March 16, 2016 issue
Headline News

Women, youth lead charge at
Chowtaal Festival

Youthful members of the Shree Haranarain Mandir Junior Chowtaal Group who performed at last Saturday’s Annual Chowtal Festival at
the Vishnu Mandir.

By Ram Jagessar
It was women and youth to the forefront in chowtaal singing as the Indo Caribbean Golden Age Association (ICGAA) along with temples from the Greater Toronto Area held its ninth annual Chowtaal Festival to a packed house at the Vishnu Mandir in Richmond Hill on Saturday.
In the past chowtaal has been dominated by older males, but this is 2016, to quote Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Of the eight groups that took part, only two were dominated by older males, while the others were packed with women and youth of both sexes dishing out very spirited and vigorous chowtaal.
Chowtaal is a musical form sung with accompaniment of dholaks (drums) and jhals (small cymbals). It is associated with the ancient Hindu festival of Holi, which is both a celebration of spring and the victory of good over evil, represented by the demon Holika from whom the name Holi is derived. Holi is celebrated widely in India, and also in many countries where Hindus have migrated from India, including the Caribbean where it is known as Phagwa.
Indo Caribbean Golden Age chair Leila Daljit welcomed the increased participation of women and youth in this year’s Festival (gathering) and declared the event a grand success.
The non-competitive trophy for 2016 was awarded to the Mendez Joyt Chowtaal Group.
Other groups taking part included the Devi Mandir, the Kabir Association with participants from seven countries, the Bharatiya Vidya Sansthaan, Saraswati Prakash Gol, Shree Haranarain Mandir Group, Mendez Chowtaal Group, Prakash Gol, Vishnu Satsang Group, and the Debe Penal Chowtaal Group. Entertainment was also provided by the Next Generation Tassa Group and by Tricia, Victoria and Christina from the Shree Haranarain Mandir.
This Chowtaal Festival is the largest in Canada. At the moment all the groups come from southern Ontario and the Greater Toronto Area in particular but the organizers look forward to participation from other parts of Ontario and other provinces in the future to make it a truly national celebration.
For further information on this event and ICGAA please call Mac Gurdial 905-294-3564

Sundar Viswanathan launches AVATAAR CD
Members of the Avataar band headed by Sundar Vishwanathan
By William Doyle-Marshall
JUNO-nominated saxophonist, vocalist and composer Sundar Viswanathan and his band AVATAAR will release their long-awaited debut CD, Petal, with an exciting performance at Lula Lounge, Wednesday, March 30.
This event will be part of the TD Discovery Series Special Projects.
“My explorations of spiritual philosophies including Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism, mystic Christianity, Kabbalah and even New Age thinking also greatly influenced the path of the band,” says Viswanathan in a recent conversation.
Viswanathan’s new sound combines ancient and modern musical sounds, cleverly layered and cinematic in scope, with an underlying and driving jazz sensibility.
He admits Petal reveals a side of him that hasn’t been mined in previous projects.
Rosemary Sullivan receives her prize from Noreen Taylor, founder and chair of the RBC Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction
(Tom Sandler photo)
“It is my first foray into including lyrics on my compositions. The musicians in the band have also been a big influence in the direction of the music, and contribute greatly to the ‘new’ sound that will be evident at the CD release,” he concludes.
Viswanathan will be joined by Felicity Williams on vocals, Michael Occhipinti on guitar, Justin Gray – bass, Ravi Naimpally on tabla, Max Senitt on drums and guest artists, pianist Robi Botos and Indian classical singer Samidha Joglekar.
AVATAAR incorporates hard bop jazz, Indian classical music, Brazilian lyricism, electronica, Javanese gamelan and contemporary improvisation, revealing a more meditative and philosophical side of Viswanathan’s work. An adventurous departure after 20 years of performing and composing Indo-jazz,
The TD Discovery Series is a series of music and educational performances created by Toronto Downtown Jazz, producers of the Toronto Jazz Festival, and supported by TD Bank Group. Designed to encourage the creation, development, and presentation of unique new programming, the TD Discovery Series showcases some of Toronto’s finest local jazz talent.
Earlier in March, Amanda Tosoff described as an exceptionally talented pianist, bandleader and composer and an artist to watch, launched her debut CD at the Music Gallery as part of the TD Discovery Series Special Projects initiative.
Tosoff’s latest release, Words, according to promo material, takes an adventurous leap beyond the confines of conventional jazz, offering hints of pop, classical, art song, folk and jazz. On Words, Tosoff takes lyrics and poetry from award-winning Canadian poets such as Tim Bowling, Laura Lush and Carole Langille, along with the poem, Daffodils, by William Wordsworth, and frames them within her own original compositions. Vocals on Words are provided by Felicity Williams who will appear with Viswanathan AVATAAAR’s musical team.
Meanwhile, in the field of Canadian Non-fiction literature “Stalin’s Daughter” (Svetlana Iosifovna Stalin) by Rosemary Sullivan captured the 2016 $25,000 RBC Charles Taylor prize earlier this month. Sullivan has been in winners’ row for her work many times in the past and with the awarding of the 2016 Royal Bank Charles Taylor Prize for literary non-fiction, it’s one more feather in her hat.“It’s amazing. It was totally unexpected and wonderful,” she remarked immediately after being declared winner of the $25,000 prize in downtown Toronto last week Monday.
“As you know as a writer you don’t set out to win a prize. You set out to tell a story. If you are lucky as I have been, this extraordinary sequence of things happen. You can’t know what the life of a book will be. Once you sit at your computer or your typewriter you don’t know how the story will evolve.”
Sullivan discovered that Svetlana felt that the only man who had been loyal to her in her lifetime was Rajesh Singh. They met in a hospital where they were both recuperating in 1963 and she found him giving her the monochrome quality of Soviet life. Svetlana found Singh ‘wonderful’. They talked about Gandhi, they talked about various religions. Slowly, she fell in love with him but he was ill. At one point she asked permission from the politburo to marry him because she felt if he could go back to India, he could get better but she was refused permission. Josef Stalin, her father had instituted a law in 1937 saying that Soviet citizens shouldn’t marry foreigners. She was very upset and then by ’66 Rajesh Singh died. To honour his wish of having his ashes spread in the Ganges, Svetlana sought and obtained permission. She went to India and fell in love with India. It was the first country she had ever visited outside Soviet Union and wanted to stay and was refused permission. That’s when she defected to the United States.
The other finalists short listed for the prize were “Dispatches from the Front – Matthew Halton, Canada’s voice at war” by David Halton; Ian Brown, a previous winner of Toronto. His entry is “Sixty: The Beginning of the End, or the End of the Beginning?” published by Random House Canada; Camilla Gibb for “This Is Happy”, published by Doubleday Canada; and Wab Kinew – “The Reason You Walk”, published by Viking Canada.
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