Making a Mela of it

It‘s not fair! Well actually it is. but you won’t find any candy-floss covered bearded ladies at The Glasgow Mela. Philip Parr samples a taste ofthe


After recently being transformed into an Egyptian desertscape for Lesley Keen‘s Ra. The Tramway is moving yet further afield with the recreation of an Indian Mela. ‘Mela‘ translates simply as ‘fair‘ but with The 'l‘ramway‘s customary flair. there will be more than a touch of the theatrical and spectacular to the ten-day event. In addition to stalls selling a huge variety ofAsian arts and crafts. Strathclyde Regional Council and the 1990 Festivals Unit


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‘Kacchi Godi' Dummy Horse from Raiasthan.

have provided funds to bring the subcontinental equivalents of Malabar and Stalker to Glasgow (and this only a month after Streetbiz). [spoke to one ofthe organisers ofthe Mela. Brenda Carson. about this indoor street festival‘s cast list.

"The logistics have been very difficult.‘ says Carson. ‘we had to send someone over to the subcontinent literally to look for the street performers. We‘re bringing

over 50 and for them to be authentic. we wanted people who were actually living and working over there in genuine market environments. They travel from market to market around the subcontinent so it was a matter of sending someone over and signing them up on the spot. A case of “Come with me kid and I‘ll make you a star.“

‘Then. ofcourse. there‘s the whole administrative headache of arranging visas and passports for people who have never left the country and who are quite unsophisticated in a lot of ways.

They‘re traditional street performers

and they don‘t know how to get here any more than buskers in Glasgow might know how to get to Calcutta. ‘With most ofthem. it‘s a skill which has been in the family for hundreds. if not thousands. of years. Over here it used to be that if your father was a fisherman then so were you. but that has changed with education. That hasn‘t happened to anything like the same extent over there. People tend to follow the family business and ifit's juggling in the market well. fair enough.‘ Whilst the street performers will be entertaining visitors to the bazaar throughout the day. in the evening a


series of big name concerts have been organised. Not. ofcourse. big names in Western terms. These make the likes of Sinatra appear as minnows by comparison. For example. Fardausi Begum Rahman has notched up over 500 hit records in her homeland and sung the scores for over 2()() films (and you thought that Madonna was prolific). I asked Brenda Carson how the concert line-up was chosen and whether. in spite ofthe performers‘ anonymity over here. she was expecting to see at least a few non-Asians in the evening audiences.

‘It was a problem deciding who should give the celebrity concerts because we‘re talking not only of a load ofdifferent cultures. but different age groups and interests within that. Do we want a rock concert. traditional music or what? We‘ve basically just got well known artists in each of the main styles including jazz and more rock orientated music as well as traditional Indian music.

‘Realistieally. I think that the audience will be largely Asian but I hope that some of the culture vultures will try one or two ofthe concerts. There are some that are a bit more accessible than others. The two women in the Bengali night (the aforementioned lndian Ciccone is one) that‘s a wee bit inaccessible

and may. I‘m afraid. sound like Indian restaurant music to some. On the other hand. the Sabris Brothers present a performance which is very spectacular and exciting and you‘d be swept along by that.’

As if the concerts. the bazaar and the street performers were not enough. there is also an exhibition and displays ofskills such as calligraphy and hand painting.

‘A very important part of the Mela is the educational aspect ofit.‘ says Carson. ‘We‘ve got hundreds of artefacts from The Kelvin Grove Gallery that have been in the vaults since 1888 simply because they don‘t have the room to display them. We‘re not showing the really impressive solid gold stuff but rather lots ofsmall pieces which I think may be very interesting. lnevitably. because the kids go to school and pick up different interests. they will have lost many of the traditional skills.‘

With all of the problems which the organisers have created for themselves one would think that now. with all the bookings finalised. they would be content to let the Mela begin. But that would be out of character.

'We‘re looking to have a parade



f from Queen‘s Park to The Tramway. : It‘s got to be a short distance because

the street performers can‘t walk very

far in these elaborate costumes. It‘s a

practical consideration you can‘t expect them to walk all the way from

the city centre in a howling gale half

? of them would get blown over.‘ I The Mela will be a! Tramway. ' Glasgow/ram 20—30517”. Evening

Concerts will befmm 20—30517”.

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