NEWS: Gem Arts’ Masala Festival | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Zoe Rahman

The annual GemArts Masala Festival returns from Monday 15th-Sunday 21st July, demonstrating some of the finest art, music and culture from South Asia.

This week of exciting shows takes in work from classic, traditional and contemporary artists from around the UK and Indian sub-continent. Launching at Sage Gateshead on Monday 15th with one of the most accomplished Indian classical musicians of his generation, Ustad Wajahat Khan will play the sarod accompanied by a string quintet from Royal Northern Sinfonia.

The programme features a fabulous mix of skilled performances with resonant themes of home, belonging, freedom, resistance, luck and hope explored through poetry, jazz, film, spoken word and film shorts at diverse venues.

Highlights include Northern Stage’s production of An Indian Abroad (Saturday 20th) – the stereotypical spiritual journey in reverse – written and performed by Pariah Khan, who’s been named by BBC Three as one of the top 50 creative young people in the UK (and who’s rather randomly also a professional wrestling manager!). There’s more music from contemporary jazz pianist Zoe Rahman, who performs alongside Scottish saxophonist Laura Macdonald at The Lit & Phil (Tuesday 16th);  plus poetry and spoken word in Luck & Hope from Mona Arshi, a human rights lawyer turned poet, and award-winning poet Imtiaz Dharker at Culture Lab (Tuesday 16th); and Strictly Spoken bring South Shields’ British Bangladeshi poet Tahmina Begum, Durham-based Prerana Kumar and Newcastle’s Wajid Hussain’s vivid work to Arch Sixteen in Gateshead (Thursday 18th).

In conjunction with the festival, Chai & Chat is a fresh exhibition at Gateshead Central Library which runs from Wednesday 17th July until Saturday 26th October, and will present textile artwork inspired by individual family traditional chai recipes, created by the GVEMSG Women’s Feel Good Group in collaboration with artist Michelle Wood.

Film screenings include the heart-warming story Eaten By Lions at Whitley Bay’s Jam Jar Cinema (Monday 15th); a stunning depiction of the refugee crisis in The Sweet Requiem at Tyneside Cinema (Wednesday 17th); and contemporary South Asian shorts at BALTIC on Friday 19th, featuring work touching on themes of freedom, desire and resistance.

The outdoor finale to Masala Festival is the Mini Mela at Live Theatre’s Live Garden on Sunday 21st, a free event for all the family encompassing Indian drumming, dance, arts and crafts, not to mention the frankly bizarre sounding Elvis’s Bingo Balls – a wonderful storytelling production by Indian Elvis himself, set inside a caravan – plus there’s delicious Indian street food from Dabbawal.

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