Parramasala ”“ A spicy flavor to art!

Parramasala: Australian Festival of South Asian Arts held from November 4-8  was a resounding success despite a big wet as people braved the soaking weather. Hot piping dosas, tandoori chicken from food stalls and on-the-spot made hot chai kept all warm as they tucked into Indian dishes standing under their umbrellas. As one walked towards the Parramatta Townhall it pulled everyone to it with its colourful façade lighted with collage as a proud effigy of Ravana stood on the side as families, kids watched the Indian fanfare in awe. The dancers from Ruchi Sanghi’s School of Dance danced in the heavy rain as the water made puddles on stage. Still no one budged standing under their umbrellas glued to the stage watching different performances. Rajasthani singers reverberated the forecourt as people were amused by the stalls and the whole look of Church Street. ”˜Sangeet Wala’ ”“ a DJ played his numbers though the usual crowd was missing as he played Punjabi pop. While the indoor events sold out in advance and ran full houses it was pity that the streetscape failed to get the expected crowds.

Yet the sights and sounds brought the flavor as food stalls, art installations and audiovisual projections kept the curious coming again and again.  A range of free artist talks, Jimmy Seervai of Master Chef making an appearance with his cooking class, master classes and even a Parramasala Twenty20 Cricket match on Sunday at Old Kings Oval kept all engaged. The highlight was the Diwali Mela on Sunday where the Indian community participated wholeheartedly with cultural items and Government of India’s Rajasthani   ‘Rajdhani’ group was just superb. With Ravan effigy burning at dusk time followed by spectacular fireworks brought the real spirit of Diwali in Parramatta.

Parramasala brought an excellent show Tap Kathak, featuring Indian kathak dance master Pandit Chitresh Das and Emmy Award-winning American tap dancer Jason Samuels Smith. An unusual combination of artists and their repertoire drew five-minute standing ovation from the audience.

Though many decided to stay at home for Diwali night on Friday yet more than 3,000 fans defied rainy weather to dance the night away as hugely popular Indian band, Kailash Kher and Kailasa, and exuberant support band Swarathma from Bangalore made their Australian debuts.

On Saturday evening, sights and sounds exploded as more than 2,000 people returned to Parramatta Park to enjoy a screening of the 1929 silent Indian film A Throw of Dice, with a new score performed live by UK composer and musician Nitin Sawhney with his regular band and a 39-piece orchestra.

Another hit of the festival was The Guru of Chai, presented by New Zealand’s Indian Ink Theatre Company.  Other performances included The Chennai Tapes featuring the Australian Art Orchestra and India’s Sruthi Laya Ensemble, the world premiere of A Million Eyes with local dance legend Anandavalli and two Chennai musicians Anil Srinivasan and Sikkil Gurucharan, and Desert Wedding featuring three traditional Rajasthani music and dance ensembles.

Parramasala Director Philip Rolfe said: “We have had an overwhelming  response to the first Parramasala festival from both audiences and artists. We were gratified to see strong crowds throughout the weekend, either enjoying the free entertainment, or attending one of our shows at Riverside Theatres.

“This year’s inaugural event clearly illustrated the potential for Parramasala to develop into one of Australia’s most unique and vibrant international arts festivals. Parramasala is all about the sharing of artistic ideas.”

Lord Mayor of Parramatta, Cr John Chedid, said Parramasala  showcased the exceptional major event-hosting capability of Parramatta, at fantastic venues such as Parramatta Park, Parramatta Stadium and the Riverside Theatres.

“Parramasala not only celebrated the diversity and vibrancy of South Asian cultures, but also provided an opportunity for the wider community to come and share in the rich array of arts that were staged over  the five day festival,” he said.

“It was a fantastic success and I look forward to year two next year.” He concluded

(Parramasala is a new festival on the NSW Master Events Calendar. It was created by the NSW Government through Events NSW in conjunction with Parramatta City Council.)

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