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The London Mela, an annual festival that celebrates the music, drama and delicious diversity of South Asian culture and cuisine, is 10 years old this weekend and marks this momentous milestone with one of its biggest line-ups yet.

“Mela means gathering,” explains artistic director and co-founder Ajay Chhabra. “It’s a coming together of lots of different people and in that tradition we have re-invented Mela in London with our own twist.

“I combine the traditional and the modern with a hint of the extraordinary. We’ll have international artists alongside UK stars, UK premieres of new work, and it’s all held together by the best street food in London.”

As well as exotic flavours and music, there are a host of other activities to take part in on the day: everything from dance, comedy and cabaret to Asian-influenced street theatre, with Alt-Mela and Magic Mela stages, too.

“Representing the past and the present is central to the event – the key premise is to have something for everyone,” Chhabra says.


Headliner: AS Kang toplines the main stage

To that end, there are three stages of music, representing current stars, emerging artists and the traditional. The main stage alone shows Chhabra’s commitment to this variety, with up- and-coming talent like Manchester’s Nafees and part-comedian, part-motivational speaker IISuperwomanII alongside Sufi songstress Harshdeep Kaur, who’s worked with AJ Ramen soundtracking movies such as Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours, and a headline set from Punjabi artist AS Kang, who’s been performing since the Seventies.

The classical stage features performances that celebrate South Asian communities’ heritage and the BBC Asian Network New Music stage presents a wealth of emerging urban artists, such as garage MC Charlie Sloth and rapper Lost Souljah, and is hosted by BBC Asian Network New Music’s Nihal. With all that going on, it’d be hard to turn up and fail to find something you like. 


Diverse: music, dance, theatre and more

Chhabra has also put together a time-travelling theatrical production especially for the event, Swyron. 

“Swyron [the heroic character of the piece] is a Vedic-meets-Victoriana, steampunk-inspired super sleuth. [The show] is going to be that extra surprise factor we always pull out.”

The finale is always a key part of the event, and it’s the starting point for Chhabra when he’s putting the programme together. “In the past we’ve created our finale moments with performers, live music, a carnival, fireworks – this year’s event will involve The Philharmonia Orchestra, the [classical music performers] the Ali Khan brothers [Amaan and Ayaan] and a large scale shadow puppet show with pyrotechnics, Rama And Sita.”


DJ: BBC Radio’s Bobby Friction will be a host on the day

With a third of its audience coming from non-Asian communities, the London Mela is truly a festival for the city. “Its special combination of people, performance and good food always makes a memorable party,” Chhabra promises. Make sure you don’t miss out.

If that's given you a taste for the South Asian, we've also put together a list of our fave curries in the capital. Enjoy! 

The London Mela. Sep 1, 1pm-9pm. Free. 
Gunnersbury Park, W3 8LQ  
Tube| Acton Town  
londonmela.org
 


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Asian celebrations: London Mela celebrates South Asian culture and we find London's best curries
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