May 2006

Bollywood Fever
Presented by Monayr Asha Aid Foundation & Small World Music
May 3, 2006Lula LoungeToronto
Monayr Asha (deepest desire)
by Joyce Corbett with photos by Roger Humbert

Gurpreet Chana

Devika Mathur
Lula Lounge launched its 12-day long Lula World Festival Wednesday night with a Bollywood-themed evening of entertainment. It was a fundraiser for the Monayr Asha Aid Foundation, produced by the Foundation and Small World Music Society. The MAA is dedicated to promoting education in developing countries and 100% of all the proceeds from the show, Bollywood Fever, is going to the MAA Foundation's first scholarship fund for a slum in Chittagong, Bangladesh. It will initially cover the costs of sending 10 children to school. Monayr Asha's next project will be based in Uganda.

The room was beautifully decorated with ivory-coloured hanging lanterns and ornately carved models of temples illuminated from within. There was a crafts fair and a silent auction as well as entertainment. Most people in attendance were in western dress but the presence of lovely women in beautiful saris added elegance and colour to the crowd.

The inaugural fundraiser for the MAA was introduced by its founder and director, Kashfi Mahmud. Tabla master Gurpreet Chana started off the evening’s music with a solo on a melodic percussion instrument, a type of steel pan drum called a hang which resembles a wok. Moving his hands over and around it, producing clear liquid tones from precise locations with his fingers, Gurpreet played melody and rhythm simultaneously. Reaching a hypnotic groove, he played tabla with the left hand and hang with the right. We had been solidly transplanted to India and set up for the band, The Masala Makers, which featured vocalist Devika Mathur, saxophonist Sundar Viswanathan, Gurpreet Chana on drums and percussion and Chris Gartner on bass.

These talented musicians played mostly covers of Bollywood favourites, starting with “Kajra re”, greeted with enthusiasm from the crowd. Gurpreet Chana played Indian talking drum on this one. Other tunes were "Kaisi Paheli Zindagani" and "Dil Ko Hazaar Bar". In "Mera Nam Chin Chin Chook" Sundar Viswanathan, a jazz saxophonist with serious talent, interjected a humorously high-pitched backup vocal sending the room and the rest of the band into peals of laughter. Devika then launched into some Indo-jazz improvised vocals including short breaths into the microphone. It was rich, interesting music and great fun. The set finished with a hauntingly beautiful saxophone solo.

The Bollywood Dance Pak were next up with two dances choreographed by Divya Kumar. Four women in exotic Indian dress riveted everyone’s eyes with their sexy moves to the Bollywood hit "Kajra re". The tone of the second piece was less teasing and more challenging with only two dancers this time, dressed in camouflage pants and black crop tops accessorized with a black glove on one hand à la Michael Jackson. The music started and ended like an MGM movie with the roar of a lion (or was it a Bengal tiger?).

Lead singers (TC Raas Band)

Dancer (Bollywood Dance Pak)
Topping off the night with their Indo-groove was the TC Raas Band comprised of Rusty, Haneef, Hanif, Azeem, Alkarim and Naju. The fast, pounding rhythms laid down by three group members playing electronic percussion pads immediately brought dancers onto the floor. The Roland keyboard produced harmonium-like sounds and the singers voices undulated melody. This was party music, music for a festive occasion. Completing the mood, waiters appeared offering fresh hot samosas.
> Monayr Asha Aid Foundation
We welcome your comments and feedback
Joyce Corbett
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Roger Humbert
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