Major acts from South Asia have long been descending on Singapore in the run-up to the festive season of Deepavali. But now, March is turning out to be an equally packed month for such acts.
Popular Bollywood singer Mika Singh performs here tomorrow at the Star Performing Arts Centre.
The annual Singapore Indian Fine Arts Society (Sifas) Festival of Music and Dance, now in its 13th edition, starts on March 26. It presents four concerts at the Esplanade by artists from India and 50 free shows by regional and local artists at the Sifas Auditorium on Starlight Road in Little India.
Among the highlights are a concert by Hindustani vocal maestros Pandits Rajan and Sajan Misra, who last performed here more than a decade ago. Popular dance troupe Kannapar Kuravanji, a dance theatre production originally choreographed by founder Rukmini Devi Arundale, brings together a large team of Kalakshetra dancers from Chennai.
In addition, well-known dancers from dance school Nrityagram in Bangalore who have wowed audiences in India and abroad, will present Songs Of Love And Longing.
On March 28, the Tagore Society of Singapore presents Ghalib Rang performed by critically acclaimed Indian theatre and film actors Deepti Naval and Tom Alter. This musical theatre production will feature letters, poetry and incidents drawn from poet Mirza Ghalib's life. He was the last great poet of the Mughal era (1526-1857) and is regarded as one of the most popular and influential poets of the Urdu language.
On the dance front, also this month, leading Indian television channel Zee TV launches Dance Singapore Dance, a spin-off of the popular reality TV show Dance India Dance. Open to all residents of Singapore aged 16 and above, it aims to provide a platform for both amateur and experienced dancers. The Indian version, which was launched in 2009, has catapulted several winners to fame.
On the decision to present it here, Ms Tripta Singh, Zee TV's senior vice-president of international business, tells Life!: "Ten years ago, in 2004, we were the first to introduce a localised feed for viewers in Singapore. As a pioneer in the industry, we felt it was only natural to create such a show for Singapore. There is already a huge demand for music and dance moves popularised by Bollywood."
That is something organiser Azzah Waseem, who is originally from Pakistan, has noticed too. Her event management companies, Momentz and Kit Kat Productions, are presenting Mika Singh's concert this week. She says the decision to bring him here was based on the chart-topping, foot-tapping numbers the singer is known for.
"His songs are extremely catchy and popular. People like these high-energy concerts," she says.
In the past, most major South Asian acts would be performing ahead of Deepavali, which is generally in October or December.
Visual artist Subina Arora Khaneja, 52, a regular concertgoer, says: "These days, there is barely time to catch a breath in between shows. While I enjoy the variety, I find the quality varies greatly.
"Bollywood rules, and we can never get enough of popular singers belting out movie music. But I would like to see more performances from the folk, classical and semi-classical traditions which can make it here only with corporate and institutional support."
The flood of performances comes amid the growing demand by South Asian expatriates and a fascination with Hindi film culture.
Bollywood, as both Ms Khaneja and Ms Waseem rightly note, has the biggest following. Tickets for such shows are generally the fastest to sell out. Another indication of the popularity of film music is reflected in the presence of close to 20 Bollywood dance bars here. The most popular is Moshi Moshi Bollywood in Orchard Road which attracts both both Indian and non-Indian professionals.
Public relations professional Mansi Maheshwari Patel, 29, says: "It is definitely a good thing that there are so many options in Singapore these days. For someone who has grown up here and in love with all things Indian, this is a welcome change in the last 30 years."
While she lauds the variety of acts, she thinks the ticket prices should be more affordable - tickets for Singh's concert go up to $268 - and that the events could be better spread out.
Another regular concertgoer, Vidhya Nair, 37, thinks the quality of what audiences here get to see "has vastly improved and is starting to match international standards". She enjoys the range of acts, saying it gives viewers like her more options.
She adds: "I find content from South Asia has universal appeal, be it literature, dance, music, theatre or Bollywood. This diversity we are getting now is a great thing."
Catch these shows
MIKA SINGH LIVE IN CONCERT
In his second solo concert here, the popular singer, composer and songwriter presents many of his chart-topping numbers such as Mauja Hi Mauja (Jab We Met or When We Met) and Party Toh Banti Hai (There Is A Reason To Party), which are from hit Bollywood films. Singh is known for selling out shows in cities such as London, Toronto and Dubai. More than 1,300 tickets, close to three-quarters of the house, have been sold for his show here.
Where: Star Performing Arts Centre
When: Tomorrow, 7.30pm
Admission: $68 to $268 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg). For bulk tickets, call the organisers on 91465761/91808069
ANAHATA - MYSTICAL SOUNDS OF MUSIC (A Carnatic Vocal Recital by Sudha Ragunathan)
The internationally well-known Sudha Ragunathan is back by popular demand following her performance here last year. She has made a name for herself with her lilting voice, masterly presentation and wide repertoire. In Hindu cosmology, Anahata refers to the fourth and heart chakra and means unstruck or unhurt. Her recital will revolve around this theme.
Where: Esplanade Concert Hall
When: March 27, 7.30pm
Admission: $25 to $80 from Sistic
An evening of poetry, music and theatre by Indian actors Deepti Naval and Tom Alter, who bring to the stage the verses of Mirza Ghalib, widely regarded as the greatest Urdu poet of all time. The production will showcase the life and times of the poet leading up to the fall of the Mughal era. A team of Indian and Singaporean accompanists will come together to provide the orchestral backdrop to this music-cum-theatrical production.
Where: RELC Auditorium, 30 Orange Grove Road
When: March 28, 7.30pm
Admission: $40 to $100 from Ms Dolly Davenport on 9345-6915
HARI SHRINGARA - SONGS OF LOVE AND LONGING (An Odissi Dance by Surupa Sen and Bijayini Satpathy)
Songs Of Love And Longing is based on poet Jayadevas's 12th-century romantic ballad, Gita Govinda, which talks about the immortal love of Radha and Krishna. It is a song of love and longing that reflects the Vaishnava belief that all humankind is feminine energy (Radha) constantly seeking union with the one male godhead (Krishna). For almost two decades, dancers Surupa Sen and Bijayini Satpathy have researched and expanded the dance vocabulary of the Odissi dance form and have developed a style that is unique to the Nrityagram School of Bangalore.
Where: Esplanade Recital Studio
When: March 29, 7.30pm
Admission: $30 from Sistic
RUKMINI DEVI'S KANNAPAR KURAVANJI: A DRAMATIC TALE OF DEVOTION
Presented by Kalakshetra Foundation. this magnificent dance production was originally choreographed by the founder of Kalakshetra, Rukmini Devi Arundale. Kuravanjis are Tamil dramas composed in traditional style, representing the aspiration of the soul to merge with the divine. Kannapar Kuravanji is the story of a hunter-prince Thinnapar, the son of a hunter king who finds salvation through his faith. All the characters are hunters or gypsies, which is typical of the Kuravanji form. The story revolves around Thinnapar's devotion to one of the most powerful Hindu gods, Lord Shiva.
Where: Esplanade Theatre
When: April 12, 8pm
Admission: $25 to $80 from Sistic