There are very few voices that are a combination of force and subtlety - Natasha Baig.....
There are very few voices that are a combination of force and subtlety - Natasha Baig has that voice. Hailing from the scenic valley of Hunza, Baig was an athlete, playing under-19 cricket as an off-spin bowler in district matches. Unable to pursue her passion for sports, Baig turned her attention to music. “I started singing when I was about to leave cricket. I played my final under-19 representing Karachi in 2010 and I used to entertain my team mates by singing songs and used to make them sing along. Even in my childhood when my singing ability was undiscovered, people used to compliment my voice but I never paid attention, until I left sports and was left with nothing but music,” shares Baig.
Huse Madhavji is best known for his roles on HBO Canada’s “Call Me Fitz” and CTV’s hit hospital drama “Saving Hope”. Prior to that, Huse was the face of Star! (now E! Canada) where he sat down with some of the worlds most familiar faces. He now lives in LA, working the stand-up/improv circuit while touring the U.S. as a vocalist for “Stories: Our American Journey”, telling the Ismaili Muslim story in America.
It was already 10 ‘o’ clock at night by the time I wrapped up my conversation with Aziz Jindani. More than three hours had gone by and we both ended up missing appointments. Jindani’s personal journey, and his reasons to get into filmmaking, had ended up being far more involving than most motion pictures.
Jindani is the director, producer and writer of The Donkey King (DK) — an animated film whose premise is literally encapsulated in the title (a ‘donkey’ becomes ‘king’). Unlike other filmmakers (or maybe like every other Pakistani filmmaker), Jindani knows little about the technicalities of screenwriting, or direction. Things just came together like he envisioned, he tells me. It’s probably because he has a very talented director of animation, he adds later.
Afraaz Mulji (19) is a passionate musician and curator, also known as Maestro Mi. After learning across Tanzania, India and Canada, he has played at various world renown venues such as the Roy Thompson Hall and Notre Dam. Vijana FM asked Afraaz five questions.
Two young Ismaili musicians have been making waves on Pakistan's pop music scene, excelling on the most coveted and respected music platforms in the country. Natasha Baig's soulful voice has made a mark on Coke Studio Season 11 while Asfar Hussain's band won this year's Pepsi Battle of the Bands.
I get chills when people say I’m a mini Abida Parveen: Natasha Baig
“Oh my God! You’re a different animal on stage!” exclaimed Ali Hamza, according to Natasha Baig, when he saw a clip of one of her concerts, moments before he and co-producer Zohaib Kazi told her she had been selected for the current season of Coke Studio.
Standing at only 5’1” the singer is a petite person with a big voice. She seems somewhat meek and demure in person, but when she stands in front of a microphone she is completely transformed — every look, gesture, expression perfectly synchronised with her powerhouse vocals, she owns her performance and the audience. And she appears tall, very tall.
After years of struggling, Natasha Baig finally got her big break. She opened the season of the popular music show with a collaboration with Farid Ayaz and Abu Muhammad Qawwal on an improvised version of Allama Iqbal’s Shikwa — she was doing the Shikwa part and she held her own against what is arguably Pakistan’s preeminent qawwal group.
Mohamed Assani- Drishti Awards 2018
BY ISMAILIMAIL POSTED ON OCTOBER 30, 2018
This year’s Drishti Awards gala was held on Friday October 26, 2018 in Surrey, British Columbia. Mohamed Assani was awarded Drishti Awards for ‘Innovation in Arts’ for his years of innovative body of work and enduring contribution to Arts.
Mohamed shared this joyous news with his fans and well wishers on his FB page
“Happy and honoured to receive the Drishti Award for ‘Innovation in Arts’ on Friday. I am very grateful to a community around me who offers so much support and encouragement. Thanks to the whole Drishti Awards team and Nawal Tandon Sahab.”
“Explorations of the Absurd” by Afraaz Mulji
BY ISMAILIMAIL POSTED ON NOVEMBER 7, 2018
The highest attainment this album seeks to inspire, is the ultimate liberation and enlightenment that occurs when you simply “let go”. When you Abandon all attachments and then simply exist in a sacred space. A space which provides total freedom and safety for the experiments and explorations I undertook. I hope the music allows you to find and exist in this safe space. A space of Infinite possibilities.
“Explorations of the Absurd: Proceed with Gusto, Panache, Abandon.” is an Album which seeks to articulate a beautiful, strange, wilful reality which is the product of Mulji’s imagination. The album is not totally a work of fiction however, it seeks to express a perspective of wonder generated from the pursuit of artistic endeavour which derives from the sheer joy of living a life of constant search and pursuing spiritual freedom.
Afraaz is gearing up for a workshop titled ” The Art of Improving and Creative Freethinking” that he will conduct for Dar-es-Salaam Jamat in November of 2018. This initiative is supported by ITREB and IYSC. He will also be guest speaking at University of Dar-es-Salaam on November 15, 2018 on the topic of “How to listen: Bearing witness to the struggles of the Human condition”
Hussein Janmohamed is a dynamic choral conductor, composer and community music educator. He has performed with some of Canada's finest choirs including Chor Leoni Men's Choir, Laudate Singers, and the National Youth Choir of Canada. Hussein is recognized as a leader in choral music for community building, cultural development and inspirational leadership. He is the co-founder of the Vancouver & Canadian Ismaili Muslim Youth Choirs. He has conducted choirs for audiences across Canada and in the presence of His Highness the Aga Khan and Governor General Adrienne Clarkson. Hussein's choral compositions, which have been premiered by eminent choirs, reflect a diversity of expression inspired by the Muslim world.
November 5th, 2011. University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Filmed by Craig Ross: Video edited by David Ng
In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)
Rizwan Manji is best known for playing Rajiv, the hysterically officious, scheming assistant manager of a call center in the NBC comedy OUTSOURCED, part of the network’s prestigious Thursday night comedy lineup. This groundbreaking TV show was the first American sitcom to be based in India and feature a predominantly Indian cast. Rizwan has also appeared on many popular TV shows including GLEE, ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA, ANOTHER PERIOD, WITHOUT A TRACE, 24, NCIS, BONES, PRIVIL EGED, and BETTER OFF TED. Other memorable credits include THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, THE DICTATOR, TRANSFORMERS, and the critically acclaimed film PATERSON. Currently, Rizwan can be seen on the Pop TV sitcom SCHITT’S CREEK, SyFy’s THE MAGICIANS, USA’s MR. ROBOT and ROB RIGGLE’S SKI MASTER ACADEMY.
NEW MUSIC! Really excited to share a new collaboration with you, "Chehra Tera" - my first full track in Hindi! The journey for this song began many months ago to express that which cannot always be said in words.
Ali Maula - Kurbaan | Salim Sulaiman Live | Jubilee Concert Mumbai
This is the live version of one of our most special songs ‘Ali Maula’ from the film ‘Kurbaan’, that we performed at the Jubilee Concert held in Mumbai on the 3rd of March, 2018. Also featuring Raj Pandit, Sattar Khan, Vipul Mehta & Nobovar.
Music: Salim - Sulaiman
Lyrics: Irfan Siddiqui
Singers: Salim Merchant, Vipul Mehta, Raj Pandit, Sattar Khan, Nobovar (Tajikistan)
Mixed & Mastered by: Aftab Khan at Blue Productions
Nimet was born in Nairobi, Kenya and began acting on stage with the local theatre company. She emigrated to Vancouver, Canada in 1989 where she continued to work on stage. She began her career in film and TV in 2001 and has had the pleasure of working with Edward James Olmos (Battlestar Galactica), Kevin Sorbo (Paradox), and John Cusack (Martian Child).
Awarded 'The Peoples Choice Award' for her theatrical performance in the one woman show 'The Yellow Wallpaper'.
Sterling Award nomination for Best Ensemble Cast in Heather Raffo's "9 Parts of Desire " (Stage). 
Jessie Award nomination for Best Actor in Anusree Roy's "Sultans of the Street " (Stage). 
Walid Ehssan – HEARTist: Bonne Anniversaire Hazar Imam
BY ISMAILIMAIL POSTED ON DECEMBER 9, 2018
Bonne Anniversaire Mawlana Hazir Imam
I saw a little flower blossoming in the harsh winter and it was as if I saw You
I saw a piece of glass in the sun, twinkling like the brightest star and I thought of You
I felt a gentle breeze over my face and I felt You
Thank you for being ever present
Written Fami Faani
Thanks Samira Sultani Fawad Saadat Ehssan Fawad
Thank you Hussein Janmohamed and all the Ismaili musicians from around the world for such a Soulful music
Adil Amirali Jivani from Gujarat, India is a Sales and Marketing professional in the Medical equipments and consumables field. Currently residing in Abu Dhabi for the last 4 years, Adil started singing in his junior year of college in India. Since than, he has participated in many different events within India and overseas. Devoted volunteer within community, Adil teaches Ginan to students of diverse age group. While singing is his passion, he also likes to write Poems.
How Ismaili Artist Romana Kassam's Desire For Christmas Created 'Khumas'
She begged her parents to celebrate Christmas, and they begrudgingly compromised.
A striking portrait of a Muslim woman draped in a red and green shalwar kameez is in full display in a window at Toronto's Metro Convention Centre. The woman stands before an Ismaili flag as salt from two shakers trickles onto her head, almost like a tiny, concentrated snowfall.
"She's an immigrant Muslim woman, dressed up for Khushali," said the artist Romana Kassam. "She's standing very defenceless. The salt represents colonization: the price you pay to fit into a new country, to become part of this multicultural mosaic, which is a beautiful thing but sometimes it can come at a cost. We [immigrants] come here and we're so open and vulnerable, almost like an open wound. And then the "salt" [the overarching North American culture], can seep into our skin and can burn."
Kassam, an Ismaili Toronto-based artist, knows this duality all too well. And her artwork, which she was commissioned to paint by a local agency to auction off to raise money for the Daily Bread Food Bank in Toronto, is a full circle moment for Kassam.
Born to Ismaili parents who immigrated from Tanzania in the 1970s, Kassam spent her early upbringing in Thorncliffe Park, an east Toronto neighbourhood with a predominant Ismaili community. Ismailis are Shia Muslims who live in over 25 countries, scattered across the globe.
Kassam felt very comfortable in Thorncliffe Park, where she was surrounded by familiar faces and could easily speak Kachi, her parent's mother tongue, which is a Gujarati dialect.
A young Romana Kassam getting ready to perform at the Thorncliffe Khushali Variety show in 1989.
"We felt safe in Thorncliffe," she said. "All of our neighbours were Ismailis. There was a mall across from us and going there felt like going to Jamatkhana [a place of worship for Ismailis]."
She and other Ismaili children would learn cultural traditions and dances such as Raas, or Dandiya Raas, a traditional folk dance from Gujarat and Rajasthan India that were hosted inside her public school after hours.
She would perform these dances during annual Khushali celebrations — the most important day of the Ismaili calendar year.
Khushali is the celebration of the birthday of the Ismaili communities' living Imam, His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan. Every December 13th, Ismailis gather in a Jamatkhana (colloquially known as Khane) to celebrate the Aga Khan.
"We'd put on our fanciest clothes and everyone would congregate in their respective Khane," said Kassam. "We'd put on a variety show, dance Dandiya Raas and eat biriyani and cake, and drink sharbat and chai. It was the one time of the year that you knew everyone in the community was going to make an appearance."
From left to right, Romana Kassam and her twin sister Shezin Kassam are dressed and ready to celebrate Khushali in 1986.
But that all changed when she was seven years old and her family moved to Markham, Ont., a suburb north of Toronto that lacked the same diversity as Thorncliffe Park in the early 1980s.
Kassam said she was one of two ethnic kids in her class in Markham, which was a very isolating experience.
"I felt different, I felt the contrast. I went from being able to speak my language in class to no one being able to relate to Kachi," said the artist. "The only other ethnic girl in my class became my best friend."
And it was here where Kassam's desire to fit in prompted her to implore her parents to celebrate Christmas — something the family had not done previously.
"In Grade 2, when we moved to Markham, everyone was celebrating Christmas," said the now 34-year-old. "I begged my parents to buy me a Christmas tree. We needed to have the tree to belong.
She said her parents were rather reluctant to give into her Christmas wishes, but compromised by buying her and her twin sister a tiny desktop tree. The decorations had to be red and green, which are the colours of the Ismaili flag, noted Kassam.
Their family's new tradition, begrudgingly celebrated by her parents, turned into "Khumas" — an amalgamation of Christmas and Khushali. Her parents agreed to put up Christmas lights, but only in red and green colours, and their "Khumas" tree would go up on Dec. 1 and be taken down after Khushali on Dec.13.
Romana Kassam ready for Khushali in 1990.
"Our Khushali gifts were given to us by 'Mowla Bapa' [a devotional term referencing the Aga Khan] and not Santa, but were wrapped in Christmas paper. And we'd be allowed to open them on Dec. 13 every year," she said. "When kids at school would ask what I got for Christmas, I wouldn't tell them I opened my gifts on Dec. 13 and that we didn't celebrate Christmas. I just wanted to fit in."
She spent those first years in Markham still attending Khane and performing traditional dances. But as she transitioned into her teen years, her desire to fit in and honour her own developing tastes and personality grew, and she found that celebrating her ethnic culture and traditions started to weigh on her.
More from HuffPost Canada:
Happy Khushali: A Celebration of 57 Years of Imamat (Religious Leadership) of His Highness, the Aga Khan.
6 Post-Ramadan Lessons From A Pair Of Mediocre Muslims
'Born And Raised' Podcast: How Food Shapes 2nd-Generation Canadians' Identities
"By Grade 8, I didn't want to wear Indian clothes and or do the dances. I was into hip hop and R&B by then," she said. "As I got older, I rebelled. One year, I staged a coup during Khushali and brought other kids with me to dance to [the hip-hop song] 'No Diggity.' We wore baggy clothes, and dark lipstick, the whole nine."
During those years, Kassam struggled to identify where she belonged. Her family would celebrate Khushali and she'd rush home from school to get ready for those celebrations if Dec. 13 fell on a week day. But then her school would break for two weeks at Christmas — which her family didn't celebrate. It didn't seem right to her.
"I remember feeling so bored on Christmas Day because we didn't celebrate," she said. "But then when my cultural celebrations would take place, we'd have to rush home from school to attend all the festivities. We didn't get time off school. I remember feeling so annoyed. Like, did we even matter in this country?"
Romana Kassam standing next to her art work outside the Toronto Metro Convention Centre on Khushali on Dec. 13, 2018.
Now an adult, Kassam has grown to realize that she does in fact matter to this country, while also understanding the importance of Khushali and her culture and identity.
"While I recognize the need to belong, I also know now the importance of honouring my own traditions and culture," said Kassam. "Unlike in the '70s and '80s when our parents first immigrated, when we were willing to do whatever it took to fit in, our stories are now finally being profiled, our traditions are being acknowledged, and it's our responsibility to honour and share it. So now, I celebrate Khushali as Khushali and that's good enough. More than good enough."
Listen: Our podcast, "Born & Raised: Food," tells stories of food and family from second-gen Canadians. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts. Story continues below.
Joelysa’s original scores have been celebrated in theatres across Canada for over a decade. As a composer, musical director and percussionist, her versatile abilities have taken her into the worlds of theatre, film, animation, and more recently, writing her own musicals.
In the realm of theatre, Joelysa’s unique composing and musical directing style have earned her multiple awards and nominations for a variety of categories ranging from Outstanding Composition, Best New Play and Outstanding Artistic Achievements. A seasoned professional in her field, Joelysa has musical directed casts of up to 150 members and composed original scores for over 30 productions, most of which she also musical directed.
In the realms of film and animation, Joelysa was recently nominated for a Leo Award for her score for the dramatic short Hop The Twig that won CBC’s Short Film Face Off (5th season). One of her more recent string scores for documentary film is featured in the stunning Cry Rock, by Smayaykila Films that continues to tour film festivals across Canada and the United States.
Throughout her career, Joelysa has earned the reputation of a prolific composer with the ability to weave her own whimsical and melancholic sound into any genre of music she tackles. Always on the lookout for exciting challenges, Joelysa’s newest musical is currently in development (with generous support from the Canada Council).
Rihla: from Roots to Dreams entertains audiences across Canada
Audience members at Calgary’s Jack Singer Concert Hall were taken on a musical journey as Rihla: from Roots to Dreams completed its cross-Canada performance tour on 21 December 2018.
The show, featuring four main elements – dance, music, drama, and film – was based on the Canadian Ismaili community's journey from Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah’s Diamond Jubilee in 1946 to Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee in 2017.
Rihla: from Roots to Dreams made stops in Ottawa, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, and Edmonton from September to December, before the finale in Calgary.
“I literally Googled, ‘What’s the word for journey in Arabic,’ and Rihla came up,” said producer-director Azim Keshavjee, explaining how he and the team came up with its title.
In order to explore the Canadian Jamat’s movement from where it was in 1946 to where they have settled today, one of the challenges faced by the show’s creators was how best to capture the inherent and wide diversity that exists within the community.
Featuring performances including Tajik, East African, and South Asian dances, Farsi, Swahili, Indian, and English songs, Rihla overcame the challenge, tying it all together with an entertaining storyline in which the audience follows along on Laila’s countdown to 11 July 2017.
Laila, a young Canadian Ismaili, has been asked to sing for the Jamat on 11 July, and struggles with the choice of pursuing her passion. Her husband Karim, a converted Ismaili, and her hilarious nanimaa (grandmother) both urge her to pursue her dreams. Meanwhile her Afghan Ismaili friend Farahnaz and her family reminisce about their own harrowing journey to the country they now call home.
Zaheed Damani, Rihla’s playwright and director of multimedia, spoke about the creative process behind the show.
“It really was a journey of discovery,” Damani explained. “We grew, we got ideas from the artists themselves, and it naturally evolved until we had this, which really is a representation of the Jamat.”
Alongside Keshavjee and Damani, Rihla’s creative team also included Shereen Ladha, Al-Waez Karim Dewji, Munir Boodhwani, and Sophia Virani.
“We started with three objectives,” Damani said. “We were hoping the production would inspire gratitude for being Canadian, pride for being Ismaili, and an unflinching belief that the Imam’s hand has always been on our shoulder.”
Damani has been amazed by the feedback he and the Rihla team have received on the show so far.
“Many commented that it was one particular video clip, word, picture, single note or dance move that really took them back,” he said.
“The message we keep getting is ‘you brought us back and we experienced things we never thought the Jamat went through’.”
Damani also explained that Rihla: from Roots to Dreams is by no means the conclusion of the journey for the Jamat.
“At the end of the show we say this is a journey we are continuing to write together,” Damani explained, looking to the future.
“Sixty years from now, what we are doing today is Inshallah what our families and friends are going to reflect back on, so we have a responsibility to continue bearing that torch and that light that has been given to us.”
Sitting with a celebrated musician, talking about his journey and listening to his experiences can be an exhilarating/ electrifying experience in itself. From being an inspiration to many to talking about his previous hits and giving his take on different genres of music, presenting A. R. Rahman being completely candid and i conversation with me.
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