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The UK’s biggest South Asian Festival LONDON MELA goes online and virtual to create the world’s first global Asian diaspora festival

The 18th edition of South Asian culture-fest, London Mela will be held online and virtually for the first time ever on 7-8 November 2020. The much-loved festival is reinvented as a digital and virtual reality event; Melatopia, featuring South Asian music, dance, food, and culture for a one-of-a-kind festival experience within an immersive VR experience in Sansar.

Usually performed at the festival’s home in Southall Park, we’ve embraced the digital realm with the first Virtual Reality Mela ever staged, to keep everyone safe during COVID 19.

The award-winning event’s producers Nutkhut, Mela Partnership and Remarkable Productions join forces with Shangri-La’s Lost Horizon Festival to create a new online virtual reality venue, MELATOPIA, which is built using Sansar, Wookey Technologies’ cutting-edge, photorealistic platform for virtual live events and can be experienced on PC, VR or mobile (iOS), plus will be streamed live on Twitch and across social media.

Audiences will be able to experience live artists, dance performances and DJs in an extraordinary VR online space specially created for the Mela. Whether viewed on a smartphone, tablet, laptop or wearing VR glasses, audiences will be able to engage with the performances and each other in new and innovative ways. Viewers are encouraged to book 7/8 November out in their diaries and invite friends and family to an online watch party. COVID 19 has stopped audiences visiting the Mela in London, so the London Mela will come to them wherever they are in our great city and wherever they are in the world.

The London Mela is best known for its adventurous programming and genre-crossing collaborations from an incredible mix of household names and contemporary artists. This year will be no different with US/Indian rapper The Raja Kumari headlining the show. In support we have an incredible collaboration between Juggy D and Pandit Ram Sahai Sangeet Vidhyalaya (PRSSV), 5 Tabla players from Singh Sabha Southall Education Centre in Southall.

Pop sensation and BBC Future Music Artist Celina Sharma features as well as Roma Sagarand Rio Jai. Punjabi Hit Squad promise to get the audience jumping around their front rooms with a barnstorming set. No Mela is complete without qawwali and the Mela is proud to present Chand Ali Khan, one of the UK’s most exciting qawwali talents, complete with 7-piece live band. Rounding of this first announcement, London Mela presents the legendary Panjabi MC, producer of the seminal Mundian To Bach Ke, possibly the greatest crossover dance tune from the South Asian diaspora.

All artists featured in Melatopia will be recorded exclusively for the event.

 

Ajay Chhabra, Artistic Director, Melatopia said:

“When a global diaspora meets new technology, change happens, The South Asian presence in Silicon Valley is completely engaged with Mela and Melatopia is our way of bringing people together in a time of isolation. Change creates challenging new opportunities. With so much change occurring all around us, from the very personal loss of loved ones to the major change artists and communities are facing the world over. Melatopia is our way to keep fearless ambition alive, to be bold, to take risks and to create a new platform for what we know best, the coming together of community and artists to create a new utopia, Melatopia! The South Asian Diaspora is international, with a footprint on every major continent, in every major city globally – In a time of isolation, Melatopia is an exciting new opportunity to bring this international diaspora of people together, by using new technology and cross arts form connections, to a new and intergenerational audience.”

Chris Macmeikan MBE, Lost Horizon said:

“We want to build festivals that the whole world can attend. In July of this year, our innovative work with VR and streaming at Lost Horizons attracted over 4m people from over 100 countries. That is why we are so excited that our second project is with London Mela. London Mela is already a hub to the entire Asian Diaspora. Now, we will create the world’s first Global Mela together.”

Sheri Bryant, President of Sansar said:

“Sansar is incredibly proud to introduce VR, PC, and mobile audiences to this immersive Mela Festival of Desi culture.  With our partnership with Lost Horizon and now London Mela, we look forward to delivering art, community, and joy all rolled together into one amazing virtual festival the entire world can enjoy.”

 

Event: Melatopia

Dates: Saturday 7th & Sunday 8th November 2020

Times: 15:00 – 03:00 (3PM to 3AM) GMT

 

Venue: www.londonmela.org the gateway to MELATOPIA within Sansar the global VR leader in live events

 

Melatopia streams live on Twitch, Facebook, and YouTube

#Melatopia #Londonmela #Mela #Desi #Nutkhut #Melapartnership

 

Share your Story with Us!

Nutkhut is excited to share that it needs members of the public to get involved in its latest project.

We’re on the lookout for personal stories about indentured labour in the 20th century as part of our new arts and heritage project, Girmit.

Project Girmit is a Nutkhut arts and heritage initiative focusing on the indentured labour system in Fiji between 1870 and 1920. After slavery was abolished in 1833, the British and other European powers started the indenture system to source cheap labour for their colonies.

Over 60,000 Indians were transported to Fiji between 1870 and 1920 as part of a legitimate but enforced mass migration.

Through the project, Nutkhut and its partners are looking to delve into this forgotten but essential part of history by sharing personal stories from those who knew people who were part of the indentured labour system.

Nutkhut is looking for people with indentured labour stories to tell and is especially interested in hearing from people of Mauritian, Trinidadian and Guyanese heritage, as well as British-Fijian heritage, whose ancestors were indentured labourers.

If you or a family member of yours is a descendent of an indentured labourer and are happy to share stories with Nutkhut for its Girmit oral history piece, please do get in touch with us.

You can email louise@nutkhut.co.uk if you’re interested and if you know someone who might be interested in speaking to us, please do pass on the message.

This is a chance to be involved in a project about a long-forgotten but vital part of our history.

Girmit is part of our Defining Moments series of projects.  For more information click here

Nutkhut is undertaking an exciting new history project about Fijian indentured labour and we’re offering free oral history training to members of the public as part of this project.

Project Girmit is Nutkhut’s Arts and Heritage initiative focusing on the indentured labour system in Fiji between 1870 and 1920.

After slavery was abolished in 1833, the British and other European powers started the indenture system to source cheap labour for their colonies.

Over 60,000 Indians were transported to Fiji between 1870 and 1920 as part of a legitimate but enforced mass migration.

Through the project, we’re looking to delve into this forgotten but essential part of history by sharing personal stories.

This is why we’re offering free oral history training to those interested in building a new skill and being part of this unique project.

We’re especially interested in hearing from people of Mauritian, Trinidadian and Guyanese heritage, as well as British-Fijian heritage, whose ancestors were indentured labourers.

The training will broadly explore the following:

  • What is oral history and understanding memory
  • Who to interview
  • Approaches to questions
  • An introduction to recording equipment
  • Dos and don’ts of interviewing
  • Practice interview
  • Documentation, including summarising, transcription, copyright, archiving

 

This oral history training will be delivered over Zoom on two consecutive mornings from 9.30am to 1.15pm, with half an hour breaks in the middle of the morning.

If you’re interested in taking part in the free oral history training with us, all you need to do is fill in this form and tell us why you would benefit from the session.

We’re keen to get started with the training soon, so please don’t hesitate to complete the form if you’re interested. We need all forms back by 22 August 2020.

The free session will be an enjoyable way for you to learn a new skill to add to your experience and understand more about the project.

If you have any questions, please email louise@nutkhut.co.uk

Click here to complete the oral history training application form.

This year marks the centenary for the end of Indenture, a system of bonded labour that was instituted following the abolition of slavery. 2020 also marks the 50th anniversary of a new beginning, Fijian Independence.

Following the abolition of slavery in the 19th century, a new system of labour was introduced. Indentured labour first appeared on the Indian Ocean islands of Reunion and Mauritius in the 1830’s, eventually resulting in two million young Indians being transported across the world.

When children witness change – big change like famine, pandemics, political unrest, and war – the effects can often have a dramatic influence on who they become and the way in which they navigate through life.

So to mark this long-forgotten and unknown history, our story is told through the eyes of a young child.

Lalli Maharaj was 10 years old when he experienced and witnessed famine. Born in a land that time forgot, the geographical heartbeat of central India, a Peepul Tree stands proud and below this tree is where Lalli was born. As the 19th century drew to a close, Lalli experienced the devastating effects of famine. Compelled to help his family and his community, he left his ancestral home and boarded a sailing ship in the Port of Calcutta, which he travelled on for three months, eventually arriving in Fiji in the South Pacific. He had unwittingly became an indentured labourer.

Lalli was barely 14 years of age when he started cutting sugar cane for 15 hours a day, six days a week. This went on for five years. He had left his own home, 7,000 miles away, where the crops had failed and the land was dry and arid, to travel to an island of abundance, where the soil was rich and the harvest of sugar cane was plentiful.

Supported by an ecology of plantation owners, financers and botanists who were all invested in farming sugar cane, the world’s fastest growing commodity was booming and Lalli was a small part of that giant global jigsaw. The cane would be turned into sugar and eventually find its way to the sugar bowls of Victorian England and the wealth creation to the boardrooms of London.

By the end of the First World War in Europe, Lalli had completed his Girmit – his agreement. He decided to branch out and set up a small shop in the farming heartlands of Fiji selling tinned fish, rope and basic provisions, eventually purchasing a plot of land in Flagstaff, Suva, the Capital city of Fiji. Flagstaff soon became synonymous with Lalli Maharaj.  His work ethic was legendary and his emphasis on education to make change was instilled in his children. By the time the Second World War began in the Pacific, he had transformed the lives of many by sharing his wealth and supporting the wider community as a philanthropist. The family’s growth and prosperity mirrored Fiji’s growth and prosperity.

Lalli Maharaj has left an incredible legacy. With his roots deeply ingrained and nourished in Fiji, his heritage has spread its wings far and wide. Lalli’s descendents, who number in their many hundreds, now live in the UK, Canada, USA, New Zealand, Australia, Fiji and India.

Lalli Maharaj was my Great Grandfather.

By Ajay Chhabra

 

Girmit is a Defining Moments project, which aims to mark significant historical anniversaries and moments which reflect the rich and complex relationship between Britain and South Asian communities globally.

For more information please visit the Nutkhut page about the Girmit project.