on stage, Asma Mahmood, the co-founder of the Mosaic Festival acknowledged to have “danced to his songs on our wedding nearly three decades ago”.
As Channi Singh appeared on stage, I could sense the current of energy run through the crowds. Amidst a roar of applause he began with on of my favorites: “We Wanjareya, karma waareya…”
This was followed by a song from his first album, “Teri Chunni de sitare…” and then his song with Asha Bhonsle: “Main nu chooriyan chara de chan we., main cham cham nachdi phiraan…”, which set the pace for one electrifying song after the other.
“Bhabbhiye ni bhabiye ni sun bhabhiye”, was the song that created history by being the most popular bhangra song, the world over.” Revealed  the Godfather himself, before he began the song. As song is also referred as the Anthem of Bhangra, I could sense that outnumbering the young,  many escited middle aged women, who had begun with tapping their hands and feet, now stood up to dance. The beats were certainly irreristible for anyone in the crowd.
I noticed quite a few nondesi faces dancing too.  I asked Sue, who is from Singapore : “Do you know this music?” She responded while still dancing, “Oh I have heard him a lot in Singapore, everytime on our Indian friends weddings.”
While talking to Channi Singh earlier he told that 90% of the songs are his own lyrics and music compositions. He also mentioned of the few of his songs that were blessed to have been the original tunes on which Bollywood numbers were copied.

An elderly Gurpal Kaur, in her mid sixities, stole the show by coming right to the front of the stage to bhangra on “Nach kuriye ni zara nach kuriye…”
She later shared with excitement, “This took me 40 years back in my life”. And then excitedly asked, “But am I not still young?”
Her husband, a retired brigadier from the Army, teased her, “He is still her hero, not me.”

As he sang “Makhna” , “Soneya” , “Mere Haniya”, “Dil janiya” the electrified crowd went berserk with the chants of “Oye hoye “. The atmosphere was charged beyond words.

“It feels being in Lahore.”  felt Lubna Sami, as she screamed back Oye Hoye.

The energized crowd was finally rewarded with a powerful Damadam Mast Qalander, on which many including Lachman Balani also could not hold their hands and feet still. Nita told of how it is a must to have Damadam Mast Qalander on every Sindhi wedding.

Channi Singh has 26 albums to his credit, in a career spanning 35 years. He has the honor of being bestowed the highest British Award in Music, by the Queen of England, and also to have performed in 10 Downing Street. He also has his name as the most selling Asian Band in the Milleneum Edition of the Guiness Book of World Records.

While talking to him, he shared his belief in unity of humanity beyond regions and religions, and was blessed with being the first Bhangra band to visit Pakistan. He said before he performed in Lahore, he went to the Data Darbar for blessings.

He also performed for several fund raisers for Imran Khan’s Cancer Hospital in UK and some other cities of Europe.
He himself has to his credit many performances for charitable causes like Children in Need, Teenage Cancer. He has a foundation called One Britain One Nation.

I found him a very humble and pleasant person to converse with, and could not hold back my observation that he bore some resemblance to my favorite Singer Jagjit Singh, in both appearance and conversation. He informed that  Jagjit Singh was a close friend, and he too was fond of his Urdu ghazals.

A sample of Channi Singh music ( from his album):

http:// http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcds27B9dHE

 

Wonderful Performances on TD Mosaic Festival 2013 Day #7


The early part of TD Mosaic Festival Day 7, the final day saw some beautiful performances by the budding artists and for those craving for a diverse cultural diversity with a good  deviation from the popular flavors.

Bharath Natyam Solo:

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Shakthi Sanjana, performed Bharatnatyam dance on a devotional song of Lord Krishna. The song is about welcoming Lord Krishna to Mathura after he kills the demon Madhu with flowers.

Through her abhinaya (facial expressions) and mudras(hand symbols), she honors Lord Krishna applies sandal paste and musk thilaka on his forehead.

She interprets the meaning of every word of the song which describes Lord Krishna as he who killed demon Madhu, wrestlers Mushika and Chanoora and elephant Kuvalaya pita.

Shakthi Sanjana  is a trained classical Bharatnatyam dancer from India.  She is currently studying electrical engineering at University of Toronto and dance is her passion.

Peacock Dance by Sri Lankan Dance Group:

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Rangara Performing Arts, performed “a beautiful peacock dance with their movements imitating a dancing peacocks who represent peace and harmony with the beauty and nature around them”, told Rashanthi Hettiarchi, the director of the school.

Santoor Recital:

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Another treat to the ears was the Santoor performance by Shri Shreyas Sanat Ambikar, a disciple of Pandit Shiv Kiuamr Sharma the maestro who popularized Santoor internationally. Though an engineer by profession, for Shreyas it is his passion and love for the musical instrument that led him to be formally trained in Santoor. He has to his credit professional performances as far and wide as Australia, Singapore and Europe.

“One needs to be madly passionate for Santoor to be able to master it. Its 100 strings that need tuning, is an extremetly demanding task in terms of patience and endurance.”

100 strings remind me of the origins of the name SANTOOR. Santoor in the ancient Indian scriptures is mentioned as Shat-tantri Veena (Shat = hundred, tantric= strings, Veena=( implies) musical instrument).

Santoor like instruments date back thousands of years, and similar instruments are seen in other parts of the world.

In China it is called Yang Quin, in Central Asian countries Cimbale, in Iran & Iraq Santoor, in Greece Santoori, in Germany Hackbret, in Hungary Cymbalom and many European Countries and in America Hammer-Dulcimer.

However, the unique character of Kashmiri Santoor is that it has 100 strings, not one less nor more.

Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, who is the Guru of Shreyas is credited to introducing the Santoor to international forum. Before this, it was familiar only within the Kashmir valley, and was associated specifically to Sufiyana mausiqi.

Accompanying him on Tabla was an accomplished Toronto based Tabla player Dave Bansraj.

The beautiful raags of Hansdhwani ( the song of the swan) and Mishramaand were performed by the duo instantly transported the audience to the Kashmir Valley, with the images of Swans swimming in the Dal Lake.

Turbinator:

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Turbinator was another extremely pleasant performance by the brother sister duo Gurpreet Singh Sareen and Soni Sareen . A very friendly, unassuming and humble duo, they enthralled the audience with the flair with which they presented a beautiful combination of East and west.

The siblings have music in their genes. Their great grand father Guru Gyan Singh was a recipient of Tansen Award, the highest music award in India. Since very early, they grew up singing Gurbani in the local and other Gurudwaras in US. Gurpreet, the turbinator is an accomplished Tabla palyer too, apart from being a guitarist. His was trained at home in Indian classical raags, while the outside influence made him interested in Jazz and Blues.

They discovered they could identify similar tunes between the Indian classical raags and the Jazz & Blues.  Hence decided to bring combine them together. As Gurpreet  sang the Blues or Jazz songs with Guitar, Soni responded with  Indian Classical in her beautiful voice in while playing a  Dilruba in what we call in Hindi a jugal bandi.

To Guroreet’s To Love somebody” by Michael Buble,
Soni ethralled with “ Nirmohi harjaiya, ye kaisi teri khudgarzi…”

I was particularly enchanted by One love one heart by Bob Morley
and the Dil hai chhota sa chhoti si asha jugalbandi.

Before inquiring Soni, I was intrigued by the instrument she was playing.  Soni told she chose to play Dilruba because this was given to her by her Nani( maternal grandmother), who used to play it herself, when she sang  Gurbani in India.

Dilruba, which means one who ravishes the heart, is a musical instrument used in North India by the singers who perform kirtans in the Gurudwaras.

It is about 200 hundred years old instrument and thought to have originated around the time between Guru Hargovind and Guru Gobind Singh. It became popular with Sikh warriors as a light weight portable instrument used to play shabads, or the hymns ofGurbani kirtan, accompanied by the tabla.

The dilruba is played by sliding the fingers of the left hand up and down the strings along neck placing them between the frets while the right hand holds the bow sliding it across the main strings in order to produce notes of raag, a classical Indian musical score.

It was heartening to see, how the audiences, including families, and youngsters came to appreciate and applaud the two.

Soni aspires to complete her Masters in  Education to teach music, while Gurpreet is a budding  electronic engineer, however still does not know how will the fate take him , after a popular musical performance in the American Idol.

Gurpreet said he chose to sing western music, to be able to break the stereotype and to prove that a person of his appearance could also play Blues and Jazz.

He narrated an interesting incident in which during the American Idol season the day his name #Turbinator was trending, #OBL was also trending on twitter, and he received few offensive comments as a result.. But as he progressed higher in the program, he saw the same people transform to appreciation.

It was touching to see him mention the reference to unity beyond religions and regions during his interactive performance.

Personally, I was touched by their humility and simplicity, and wish Gurpreet and Soni rise to heights as they go forward in their life.

Paul DesLauriers and Anwar Khurshid- a symbiosis of soulful music: TD Mosaic Festival 2013 Day #6


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The sun had set, and so was the stage to bring to the TD Mosiac Festival audience.

Two star performers, Paul DesLauriers, an accomplished renowned Guitarist, singler and composer from Canada’s Blue elite, and Anwar Khurshid ,a renowned Sitar player who has contributed to the music of an Oscar winning film, The Life of Pi, with their mesmerizing communion of the Blues and the Indian Classical Music.

The stage was scintillating as the virtuosos adorned in beautiful Jamdani kurtas positioned themselves with their instruments—Paul DesLauriers on Guitar, Anwar Khurshid on Sitar, Sam Harrison on Drums and Greg Morency on Bass.

I could sense a pin drop silence in the audience, which was just a moment ago, abuzz with noise. The environ for a sensual musical performance was set. I noticed a few enthusiasts come close to sit on the grass, right in front of the stage. I too came as close as I could.

They were to perform from their  Album called Enter the Gate.

Though a music lover, but semiliterate in musical linguistics, I was surprised how, right from the start,  I could sense a deep understanding between Paul’s Guitar and Anwar’s Sitar, as if there was a love conversation going on between them. A similar quiet conversation could be visible between the eyes of Paul and Anwar, as their Guitar and Sitar conversed. And as if the accompanying Drum and Bass, were joining the conversation to applaud their love.

The visuals and the acoustics were mesmerising.

It felt as if I was transcending a step further each time they moved on from one composition to the other, getting more sense of their musical conversation. They played from Enter the Gate, to Midnight on Dorion, upto Silk Route, to a total of six compositions.

Short of words to describe the journey, I found the most appropriate explanation on Paul’s website:  “…it takes the listener on a sensual and exhilarating journey from Delhi to the Mississippi Delta.”

The time flew by swiftly, as they ended with the exhilarating Silk Route. I thought this wasn’t just enough, but then no amount of such therapeutic music is enough.

I was glad I had chosen to speak to them after the sensual experience. Now I was keen to discover how intense would be their feelings as creators, when it was overwhelming to me as a mere listener.

Speaking to them was yet another journey into tranquility.

There’s a  Paul Coelho quote: “We have to stop by and be humble enough to understand that there is something called mystery.”

It was touching to learn  how humble these hearts were, who had created this mesmerizing communion of East and West. I was floored by their simplicity and humility of all four of them, as we sat around a round table to dig out the details.
Paul explained how 8 years ago, he came to learn Sitar from Anwar, which began with a mutual respect, then turned into a stronger friendship and trust, after which coming together of  their musics was the only way forward.

I mentioned to them about my experience of how still being a semiliterate in music I could sense a perfect harmony between the two.

Paul smiled,: “You do not need to e a scholar of music to feel the harmony. It is the heart which senses it.”

They all recalled, how many people in the audience from different ethnic backgrounds actually get emotionally moved by it.

“Sam was crying, the first time we played in a concert.” reollects Paul.

I could not hold back my complements to their colorful sequined Kurtas , digressing from the traditional western formal black and white

 “It’s so liberating.” Paul was spontaneous.

“The communion of East and West music  is not as straightforward fusion as it seems. Of Blues Band playing with Sitar or Sitar playing with Blues Band etc. It is much deeper. It is a spontaneous flow of notes in response like….” Paul  explained.

“It is a symbiosis”, Sam prompted the right word.
( Symbiosis literally means a relationship of mutual benefit ).

Anwar explained how in an Indian Classical Music which has stringent boundaries and limits, which are a taboo to cross. And  moving from one’s own classical music to a fusion with others is like walking on a double edged sword, ”Having crossed your own boundaries, and now trespassing into someone else’s territory. But once you leave your comfort zone, the contentment you get from crossing the boundaries gives a sense of spiritual release.”

“The pleasure is not just in playing with each other, but also listening to each other play.” Said Paul.

Anwar interjected with naughty look: “Yes, you feel as if your music is gone, just gone, as he plays my notes, and steals them.”

 “It’s more of a borrowing and absorbing brother.”Paul smiled.

Do you guys feel possessive about your respective styles of music? I couldn’t help asking this question.

“Music is not about being possessive, it is devoid of ego, it is transcending to a level that is the demand of spirituality.”

“The feeling is to lose the self, and let the music take over.”

Greg explained how while making this album, it was live recorded, without any hundreds of retakes.
We had no road map, we had no rule, we just sat in a friend’s basement to record it. The only rule was to play together. What is recorded on the CD is the first draft. And eachtime we perform, it is spontaneous in itself.” Greg and Sam elaborated.

Anwar explained how the Taans in Kirana Gharana, or Raag Bhopali are similar to the Blues music.

To the query of Canadian Pluralism and mutual respect for differences, Paul responds, “It’s not just the respect, it is the unconditional love and reverence for each other’s music, as ultimately there is a universality of music, like there is of humanity, despite being different ethnically.”

Do they feel, any difference in their lives after this experience?

“Almost everything has changed.” Said Paul

“It is extremely rewarding and most humbling.” Added Sam.

Anwar considered Canada his home, and these three as most trusted friends. “I love them so much that I will eat anything they offer me without question.”( referring to some of the culturally taboo foods for him).

Paul responds, “He is the kindest gentleman I have seen in the world, not just a Pakistani”

We ended the chat realizing how it just takes one good person to  break the stereotype against the whole community.

As I left the conversation, I felt that I had transcended  at a higher plane, realising how it is not just their music, but their souls that play in harmony with each other.

I know now I will relive this tranquilizing experience in my car, each time I will play the CD they gifted, in my car.

It was not for no reason, they had named the Album, “Enter the Gate”

 

A sample of their mesmerising  music here : 

 

Zinda Bhaag- World Premiere at Mosaic International South Asian Film Festival, Mississauga.


Just when the two South Asian neighbours, were celebrating their Independence Days with pride, Mosaic International South Asian Film Festival made history by making a World Premiere of a Pakistani Indian collaboration film called Zinda Bhaag.

I had no chance to see the ratings and reviews, before deciding to watch the movie. But then I had no choice either, as I have the task to blog for Mosaic Festival events. To tell you the truth, I had pondered over the last two days, how would it be possible to blog on a movie, as neither am I a film critic nor a journalist. However, decked up in a sari, I was there to watch it.

The theme of the film is no alien to any South Asian who has young loved ones back home. Their burning desire to make it to greener pastures across seas and the himalayas of hurdles that lie ahead of them is no secret either.

Rightly quoted by a character in the movie: “Where there is a hill, there is a will”.

While talking about the Indian Pakistani duo co-directors Meenu Gaur and Farjad Nabi, MISAFF director Arshad Khan related the irony of how the two were unable to attend the World Premiere in Mississauga, as they could not get visas for Canada on time.

In the sparkly eyes of the three young boys Khaldi, Tambi and Chitta, I could identify several of my own lesser fortunate cousins and nephews, who hold visions full of dreams to make it big in life. The (mis)fortunes that life offers these vibrant hearts born in modest homes in the small crowded dark alleys of so called megacities like Lahore or Karachi ( or even Delhi or Dacca) is nothing more than opportunities which metaphorically do not look  much different from these narrow dark alleys themselves. And around them exist the powerful elite shelled in their own cocoons, who not just don’t care but are condescending towards them.

Khaldi and his friends love life, frolic, party, sing, dance, get drunk, fall in love, and even dream ‘big’ of bringing comforts to their families. But limited resources and opportunities bestowed upon them by virtue of their birth, compels them to seek brighter pastures in far off lands.

Rubina is another such youngster, who choses a different modus operandi, owing to her different gender. She does not have the luxury to think of acquiring a visa or taking a trip in a dunky or a container to the land of success. So she attempts to carve her own bumpy road to success, within the same alleys, by putting to test her own skills.

Somewhere in the first half of the film, I lost the feel of sitting in a theatre, watching a movie. It felt overwhelming  enough as if  seeing  real life scenes, picked from day to day lives of not just three nor  thousand, but millions of youth back home.

Inventing shortcuts to make it big has become everyone’s business, whether it is a mother who begs her brother-in-law in UK to call her son to drive a taxi or a father to pays for his son’s fake passport or an aunt who wants her niece to marry an ailing man aboard, or a boy who steals whatever little  jewellery his mother  hides in her closet to pay to the agent.

Kudos to the story writer and the directors who took efforts to show the gory details of the ‘predatory businesses’ that mushroom in places where helplessness thrives – be it gambling houses or fraudulent passport schemes or student visas or the filthiest of them all, the human trafficking.

Naseeruddin Shah’s key role as a pahulwan, who runs one such business, weilding much power and influence in the area, exemplifies thousands of such pehulwans, in the form of corrupt leaders or manipulative bureaucrats or ruthless gangsters who strangle the aspirations of these brilliant youngsters through exploitation.

It is no secret what permutations of possibilities await these youngsters. Few are able to actually live their dreams, others survive as illegal immigrants doing petty jobs, while many  are unable to even arrive at  their dream destinations, and are returned back to their parents  wrapped up in coffins.

Chitta, Khaldi and Tambi have all that one needs to succeed- a vision for a good life, the willpower and the perseverance to go to any length to realize their goals.

Will  they succeed in their dreams? You need to watch that for yourself.

Beyond Zinda Bhaag, looking at a broader picture, there are millions and millions of such Khaldis, Chittas, and Tambis, walking on land we call India and Pakistan. What is tragic is that the countries  fraction in size and population of these South Asian nations, offer them  more hope than their own homelands.

The music in the film was a treat in itself, from Pani ka Bulbula, its English version, to folk song by Arif Lohar  and Qawwali by Rahet Fateh Ali Khan. I shall anxiously hunt to buy its Audio CD, when released.

A big pat to the team’s back to have brought Naseeruddin Shah on board, and hence giving a wonderful opportunity to hear and see him immerse in the role of a Punjabi Pehulwan.

After the show, Producer Mazhar Zaidi narrated how difficult it was for others to identify who was Indian or Pakistani while working as a team, and how the technical skills in production and post production process was taken care by mutual cooperation.

I seriously recommend that  war mongers on both sides of Pakistan and India must sit together and watch this movie. And then look into each other’s eyes, and ask themselves, whether the luxurious nuclear assets that they have piled up, are giving their young men and women the dignity of life they deserve in their homelands.

Should Pakistan and India not be fighting the common enemies of poverty, hunger and helplessness, instead of fighting each other?

I know this is by no means a film review, as I am not technically competent enough to do one. But every word here comes from my heart.

Zinda Bhaag was a not just a nice film, but an eye opener to a grave social issue, which affects our most valuable asset- OUR YOUTH.

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Harmony and Peace: Exhibition by Jimmy Engineer on TD Mosaic Festival Day #2


TD Mosaic Festival 2013 day 2 began with the Exhibition of  “Harmony and Peace” series of  paintings by Jimmy Engineer, a renowned Pakistani painter, visiting Canada, especially for the event. The Exhibition shall continue till September, at Promenade Art Gallery.

The paintings  by Jimmy Engineer, being showcased in the TD Mosaic Festival 2013 are part of a series of paintings  of Pakistani and world architecture titled as “ Harmony and Peace”.
The idea behind the series is that when different architectural structures from different places in India, Pakistan, Egypt, Uzbekistan, Turkey, China etc can be brought together in one frame, and appear harmonious, why can’t human beings, who possess intelligence, be able to coexist with harmony.

Talking to Jimmy was an enriching experience, to know in depth about the humanist that he is. He prefers to be acknowledged as “a simple mortal who cares for human kingdom with passion.”
His inspiration to Art is Nature, which he considers as his Perfect Master.

Born into a Parsi family, he says he believes in universality of faith. He was inspired by the simplicity and spirituality of Sufi Barkat Ali, from Faisalabad, who he says, bestowed upon him the responsibility to make Pakistan proud, through his Art and social work.

Jimmy says, he meditates, and often gets the visions to paint in his dreams, which he then transforms into canvases.

Jimmy has to his credit 3000 pieces of Art (2000 paintings and 1000 calligraphies), and countless social services, some of which are known, and some he chose to keep unknown. He believes that the highest form of social work is that reaches the needy unseen, devoid of any pomp and show.

As an artist, he has  worked with many mediums including water, oil and pastels be it on canvas, wood or ceramics, and from realism (landscape, still life,) to abstract to calligraphy.

A humble human being that he is, he believes he is extremely blessed, despite never attempting to promote his work. He has received great recognition and respect from the world over, and his art work has made way into private collections in Italy, France, Switzerland, Russia, India, China, England, USA in fact almost in every part of the world, validating his status as an International artist.

Jimmy leads an extremely simple life, and has always directed royalties from his Art work,  including a house, into social causes dear to his heart.

He believes to Walk-a-Cause and has to his credits countless walks to raise awareness on myriad issues, mainly related to helpless and needy individuals, like the special children, widows, orphans, and various health issues.

He walked from Karachi to Khyber all by himself, in one year, which took him through various cities, villages, deserts, and wilderness. He claims that all along the way, people from all walks of lives, supported and helped him, right from Waderas, Chowdharys to dacoits,and the poor. They shared their food and shelters with him. He even encountered poisonous snakes and dangerous animals, but was never harmed by anyone.

“During the walk,” he says, “my fearlessness was challenged by many asking me to enter the cage of lions, which I did, without being harmed by them. “

He says many attributed this to be due to his possession of supernatural powers. But a humble Jimmy thinks, it is his conviction to peace and compassion that leaves him unharmed.

He is a strong believer of Indian Pakistan Peace, and says that he was neither born during the time of partition, nor had read the gory details of it, but sometime in 1973, he had the scenes appear in his dream, which he then painted into the Partition series.

In 2001, he decided to walk for Peace from Islamabad to Delhi, but then stopped at the Wagah border.

“Why did you stop?”  I asked.

“I was walking for the sake of Peace, and to not add more tensions by my act. At reaching the border, and conveying my peace intent, I had conveyed my message.” he replied.

He believes that “Peace between India and Pakistan will come one day, as 99% on both sides are desirous of peace, and it is only 1% or even less do not want it.”

“Amen” , I say aloud, with a firm conviction that the words uttered from such a humble champion of humanity and compassion, will not be left unheard by the God Almighty.

Peace and Harmony series…

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Partition series…

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Calligraphy by Jimmy:

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Jimmy Engineer, the artist and social worker par excellance:

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Comedy Night : TD Mosaic Festival 2013 Day #1


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What more could one ask for at the opening of TD Mosaic Festival 2013, through Comedy Night on August 11, 2013 at Novotel Hotel.

It was an hilarious evening, packed with laughter, more laughter and even more laughter, for a straight two hours. Three Stand up Comedians lined up, wonderfully represented the diaspora of North American, Canadian, desi mix.

Ali Hassan, a Canadian Stand Up comedian, host of Laugh Out Loud, and Lead Comedy Panelist on George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight set the funny ball rolling, as he shared his own hilarious experiences as a Dad of three, before introducing the guest Comedians: Nitin Mirani and Azhar Usman.

Nitin Mirani is a Dubai based Indian stand up comedian, who calls himself a ‘glocal comic’: Talking global issues with local flavor.

Laughing at the stereotyping of his own Sindhi roots (which are associated with finance),  he mentions: “”My mother said, “Get a 9-5 job in a bank like your Dad and brother, otherwise people will laugh at you. And that is what they are doing now.”

Watching how interactive and spontaneous he was to the reactions from his audience, I asked: “How do you manage to tread on the thin line between humor and mockery?”

He was prompt: “Humour connects everyone. Life is fast and nowadays everyone wants a one-hour massage in 10 minutes. One has to gauge in the first few minutes, what is the pulse of the audience to humor. And sometimes, some people do get offended, and I simply go and apologize if they feel offended.”

Nitin brought back the nostalgic memories of India by mentioning of  cows that sit on the middle of a busy city road, and how we accommodating Indians, make them instantly as our traffic roundabouts.

And also of the litmus test of the desis, when you travel with them in the elevator: “They will scan you with their eyes, from head to toe.”

Nitin is the founder of Komic Sutra with the motto of : “Laugh and let laugh.”

“Compared to the Egyptians who are famed for their sense of humor, how do you place desi sense of humor?” I inquired.

“We too have an old tradition of humor since the Mughals, when the courts used to have Nautanki. And Birbal in Akbar’s Court was a great example of an intellectual who also had great sense of humor. Intelligent Akbar-Birbal jokes are so famous.”

Nitin has to his credit various titles of: ‘The King of U.A.E comedy’, ‘Best Personality’ at the 2012 Best in Dubai Awards, being named as one of the funniest people of 2012 by Rolling Stone M.E.

Nitin, is not just extremely hilarious, he is seriously a Bollywood material too.

Having laughed mad already, I had no idea what the Headliner, Azhar Usman, the Ayatollah of Comedy had in store for us. Sporting a large beard, and a skull cap, Azhar is best known for his comedy tour, ‘Allah Made me Funny’, a theatrical production that ended up as a movie.
Living up to his title of “Bin Laughin”, he again split the whole crowd into non stop laughter,. My cheeks had by the end, started to cramp.
He begins: “I have travelled all over the globe, and have realized that despite appearances, attires and skin color, we are all so alike.”

Possessed with a unique sense of humor, he gives the grave issues of racial profiling and stereotyping a humorous twist, making them all sound so ridiculous. He treads on to these sensitive and serious topics with great maturity and responsibility.

To prove his point he narrates a typical desi Auntie’s Telephone conversation:
“Jee haa, jee jee, theek hai, okay, Jee bilkul theek, jee jee. Okay Allah Hafiz.”
And how would this be taken be interpreteted by the Homeland Security
“Yes, yes, , yes, yes, alright, okay, yes, absolutely, Okay. May Allah be with you.”
Heyy, we found it, this is Al Qaida,

Talking to him after the show, I find him  very positive, who holds no malice or anger towards the reactions he and other Muslims face in their day to day lives, owing to a handful of Extremists who have hijacked the community’s image.,

Humor is a way you can share with the audience your bitter experiences, and make them realize the ridiculousness of it all. We must have no anger if we realize, it is all a reaction to fear, and a reaction to that reaction most of the times.”

He believes through comedy and humour, we can begin difficult and serious conversations, which do not offend anyone.

“Humour is a way to bridge gaps of bias and intolerance that have existed way before Sept. 11, 2001.” Usman elaborates.

Usman concludes the brief chat with me with the mention of two quotes from his favorite British humorist, Peter Ustinov:
Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.”
: “Terrorism is the war of the poor and the War is terrorism of the rich. “
“Killing of any innocent civilians, whether from a dark cave or white house, is Terrorism. “ he ends.

Later going through his website, I found this touching of his introduction on his website:
“He considers himself a “citizen of the world,” and describes himself variously as follows: Intellectually White; Emotionally Japanese; Spiritually Indian; Psychically Persian; Physically Arab; Artistically Southeast Asian; Romantically Latino; and Psychologically Black. Today, Azhar is a global standup comedian who makes people laugh by telling the truth.”

And a few quotes on him:
“Allah Made Me Funny is an idea whose time has come.”(Russell Peters).
“Turns fear into funny.”( The New York Times)
“America’s Funniest Muslim!”(CNN).