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India West Newspaper, May 3rd, 2002

"Ahimsa Music tour Celebrates Non-Violence, Sikh Heritage "

"SAN FRANCISCO - "The more people see each other's cultures, the more we all realize how similar our cultures are," Vijay Chattha, organizer of the Ahimsa Music tour here last week told India-West.
   Chatta and organizers Tejas Patel, Prem Kumta and Nihal Mehta kept this realization in mind as they hosted the all-day eclectic music, film, and dance event at the Sony Metreon April 21.
   Hundreds of young hip music, film, and dance enthusiasts from all backgrounds turned out to support the cause of non-violence in the face of hate crimes. As people streamed in and out of the day-long even, deep grooves played in the background as people mingled, etc., and enjoyed the sun and open dance floor.
   The 'Global Sight & Sound: South Asia' event was a collaboration of the Ahimsa Music Tour and the Smithsonian Sikh Project, which brought together an abundance of live performances by such artists as DJ Cheb I Sabbah, Vertigo, DJ Janaka, and Lal Singh Bhatti, among others, who came together to promote the philosophies of peace, non-violence and understanding.
   "We chose the name ahimsa for what it means in the Buddhist and Jain traditions, which is the philosophy of non-violence," Mehta told India-West.
   "A lot of people since Sept. 11 needed money immediately in the wake of the backlash, and this [the Ahimsa Music Tour] was a good way to raise it," said Chattha.
The Ahimsa Fund, the blanket organization of the music tour bearing the same name, essentally has five goals and causes involving the battle against hate crimes. The organization aims to help in the development of a memorial to Balbir Singh Sodhi, the Sikh gas station owner slain in the aftermath of Sept. 11 in Mesa, AZ,; to help the family of Waquar Hasan, who was also shot to death the same day in Dallas, TX.; to rase money to launch the Smithsonian Silk Heritage Project in Washington, D.C.; and to investigate other aspects of awareness for the South Asian community.
   As the young faces in the crowd proved, the new generation of SouthAsian Americans, who are coming of age now, seemed much more open to one another than the first wave of immigrants in the 60s aand 70s. Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains -- they all mingled together comfortably, notiing their differences while embracing their similarites and celebrating the collective experiences of being South Asian in America.
   "This tour has really become a platform for us to learn more about South Asian culture," said Chattha. "We're all exposed to one another's heritages," he added.
   The organizers are open-minded abou t who they showcase in their shows. Although the majority of musicians are South Asian, there are other people and cultures represented as well, such as the Capoeira USA dance troupe, a group of dancers who study the old Brazilian tradition of self-defense through the art of dance.
Another motivation behind the Ahimsa Fund's work is to be able to give up and coming musicians a place and a stage to be heard, and Chattha says he would like to convert this music tour to a record label.
   "We want to creat a similar platform here in the U.S. that Talvin Singh has created in the U.K., and right now, Indian culture happens to be in," Chattha told India-West.
As Chattha, Mehta, Patel and Kumta look ahead, they hope to continue creating visibility for South Asians in the music industry while promoting the philosophies that the organization was founded on.
   "There was a need for something like this -- we're looking forward to going on to L.A., New York and other cities," said Chattha. "We want to make Ahimsa Music Tour a household name," he added."

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