August 22, 2008

Mela Makes Switch to the Bigger Stage

By Liam Rudden Arts and

Colourful Asian festival grows at Ocean terminal

'The Mela this year offers a wo rld of creative talent," declared Liam Sinclair, the event's new artistic director, announcing the 2008 programme earlier this year.

"Traditional Indian dance will sit beside tango and flamenco troupes," he continued. "The big top will host an aerial circus act and the rhythms of India and Pakistan will be joined by those from Japan, Africa and elsewhere and the London Community Gospel Choir will add their infectious singing to the party atmosphere."

And Sinclair, appointed last October, isn't the only change in place for this year's event, which eschews it's traditional home of Pilrig Park in favour of a big top by the side of Leith's Ocean Terminal.

Explaining the change Sinclair says, "While trying to maintain the essence of what the Mela is about, we want to present some really large-scale pieces of work. So rather than having lots of shorter, smaller scale performances, we have longer slots that will feel more like you are watching a full performance or show."

Those performances are indeed varied, but the trick, insists Sinclair, is to get a good mixture of local, national and international artists.

"We're pretty pleased with the result and are confident that there is something for everyone this year. We've got a very close relationship with one group of artists - those involved in Yatra// Journey. This is a piece we have commissioned that brings together Scottish traditional music, South Asian music and Japanese Taiko Drumming - watch out for the world premiere on August 30."

The 2008 Edinburgh Mela, Scotland's leading celebration of cultural diversity through the arts, runs from Sunday evening through to the following Sunday, and features a number of world, UK and Scottish premieres, as well as the return of previously popular events.

Kick starting the week will be Sakhian, ladies only night on Sunday, which will include the play Sapano Ki Shaadi, meaning Dream Wedding, as well as a performance by bhangra singer, Des-C, while evening highlights include the Club Night with live DJs, international producer Rishi Rich, Juggy D and Veronica and the legendary bhangra band DCS.

"There is so much that's exciting but some shows to watch out for are Mother India 21st century, a contemporary live re-scoring of the Indian cinema classic by award winning turntablist DJ Tigerstyle," says Sinclair. "He will perform while the film will be projected onto a huge outdoor screen. It's our closing event on the Sunday night and sure to be a spectacular finish to the festival.

"We also have Scottish company Insaan presenting a challenging yet humorous piece of theatre that explores the relationship of two flat-mates - one from a Jewish background and one from a Muslim background.

"There is a large-scale South Asian dance piece Initium, that will take over the Ocean Kitchen space as well as a tango concert, an aerial circus performance accompanied by hip-hop music, a family of bushmen musicians from Namibia and some great artists from the Asian music scene including Tariq Khan and Kaya."

Two new strands being introduced for 2008 will see a series of films and documentaries screened at the VUE Cinemas.

Dance and physical theatre pieces also feature, the highlight of which is certain to be the world premiere of Initium from London- based Akademi, which uses dance, circus skills and folk theatre.

"These will all sit alongside the Mela favourites of music and dance as well as activities for families and children," adds Sinclair.

The Edinburgh Mela Festival was founded in 1995 by members of the city's minority ethnic communities, with a key objective of reflecting Scotland's cultural diversity.

"I want the Mela to take a leading role in developing, supporting and commiss-ioning culturally diverse work here in Scotland," says Sinclair, looking to the future of the event.

"I am really lucky in that it is already very strong, with a loyal following of both artists and audiences. We want to continue staging really exciting performances for a growing number of diverse audiences. This year has been about a step change for us, but there is a whole routine still to come."

Tickets for all Mela events are available from uk or 0131-473 2000. For full programme details visit www. edinburgh- or contact Edinburgh Mela office on 0131-347 2600

Originally published by Liam Rudden Arts and Entertainment Editor.

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