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The EDINBURGH MELA celebrates a decade of bringing the best in Asian culture to Auld Reekie. Rachael Street discovers how it’s evolved and looks at
this year’s festival highlights.
t's been ten years since the first lidinburgh Mela
set tip camp at Meadowbank Stadium and the late
Nusrat l‘ateh Ali Khan headlined the festival. Since then. it has moved to a new venue in Pilrig Park and hosted hundreds of different acts. including Mcrcury-nominated band Black Star Liner. bangra act Malkit Singh and the (iotipua Dance Troupe. From its origins as a meeting point for members of the Asian community. it has now expanded to become an established lidinburgh tradition. attracting around 4().()()() people each year. Topping this year's bill on the Saturday is pioneering UK Asian crossover act Stereo Nation. followed by a feast of different performers at the Mela Jula on Sunday. including the Niazi Brothers from Pakistan. singer Gunjan Singh and pop/folk fusion act. the Anaries.
But what has changed over the years. apart from the acts‘.’ The tenth Mela sees the inauguration of Sukhian. a women only event on the Friday night. featuring poetry. music and song. ‘Some women don‘t feel comfortable in a mixed gender ' audience.‘ explains spokeswoman Morag Neil. ‘So this will bring together ladies from all different religious backgrounds and offer a real mix of cultural activities.‘ Neil first got involved in the Mela in 199‘). the year before the move to Pilrig Park. and has seen the festival gradually expanding in size and scope. ‘lt‘s really developed and evolved over the years. It started out with the Indian. Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities in Edinburgh. who wanted to bring a bit of their home way of life to Scotland. But now there are so many different cultural groups involved and they are all keen to give something of their own background.‘
But while the Mela (meaning gathering) has always been a great place to meet a diverse range of people and watch top-class Asian performers. one
‘WE'VE ALWAYS THOUGHT THAT THE MELA FINISHES T00
aspect that has often been neglected is the involvement of the younger generation. ‘Young people were saying that they wanted more funky stuff.‘ says Neil. ‘So last year we introduced the Ronak stage with DJs. dance acts and live
performers.‘ For 2004. this stage will be much bigger
and is being organised by 1)] Vip. (aka Vipen Kumar). one of the original directors of the festival. Knowing what it‘s like growing tip in a country where there is very little live Asian music and no permanent cultural radio station. Vip is very keen to develop the entertainment for young people. last year. the Ronak stage was tiny — you couldn‘t really swing a cat in there. but it was the most popular stage there. This year. the organisers have realised that this is what the young people want ~ to dance and enjoy themselves.‘
free entertainment. Vip is planning to repeat last year’s successful after-show party with a fusion night at (‘ity on the Sunday evening. 'We've always thought that the Mela finishes too early and that the young people want to carry on and party.‘ says Vip. So the club night runs from l()pm—3am and features top l).ls from around the country. including Yorkshire outfit RDB. Surinder Rattan from Manchester and Glasgow‘s Tiger Style. plus live singers Sahara and Manake. The event has been nicknamed the 'fringe' of the Mela. providing something exciting for the up-and-coming generation. As Vip explains: ‘The difficulty for the Mela proper is that they have to cater to a much wider audience. whereas the fringe is purely for the younger people.‘
Edinburgh Mela, Pilrig Park, off Leith Walk, Fri 3 (women only), Sat 4 & Sun 5 Sep, times vary, 0131 557 1400, www.edinburgh-mela.co.uk, free (some events ticketed).
In addition to the two days of
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2:, A .q—a Set, 232.: THE LIST 55