The Association for the Development of Interest in The Indian Subcontinent performed to a packed house this weekend, thrilling audiences with their 17th annual performance of Mela. One of the most highly anticipated cultural events on campus, Mela offered an entertaining combination of traditional Southeast Asian culture with a modern sense of humor.

One of the afternoon’s more traditional offerings was a piece performed by Jawwad Noor on the sitar and Miskat Bhattacharya on the tabla, both graduate students. The tabla are traditional drums and the sitar is a 18-20 stringed instrument. Their improvisation skills were impressive as they played in a call-and-answer style. Sarena Virdee, a high school student from Hornell, NY added her musical talents to the event by bravely singing a rendition of Dheeme Dheeme, a hit song from the movie Zubeidaa.

The film clips between the on-stage acts help the event transition smoothly from one act to another, and are part of what makes Mela such a professional production. The skits, such as one about a teaching assistant translator that allowed students to understand TAs with thick accents, poke fun at Southeast Asian culture in a way that is humorous and accessible to everyone in the audience.

This year’s performance had more live skits than there were in past years. One skit was titled “Desi Idol,” a take on the popular talent show American Idol. The first two groups of contestants were spoofs of popular singers. The final group, junior Darius Salko and senior John Harris, initially appeared as though they would do something humorous as well. They then launched into a rendition of “Ek Ladki Ko Dekha” from the popular Indian movie “1942: A Love Story.” Salko really impressed the audience with his efforts to sing in Hindi.

This year there was a definite increase in the number of non-Southeast Asian students who took part in the afternoon’s events. This is a testimony to the popularity of Mela on campus, and is a good way for ADITI to teach others about the cultures it represents.

The heart of Mela’s acts are the dance performances. Incorporating a variety of styles and music that ranges from traditional folk rhythms to modern hip-hop, the dances allow performers to demonstrate the range of influences that exist within ADITI. Mela’s finale was a performance by Shera Vargi Jaan, UR’s nationally ranked bhangra team. Bhangra is a high energy style of folk dance that always electrifies the crowd. Bright costumes and impressive acrobatics combined to create a show-stopping ending to the afternoon’s events.

Mela sold out Strong Auditorium for the third year in a row, and this was the first year that all tickets were pre-sold with none available at the door. ADITI also sold out the catered dinner after the performance.

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