April 16 2015
An array of talent, a gathering of happiness and pride, Sikhs shared the joy of their most special day with thousands of Londoners…
By Tasha Mathur
SOME 6,000 people descended on the Mayor London’s City Hall and More London Scoop Amphitheatre to celebrate Vaisakhi 2015 and the birth of the Khalsa (and the Sikh faith).
The Shard and Tower Bridge were the iconic backdrops as an expectant audience gathered on Saturday (April 11) to see Punjabi singing legend, Gurdas Mann, watch celebrated visual artist Inkquisitive (Amandeep Singh) in action and enjoy the free langar (food) served at the top of city hall where there are some of the best views across the capital.
BBC Asian Network breakfast presenter Tommy Sandhu was just one of several special guests at the function organised by EY (Ernst Young) Sikh Network and Sikh community groups with the help of the Mayor.
Outside there were a number of different acts entertaining the crowds gathered in the amphitheatre. Among them were Eternal Taal, who play the Dhol Drums and Punjabi folk singers.
Gurdas Mann, one of the most famous of Punjabi singers of all time, recited some poetry to an excited crowd outside.
Inside City Hall, London Mayor Boris Johnsons’s HQ, and home of London Assembly members, there were various exhibitions covering Sikh heritage, history and culture through as well as poetry, short films and special Shabad kirtan (spiritual music) performances.
Inkquisitive drew huge crowds as he painted the scene on the spot and talked to his many fans.
He told www.asianculturevulture.com: “ One of the reasons why I’m here is to celebrate the creative side of Vaisakhi.
“There’s a different side to it that I feel isn’t portrayed as much and I’m trying to infuse that with my artwork as well; to show the diversity and the fact that we’re in London. But there’s so much about Vaisakhi that isn’t just about religion. It’s about having a good time – dancing, celebrating, eating jalebi (traditional Indian deep fried sweet) and getting a sugar high…I’m on such a sugar high right now!”
With a view of the Thames, Tower Bridge and other iconic landmarks from the top floor of City Hall, Inkquisitive aimed to incorporate this into his live artwork as well as the people around him.
“I’m just absorbing what I’m hearing and what I’m seeing. It’s a perfect view. So I’ve got the City Hall on the left, Big Ben on the top and the flowers represent beauty. This is such a beautiful moment so I’m presenting that. We’ve got the London Eye and I’m trying to draw the Shard in the middle. Downstairs there’s bhangra going on as well so I’m trying to put all of these elements together to create what I can,” he explained.
But where does Inkquisitive find his inspiration, we asked?
“I’m inspired by everything. I have my back turned but I can hear these conversations that everyone is having and they’re inspiring me. People are talking about what they’re going to do tomorrow or what they’re going to do tonight, what colour pagh (turban) they were going to wear today but they wear this one and I’m like ‘wow, I’m going to pick up a blue pen now because that person said they were going to wear a blue pagh. I think once we see life as inspiration, we’ll never not be creative. There’ll always be a reason to pick up a pen and actually draw something.”
One of the highlights of the day were the spiritual kirtan performances held in the Chamber of City Hall, the heart of the entire building.
“The kirtan wasn’t just what you see in the Gurdwara. We had an acoustic guitar and bass as well as the traditional instruments such as the harmonium. The acoustics of that location allowed the kirtan to echo throughout the building,” explained Manraj Othi, project manager for the entire event.
Othi also told www.asianculturevulture.com: “We had well established organisations as well as upcoming talents all in one place. Everyone was on the same platform and with the same intention of showcasing our community.”
Hungry festivalgoers were treated to ‘langar’ (free food, symbolising the notion of oneness and equality of all before God) by volunteers from Singh Sabha London East Gurdwara, a first for Vaisakhi celebrations in the capital.
Among the other exhibitors was Kiranjeet Kaur, who displayed a fusion of Indian and Afro-Carribean colours used in portraits of popular personalities such as actor, Robin Williams and singer, Rihanna.
Visitors could also see Amit and Naroop’s “The Singh Project”, which consists of photographs taken by the duo of British Sikh men from all walks of life sporting their beards and turbans to capture the essence of modern Sikhism today.
From turban tying to Shabad kirtan performances (spiritual music), the day provided visitors with an eclectic mix of activities to absorb and hopefully left many feeling informed and enlightened on the true meaning of Vaisakhi.
Pictures: Courtesy of EY Sikh Network, unless where stated.