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Women in the Arts Festival opens today with Ghazals and night of music and Urdu poetry…

Women in the Arts Festival opens today with Ghazals and night of music and Urdu poetry…

Part II that celebrates women in South Asian performing arts …

SEVERAL leading and upcoming women artists feature in part II of Sama Arts’ Women in the Arts Festival which starts this evening (March 12).

The month-long fest showcases some of the best and fast rising talents in Indian influenced music, not just in the UK, but now Europe too.

Kiran Sachdev is an Indian based singing emerging from Germany and is gaining a reputation for performing Bollywood classics.

Mehtab Malhotra

More established artist performers also grace this latest edition – among then well-known storyteller and narrator Vayu Naidu and singer Sohini Alam and her cross-cultural band, Khiyo.

Mehtab Malhotra, Sparsh Bajpai are Saachi Sen are all vocalists with a growing reputation and fan base according to Sama and feature again.

Organised by Jay Visvadeva, the founder and director of Sama Arts, a long-established cultural producer, the festival picks up from its Part I late last year and takes place in in London and the south of England now.

Visvadeva created the festival now in its fifth edition to highlight women working in music and the performing arts and showcase the best and those breaking through.

“We believe South Asian women artists need more of a platform and that is why we created the Women in the Arts Festival,” said Visvadeva.

Kiran Sachdev

It’s estimated that less than sixth of the professional musician workforce in Britain is female.

Visvadeva told “These figures grossly under-represent the actual mass of musical talent that is available among women in the sphere of South Asian music. It’s well deserved platform for women artistes.”

Women in the Arts Festival gets underway this evening with Malhotra and is billed as ‘Ghazals: Words, Music & Poetry and Traditional Urdu’ poets and is at Tara Theatre in South London.

Malhotra has a long training in Ghazals – a form of singing which takes its inspiration from Urdu poetry and is closely related to the language. She trained at the Delhi Gharana (school) coming under the tutelage of the well-known Ustaad Iqbal Ahmed Khan.

In 1998, she recorded an album with the late great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, who specialised in Qawwali, an associated genre and whose personal power and intensity made the art form globally popular.

She will be singing from her repertoire – which includes the works of poets Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Mir, Ghalib and Zauq.

The festival continues tomorrow (Sunday, March 13) when Naidu takes to the stage at the same venue to narrate tales of powerful and dynamic women.

Sparsh Bajpai and Saachi Sen

“Be prepared to be shocked and surprised by tales that can be black and bright,” she said.

On Friday (March 18) the festival moves to Winchester in Hampshire with Bajpai, a jazz and classical soprano playing alongside Saachi Sen who sings and composes.

On Saturday, March 26, Khiyo marks 50 years of Bangladesh. Lead singer Alam has Bangladeshi heritage and presents a concert with her band Khiyo, which has both western musicians and Asian ones. It’s at the Grand Junction, close to Paddington in London.

The curtain comes down on the festival on Saturday, April 9 with Sachdev closing it with a concert celebrating the Bollywood classics. There are also guest musicians to be announced for this event which takes place in Harrow Art Centre.

Ustaad is term of veneration used for musicians who have attained a certain level of knowledge and experience.

Lead picture collage (clockwise): Mehtab Malhotra, Sparsh Bajpai & Saachi Sen; Kiran Sachdev, Sohini Alam (foreground) and Khiyo; and Vayu Naidu

For full listings and details, please see

Tonight (Saturday, March 12) Mehtab Malhotra: ‘Ghazals: Words, Music & Poetry – Works of Modern & Traditional Urdu Poets’ at Tara Theatre, 356 Garratt Lane, London SW18 4ES.


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Written by Asian Culture Vulture