Umbrellas, wellies and ponchos in every hue only added to the colour that brightened every corner of Kelvingrove Park this weekend, as thousands of festival-goers and families of every age and ethnicity enjoyed the music and dance of the O2 Glasgow Mela – despite the occasional downpour.
Based on the traditions and customs of the Indian sub-continent, a spectacular line-up of international performers delighted crowds on Saturday and Sunday. In its 21 year history Scotland’s biggest multi-cultural festival has gone from strength to strength and this year organisers Glasgow Life took the decision to expand the festival to a weekend format.
Now across two days the O2 Glasgow Mela hosted more big name acts than was previously possible in a one day programme. Celebrating the city’s racial diversity was an international mix of cultural musicians, dance acts and interactive arts performers from across the Commonwealth.
On Saturday winner of the Best Urban Act Award at the UK AMAS and the Best British Asian Urban Act at the 2010 BritAsia awards, Mumzy Stranger, set the World Stage alight with his unique style of urban music. Keeping up the tempo were Bass2base, the first-ever Bollywood band to perform at the O2 Glasgow Mela. They wowed everyone with their polished blend of new and old Bollywood styles with Bhangra, Hindi, pop, funk and urban sounds.
Tonight (Sunday) Manak-E, who has dominated the Bollywood and Punjabi music scene, with hits songs including Paisa Paisa and Dhoor, delighted fans before one of the world’s top Bhangra bands, DCS, made a sensational return to the Mela five years after first performing at the event.
Frontman Shin said: “Glasgow is an awesome audience, I love being back. Music is my life and I love sharing it with anyone who’ll listen. That’s why I love the Mela, it is a great way to introduce new people to Bhangra music and music is a great way to introduce people to new cultures.”
International dance acts added colour and energy to the proceedings. Dressed in elaborate masks representing gods, monsters and animals, the acrobatic Chhau Dancers from eastern Indian thrilled the crowds with an awesome routine involving swords and shields to illustrate popular tales.
Tinku from Chhau Dancers said: “I have been looking forward to dancing in Glasgow. I hope our dancing inspires people to learn more about Indian culture, that’s what the Mela is about after all – sharing the best parts of different cultures.”
They were joined by local acts showcasing the cultural diversity on offer in Glasgow, with performances from Scotland’s hottest Bollwood talent, Desi Bravehearts and Eletricat Brazilian Dance.
New for 2011 was a collaboration with schools across Glasgow. This gave hundreds of youngsters the opportunity to work with Priyanka Purohit, assistant to the legendary Bollywood choreographer Pratap Shetty, to learn Bollywood, freestyle and Bhangra dance, which they performed on stage across the weekend.
A second new element for 2011 was Dance Dhamaka. The aim of Dhamaka, meaning 'explosion', was to get Scotland dancing towards the Cultural Olympiads in 2012. To underline the multi-cultural nature of the Mela some of the most exciting dance groups in the country entertained festival-goers with a mix of styles including Flamenco, Chinese, Brazilian and Scottish.
Councillor George Redmond, Chair of Glasgow Life said: "In its 21 year history the festival has gone from strength to strength and continues to be a wonderful, family event that highlights Glasgow as a multicultural and multi racial city.
“Moving to two days was definitely the right decision. Despite the rain thousands of people have enjoyed a fabulous weekend of free entertainment at the biggest O2 Glasgow Mela yet.”
Since its launch during Glasgow’s 1990 European City of Culture celebrations, the O2 Glasgow Mela has grown over the years to become the leading festival of its kind in the country. In addition to three main stages (World, Commonwealth and Mehfil) the festival also featured street theatre performances, a Sports Zone, a Kidz Zone, authentic food stalls from the east and a traditional market.