Volume 91, Issue 70

Tuesday, February 3, 1998



Cultural kaleidoscope: WICSA stages annual spectacle

©All photos Sam Pane/Gazette

By Yaseen Nimjee
Gazette Staff

The Western Indo-Canadian Students' Association had its largest and most successful cultural competition in its history on Saturday at London's Centennial Hall. The show, entitled Sitaron Ki Mehfil, which means "A Gathering of Stars," featured a variety of South Asian cultures expressing themselves and their respective heritages in a variety of skits, dances, songs, instrumentation and spirit.

While the show is hailed as a competition, it serves mainly as a opportunity for the Indian university community to celebrate their traditions in art, music and dance.

"This show is about unity through diversity for all Indians," said Indy Singh, MC for the event. The Canadian influence was strong in the music presented, as ancient melodies were blended with strong new-age beats and bass tracks. Many performers interchanged Western and Eastern dance steps and had little difficulty in adjusting to the changes in rhythm.

This marks the seventh consecutive year of the WICSA cultural challenge and with a record attendance of over 2,000 people, and upwards of 200 waiting to get in, it was certainly the largest crowd since the show's inception. Over 20 universities participated, including schools from across Ontario, Quebec and the United States.

Parag Shah, co-executive coordinator and last year's WICSA president, defines Indian culture as "a mixture of our lives in Canada and also of any country that we are from."

The cr¸me de la cr¸me of the day's events was WICSA's fashion show, Silsila 1988, which highlighted the best Western had to offer in Indian style, grace and beauty. The coordination of the many participants in this performance was admirable, as the sleek models strutted and swayed their way across the stage.

"You can see the effect that this event has because every year there is more and more people," Aneeta Chaudry, Silsila 1998 participant for Western, commented on large attendance numbers. "It increases exponentially."

"It made me proud to be Indian, and to be able to come to an event such as this to express my culture," Jamil Jaffer, another Western representative, said.

The participants represented all cultures and religions from the Indian community and the audience clearly appreciated the diversity. Rishi Patel, an executive coordinator for the show and a lifetime WICSA achievement award recipient, agrees. "It is so nice to see so many varied Indian communities get together and still preserve their culture," he said.

The energy of the crowd was tremendous and at any given time the hall would erupt into applause, cheers and chants as various schools paid homage to their performers or were especially impressed with a particular number.

"In an event like this, with many universities, you see a lot of school spirit, but also a lot of spirit about being Indian," Neil Garala, co-president of WICSA, muses. The rivalry between the various universities was definite, yet all yielded to the stunning spectacle of Western's own Nasha group dance and that of McGill University's Fusion Dance. Both of these failed, however, to overcome the University of Ottawa's Yaadah Ka Safar group dance which took the trophy in that category. Other award winners included the University of Windsor for best individual dance, McGill for best variety act, McMaster University for the most spirit and McGill's downtown campus was the overall winner.

This year's event lured increased media coverage with its large numbers, including the South Asian Newsweek television program, Masala Magazine, Mehfil magazine and various other media outlets in the Indian community. Pallabee Bera, co-president of WICSA, was happy to see so much attention. "It allows the community to see that students can also take part in celebrating their culture and heritage, while educating the community about Indians."

The competition's impact on the London community is summed up by Ritu Horra, another MC for the show. "[The event is] only a positive because it opens up people's eyes to other cultures and cultural practices."

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1998