When Mad March begins in February

It’s been an art-soaked few weeks for the culture vulture

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The Fringe in Adelaide began with a bang on Feb 15 with the traditional street parade and lots of shows, night markets and of course, the fabulous light show, the Gathering of Light! This year I did my round of the Garden (Garden of Unearthly Delights, to the uninitiated) with friends taking in the sights and sounds that make up this delightful space. We took in a few shows at random in various venues, watched some fantastic international musicians busking in the Mall, and admired some of the street art that explodes on our buildings and streetscapes during this time.

Counting and Cracking

Within a couple of weeks, the Adelaide Festival began on the 1st of March. An excellent play by a Sydney Theatre Group, Counting and Cracking, was the only Indian show I saw. And was worth watching. At the same time, there was the Adelaide Writers’ Week the first week of March that I totally missed. But if I had known Sohaila Abdulali and Soraya Chemaly were presenting, perhaps I would have made more of an effort… Maybe because we had some fantastic Indian writers and performers in October for Jaipur Literature Festival as part of Oz Asia, we didn’t get many Indian artistes again now.
But local Indian dancers, singers, musicians, comedians had their own shows in the Fringe and it shows how confidently our artistes are moving forward in this area. Showcasing either traditional Indian art or finding fusion elements and mixing different cultures and traditional arts to come up with a new music or dance, it is all happening!
The Palais was another gorgeous venue on the River Torrens where we danced Indian to western music last year! This year, my daughters went to enjoy their first international music show at this beautiful venue. Frankly, being restrained with so much going on is very difficult in Adelaide!
A week into the Fringe, our annual Indian Mela was happening much earlier than it usually is. But venue had changed… and what a venue it was! Outdoors in Victoria Square, the day and especially, the evenings were magical! With almost the whole spectrum of Indian dance portrayed on stage, interspersed with music and workshops and, of course, surrounded by food and arts and crafts and other shops, it was truly a Mela experience. And a wonderful two nights of dance, music and feasting. The heart of Adelaide was filled with the sounds and smells of India and people couldn’t get enough!
On March 2nd, the classical music lovers got a real treat in the form of Thyagaraja Aradhana organised by Shruthi Adelaide. The Rangan Brothers from Melbourne joined local singers in the offering of homage to the great composer Saint Thyagaraja with the rendition of his Pancharatna Krithis, children rendering a few easier krithis and then, a beautiful concert by Rangan brothers!
But the best day I had in all this festival madness was on March 8, International Women’s Day. I was invited to the IWD Breakfast and listened to two fantastic speakers, Jane Caro and Senator Penny Wong. I was shocked to learn that women 50+ were the largest growing homeless people in Australia and got a logical reason for why even though a generation of women have been out and working, we still do not have financial independence or as much savings or superannuation as men. Penny Wong was a pleasure to talk to and I even got to say hello to Bill Shorten.
Then I had the pleasure of going to a very special opening of Womadelaide on the Friday morning before the 4-day event officially began in the evening. A wonderful Aboriginal welcome, performances by a Mexican group, a South African group and Swedish comedians with speeches by politicians and festival organisers was a great opening to be part of!
I had lunch with a couple of Taiwanese Womad performers and then spent most of the afternoon with a lady with a disability.
That evening I was able to catch only a little bit of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan performing with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra but did enjoy the Aboriginal Women’s Choir and Janis Claxton’s Dance, other bits and pieces on various stages and stayed on late for Christine & The Queens. Wonderful show! Womad is really something to be experienced – hard to describe the sounds, the reverberating music, the enthralling performances and just the whole atmosphere!
That long weekend Adelaide also had Nilooferji, an exponent of Vedanta presenting several excellent talks on Values, Sri Rudram and Renunciation. She is a wonderful speaker, explaining highly philosophical Advaita Vedanta tenets with clarity and precision in simple language. Always a pleasure to listen to.
A special event I went to was a book release of Mughals of India by Dr Satish Gupta. No, not a historical novel, it is a work of fiction set in India and boldly dealing with corruption at all levels. The book was released by Vickie Chapman, the deputy Premier of South Australia and Attorney General who gave a very well informed speech while releasing the book.
Before the Fringe and Adelaide Festival ended on 17 March, I did catch the fantastic light show on the River Torrens and went around town just absorbing the atmosphere and little free shows. As well as some Holi enjoyment! Best time to be had in Adelaide… and now to breathe a sigh of relief as we wait for next year’s Mad March! Which will probably be Madder!

Vinaya Rai
Vinaya Rai
Vinaya Rai is a counsellor by profession with interests in writing, radio, emcee'ing, organising and attending events.

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