by Sushma LoboPhoto credit: Vickie Flores
London, Aug 9 : Waltham Forest Mela (WF Mela), an amazing celebration of South Asian culture took place on Sunday 4th August as part of Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture 2019. Crowds flocked from around London to be part of the proud borough which celebrates its year of Borough of Culture 2019.
There was international and national music, street theatre, dance, food, and traditional arts and crafts. Bringing a vibrant buzz around the Mela with a giant funfair and activities for children, market stalls heaving with South Asian treats, a South Asian fusion fashion show with a contemporary flair and a sustainability and recycling theme featuring the very best of local talent and kabaddi.
Waltham Forest hosted an exciting and electric mela with live music performances from Apache Indian, Najma Akhtar, Hani King, Roach Killa, Navin Kundra and Shama Rahman.
British Asia news had exclusive interviews with producer Sba Shaikh from Waltham Forest Council the lady who curated this vibrant Mela and we interviewed some of the highlights from this year’s festival Hani King and Shama Rahman.
Hani King: A Leytonstone resident, British singer, songwriter and born in Pakistan with a musical influence by American R&B and hip-hop, as well as English, Arabic and Punjabi was ready to rock the crowd.
When an artiste comes and plays at their home town of course we want to know what it was like performing to your home town crowd. And so we asked Hani who said “I'm very excited and massively looking forward to be performing in front of my home crowd. I'll be performing my tracks such as “Nazron Sey” and “Saat Samandar (seven seas), refix”. Plus I'll be performing my unreleased track "Habibi", which I've produced, written and composed. These will be a taste of the sound that is true to me. It means a lot to me as I believe that you should never forget your roots and be proud of where you come from. I live in Waltham Forest and this is home to me and it's always great to perform in front of the local crowd. Plus, I love the attention!
And of course another inevitable question for a resident of the borough is what was it like living in Waltham Forest?
“What better borough to live in than THE Borough of Culture. Walthamstow- my local area has changed quite a bit over my time here and it’s always improving and making it a special place to live in. With all the new development, I would like to call it Contemporary yet Antique! In the last decade I have seen that Waltham Forest has emerged into an area which shouts "Diversity" out loud. When my surroundings are nice, it motivates and inspires me to be creative and think big.”
Who is your musical inspiration?
“I grew up listening to the sounds of Pink Floyd, Junoon, Eminem, Michael Jackson, the Backstreet boys...(yes, I repeat, the Back street boys, hey hey don't give me that look, the girls around me used to say I could have easily been the 6th Backstreet boy. Sadly, I couldn't achieve that dream), Tamer Hosny, A.R Rahman Nancy Ajram, Elisa, Linkin Park, Enrique Iglesias , Justin Timberlake and the list goes on. And how can we forget NFS- the great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan who is an inspiration to millions of music lovers. I believe his voice is universally recognised as one of the greatest voices in the history of music.
People from all around the world listen to his devotional music even though a lot of his listeners don't understand a word. I grew up listening to his mind-blowing music and especially loved his collaborations with many Western musicians including Peter Gabriel, Eddie Vedder and Michael Brook. His legacy still continues and has also given us another legend “Rahat Fateh Ali Khan” which is so inspiring that it has given me a new understanding of music.
I also paid a tribute to Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan by daring to take the chorus line for my last release, "Nazron Sey" under one of India's top labels "Speed Records" which is a mixture of English, Punjabi and Hindi with Urban/RnB sounds. The lyrics that I wrote for this song were inspired by my past relationships where I learned a valuable lesson- not to be fooled by appearances. In the end, looks do not mean anything, everything that is within a person is what makes a person beautiful and at the very least- HUMAN.
“Innocent appearance and innocuous talk, but there is a difference between what they say and what they mean though their face is like that of the moon, O God save us from the schemes of their hearts!" I was scared to use the lines from an iconic song sung by a legend. I took the risk and it actually worked for me as it was loved and made waves around the globe”.
To produce a Mela it takes some good skills and creativeness. British Asia news caught up with Sba Sheikh and her team of many individuals within the Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture team involved in organising the Mela – from production to communications to ask her about her inspiration to curate the Waltham Forest Mela 2019 especially after owning the label of the prestigious Culture Borough 2019. With a unique vision for the music, arts and entertainment brought to the Mela I asked Sba –
Being a cultural borough must mean having a diverse community which you cater for, what is it in Waltham Forest that has attracted this community?
Waltham Forest is situated a little further from London centre which historically made the housing prices more accessible to people allowing a wide range of people from many cultural, ethnic, and social backgrounds to move in, creating the vibrant, community which now is so attractive to newcomers
What has your involvement been and have you enjoyed organising such a cultural event?
Being this year’s WF Mela creative producer has been a thoroughly enjoyable journey so far!
What would you like to say to the people attending?
Come, have fun and relish the colours of south east Asian culture through fashion music, dance, food and sport – a lot of passion has gone into this year’s WF Mela for all to enjoy.
Shama Rahman also performed on the second stage, following her set at Glastonbury on the poetry stage. She’s an incredible artiste who’s performed barefoot in the Antarctic as part of a project for the Venice Biennale.
The beautiful Shama with many talents and popularising the sitar in Western culture and bringing to the stage her poetry performance was energetic and ‘lit’ as the crowd would say.
British Asia news asked Shama - You write your own songs, where do you get the inspiration for your songs?
“Yes I write my own songs. Sometimes it's a melody that comes to me (usually unconsciously when I'm moving, walking, swimming, and daydreaming). Sometimes it’s an event at which point it is words that come first. Sometimes it's energy I'm feeling which could translate as starting from the groove first.”
Being an ethnic woman what have been your challenges?
“I see it as an advantage that I can bring my international background to my music, having lived on 3 continents and always mixing with different cultures and people, and being inspired by multiple music genres.”
How long have you played the sitar for? And what do you love about the sitar harmony?
“15 years. I love the sonic quality of the sitar with all its finely self-tuned harmonics and resonances - these vibrate across the whole sitar when I play...it’s like playing a living singing creature.”
What inspiration and food for thought she threw into the last answer, makes me want to take up the sitar and learn to play it.
The Mela was a vibrant celebration of sights, tastes, sounds and entertainments from the South Asian Culture. People from all walks of life enjoyed the day. The free family day out proved to showcase some of the best traditional and modern music and showcased some of the best fusion fashion styles created by local designers.