BY: JELANI GRANT
The Sewa Youth Arm organization organized their first Grand Cultural Extravaganza at the Chinguacousy Secondary School.
Presented by Satya Jyoti Cultural Sabha Canada, the music and dance showcase displayed the talents of Sewa Youth Arm’s young performers, who traveled from as far as Trinidad, through sounds, rhythms and routines originated from Middle Eastern countries such as India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
Satya Jyoti Cultural Sabha Canada Inc. is a registered Charitable Organisation that has provided cultural preservation, communal services, and spiritual development for more than twenty-six years.
Before entering the school’s theater hall, guests could be seen conversing and embracing each other, giving the evening a family feel. Drumming sounds reverberated through the school hallways, drawing stragglers towards the stage, preceding any performances and giving a glimpse of what was to come. The first to hit the stage for the night was some of Sewa Youth Arm’s youngest members with an opening prayer song. The family reunion vibe was reinforced by one of the master of ceremonies, Vishel Parapass, calling out to his uncles and cousins in the crowd. “I believe I see Uncle Raj”, he said. The three young hosts for the night were Parapass, Vipi Shava, Jivan Persaud who addressed the audience in English, French, and Hindi.
Traditional instruments such as the tablas, banjira harmonium, though less traditional instruments, like the flute and electric guitar, were used by performers.
Each performer was dressed in traditional garb. The young men wore vibrant tan, yellow, green and various blue kurtas. The young ladies, dancers and instrument players alike, wore salwar kameez garb, otherwise known as ‘Punjabi suits’. The traditional skirt and blouse, lahenga choli, was worn by one dancer.
“Tonight’s performances are dedicated to the late Dexter Raghunanan, an example of the youth who took up the mantle that we the Sewa Youth Arm have embraced ourselves”, said Parapass.
Dexter Raghunanan passed away suddenly on January 18th at the age of forty-three. Known as a tabla maestro, Raghunanan had performed across the world with some of India’s most talented performers such as Anup Jalota, Anuradha Paudwal, Zakir, Pradeep Acharya and Prakash Gosine. Before this though, he met Toronto Tabla Ensemble School of Tabla Director Shri Ritesh Das in 1999 while performing in Toronto, who would lead him to a rigorous training from Riteshji and his guru, Maestro of Lucknow Gharana, Pt Swapan Chaudhuri.
He was also recognized, by former Trinidadian Government Minister Chandresh Sharmaas, for reshaping the art form of tabla by playing tabla alongside African and Chinese drums. “He had done a phenomenal job of representing our Trinidad heritage on the global stage, standing out and being held as a legendary tabla player, ” said Parapass.
Raffle tickets were sold during intermission, 3 tickets for $5, 7 tickets for $10 and 15 tickets for $20. The prizes included a coffee maker, a picture frame, and a handheld vacuum. CDs were being sold outside of the theatre hall.
According to a 2011 census, there are approximately 240,100 declared Trinidadians who practice the Hindu religion. Some of the more than 300,000 Hindu identifying West-Indian people in North America attended the event in support and celebration of the world-renowned Raghunanan.