Parramasala offers an international cultural feast of outstanding arts

From striking contemporary dance and profound harmonic chant to one-off international concerts, a dynamic South Asian film program, an immersive performance experience and contemporary art exhibitions, Parramasala, the annual Australian Festival of South Asian Arts, will transform the city of Parramatta from 30 October to 6 November 2011.

Artists in the program, announced today, will come from all parts of the world and each has been inspired by the multitude of cultural influences from the South Asian region of the world.

Director of Parramasala, Philip Rolfe said the festival will delight a wide range of audiences with eight days of exceptional sights, sounds and tastes through free and accessibly priced, ticketed performances. 

“We have some of the world’s most renowned international artists presenting a number of Australian exclusives right in the heart of the city.  The festival is a concentrated set of unique experiences – ones you can have only in central Parramatta.  All major artists and attractions in the festival program will not be going to any other destinations in Australia. You can be part of a one-off, never to be repeated event,“ he said.

Rolfe continued, “You have the chance to listen, see, learn about, experience and importantly, enjoy the cultural richness of a region of the world that is becoming more and more important to us and our futures.  What you experience is also indicative of the transforming nature of Australia and the embracing of more diversity. The arts on show at Parramasala are as important to modern Australia as those from our Anglo Celtic and European heritages.”

The central city precinct around Town Hall and St John’s Cathedral Square and the Riverside Theatres precinct will be focal points for the festival, featuring a free outdoor stage, daily ‘Masala’ markets and various performance, film and exhibition venues. Tickets go on sale tomorrow.

The exciting program includes:

The world renowned percussionist Trilok Gurtu and his band performing in a concert with guest artist, the young sitar extraordinaire, Niladri Kumar.  

The acknowledged masterpiece by India’s legendary contemporary choreographer, Chandralekha, performed by The Chandralekha Group from Chennai, is a highlight of the dance program. Challenging the traditional notions of classical dance in India, Sharira includes contemporary dance, yoga practice, traditional Keralan marital arts and live Dhrupad song and music by the world famous Gundecha Brothers, in a stunning, intimate production.

Audiences will experience the rare pleasure of a group of Bangladeshi Baul performers with Baul Shilpi and singer/songwriter Akkas Dewan, who are distinguished for celebrating their ancient traditions with infectious high spirits, distinctive costumes and fascinating instruments.

Global music’s pioneering leader in electronic fusion, Karsh Kale and his band hailing from New York, mix the disparate genres of Indian classical and folk music with pop, ambient and funky electro beats, performing his new album Cinema, the recent number one hit on the iTunes world music charts.

Parramatta’s historic St John’s Cathedral will resonate with the transcendent music of the world’s most accomplished overtone music ensemble, David Hykes and the Harmonic Choir from France, in their first appearance in Australia in 23 years.

Hykes and his ensemble, influenced by Tibetan, Middle Eastern, Mongolian and Gregorian music, will also feature in a not-to-be-missed closing night concert on Sunday 6 November at Riverside Theatre with the Sufi musicians and singers Dr Madan Gopal Singh and Chaar Yaar and Qawwali and sufi artist, Dhruv Sangari.

Another dance highlight will be one of the world’s most exciting male dancers, Mavin Khoo, from Malaysia, who is trained in both western contemporary and Indian classical styles. He is accompanied by the master Carnatic musician OS Arun from India and will present the solo dance production Devi In Absolution at the Riverside Theatre.

Parramasala presents the six-day South Asian Film in Focus, a brilliant program of eye-opening independent film far removed from the glitzy world of Bollywood. Curated by Ravi Kambhoj, it’s a must see for film buffs and lovers of world movies who are keen to experience the dynamism of this most vibrant film culture. Free documentaries at lunchtime, premiere features in the evening, a Satyajit Ray retrospective and more, will screen at the Lennox Theatre, Riverside.

Film is a common theme of this year’s festival with many of the live productions having screen components. One of these is the highly polished and totally riveting, cut-down version of arguably the greatest film in Indian cinema history, the Academy Award nominated ‘Mother India’.  This Mother India 21st Century Remix by English company Kala Phool sees the three hours of original film reduced to 45 minutes and rescored with a live band and the impressive DJ Tigerstyle.

Another highlight of the festival is an experiential theatre work, The Other Journey: Leaving Lanka and Becoming A Battler by the Sydney multi-media arts company, CuriousWorks. Commissioned by Parramasala and presented on the Parramatta River, this production, based on stories of recent Sri Lankan refugees, takes audiences on a moving journey with large scale outdoor projections, a boat tour and luscious Eastern and Western influenced music, relayed to personal headsets by individual mp3 players.

Parramatta Artists’ Studios presents two contemporary exhibitions. Pattern-ship features Sydney artists Lada Dedic and Kiri Morcombe collaborating with works from the Rabari and Khatri artist collectives of the Kachchh region of Gujarat, India. USA artist Surabhi Saraf and Sydney artist and curator Fiona Davies will present works in public spaces of Parramatta inspired by the act of folding fabric.

Jubilee Hall at Town Hall will transform into a pop up licensed Festival Lounge, offering a chance to hang out with artists and relax before and after seeing a performance until midnight most nights.

The Outdoor Stage in Church Street will host a free program of outstanding music, dance and visual delights. Artists on this stage through the festival include the electronica, vj, percussion and performance group, Tablatronics, the outstanding Madhumita Roy Kathak dance company from Kolkata, Sekaa Gong Tirta Sinar (Sydney University’s gamelan orchestra, playing Australian Museum owned instruments), and Bobby Singh with his groups Rasa Duende and Circle of Rhythm. Full details of the Outdoor Stage program will be announced in October on the Parramasala website along with the details of a series of artist workshops, masterclasses and yoga lessons that will be featuring throughout the festival.

On the last night of Parramasala The Bombay Royale will host the closing night fun on the Outdoor Stage, surrounded by the festival’s Masala Market. For the first time in Sydney this iconic Melbourne band dusts of its repertoire of unheard of Bollywood classics mixed with outrageous surfadelic Hindi originals.

Parramasala is presented by Parramasala Limited and is supported by Destination NSW through Events NSW and Parramatta City Council.  The festival is a key arts event on the NSW Events Calendar.

Tickets go on sale at 9am on August 30.

What: Parramasala
When: 30 October – 6 November 2011
Where: Parramatta – The Town Hall, St John’s Cathedral square precinct of Church Street, the Riverside Theatres and riverbank precinct

Source = Destination NSW
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