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Review: Big Diwali Party 2013

Wow! Where do I begin to describe this amazing event!  It was a cold and blustery night as I walked up Church Street, but inside the atmosphere was as warm as toast.

The event started at 6.30pm in The Winter Gardens’ stunning Spanish Hall. After finding our table,  which was decorated with a beautiful, intricately decorated Indian lantern, candles and ‘sparkles’, we were provided with complimentary soft drinks and chocolates which had been left on each table; a nice touch.  The relaxing, evocative background music was at just the right volume and set the mood for the evening perfectly. As I sat back and sipped my wine, I looked around the room and was delighted by the sea of shimmering saris, sparkle and the myriad of colours which were a pleasure to behold.

An hour or so into the evening we were invited to go through to The Windsor Room for starters which proved to be a delightful array of dishes I hadn’t even heard of.  All delicious and very moreish.  There was a brief lull in which to savour our food and then the event burst into life with a colourful, lively drum trio.  My friend and I were quite mesmerised by their co-ordination.  One hand was playing a slow beat, the other a very fast one. The next performance was by GHS Temple Ladies who treated us to a display of traditional Indian folk dance.  Again I was awed by their stunning red, green and gold saris.

After this performance, Madvi, our host for the evening, introduced herself and thanked everyone for coming to this non-profit making annual event, which is growing year by year.  She thanked Carl Carrington of the Winter Gardens Trust, who in turn thanked her for all the organisation.  He then went on to tell us that the event has been growing in numbers and said, “this year three hundred in the Spanish Hall, next year six hundred in the Empress.” This was met with thunderous applause from the audience.

Our next performance was Indian Classical Dance which featured excellent dancing along with beautiful song from poignant, evocative voices with dramatic overtones and variation between upbeat and then slow music. Two eleven year old boys entertained us next – their dance was upbeat and modern.  Our host, Madvi, then joined five other dancers in a Bollywood dance performance with stunning costumes once again. This was followed by a sultry, sexy display by three bellydancers.  The gents in particular seemed to enjoy this.

In complete contrast we were then entertained by street dance troupe Frank and Funky.  Many of the young children came to the front to watch them and were totally mesmerised by their upbeat moves.  The non-stop entertainment continued until the delicious aromas wafting from the Windsor Room tempted us in.  Our plates were piled high with scrumptious looking food, and, to my vegetarian friend’s delight, all of the dishes were vegetarian.  Because of the subtle blend of spices, all were all incredibly tasty.

After dinner, the entertainment resumed with a male and female duo singing individually and then as a duo.  They were followed by the popular Bollywood performer Oshin Mehta who sang several numbers from her new album.  Sadly, she didn’t appear to get the interest from the audience that she deserved.  Her voice was amazing, so I can only think that it was because they were new songs that the audience weren’t familiar with.

A big cheer went up when it was announced that our next dancers had had just three hours of training in Bhangra; it didn’t show! They were polished and professional and their routine was fun and fantastic. They received thunderous applause from the audience.  By complete contrast this was followed by Jai Martin, a Phillipino comedienne who appeared clad in shorts and tights with rhinestone suspenders – so different from the elegant saris surrounding us.  She sang Valerie and The One that Got Away.  More stunning outfits and dance performances followed.  Oshin Mehta then returned to the stage and received a warm reception for her exceptional Bhangra routine.

Anticpation mounted when, just around midnight, it was announced that H-Dharmi a British-Indian Bhangra act would be appearing shortly. The audience were encouraged to get up and dance when informed that he wouldn’t appear until everyone was up and dancing.  The expression ‘the place rocked’ was certainly appropriate here as the whole floor was shaking from the gyrations of excited dancers.  There was uproar when he finally appeared on the stage and virtually everyone in the room jumped to their feet to watch him perform.  His voice was fantastic and he performed a lengthy set, much to the delight of the audience.  I particularly enjoyed a Bhangora/Gangnam Style mix to which the audience danced what I could only describe as an Indian version of the Conga.  His lively, energetic performance was the perfect ending to what had been a fantastic evening from start to finish.

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