Last Friday night, loud Indian music accompanied by shouts and cheers poured out of Battel Chapel. This was the sound of Roshni, a festival celebrating the varying traditions of South Asia through song and dance.
The event, presented by the South Asian Society, involved acts performed by members of the club. Though the event has focused on Indian culture in the past, this year Roshni was expanded to include acts from cultures outside of India , stretching from Nepal to Sri Lanka, said Shirin Ahmed ’12, the president of the South Asian Society. The 13 acts performed at the event ranged from a dance by the classical group Anjali to an a cappella arrangement of the well-known Bollywood song, “Barso Re.” Another act featured was a performance by the Bhangra team, which undertook athletic feats such as using one of its members as a human jump rope.
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“We had the goal of making it a lot bigger, and we wanted to make it more diverse,” Serrena Iyer ’12, the Society’s publicity chair said. “Normally it is very specifically Bollywood dance-focused, but this year we had more of South Asia represented.”
Ahmed said that this year was the largest and most diverse Roshni that she has seen since she was a freshman. The event was moved three years ago from Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona to Battell Chapel to accommodate a larger audience, and the event has since continued to grow, Ahmed said. Arvind Mohand ’14, the society’s freshman liaison, estimated that around 600 of members of the Yale community turned out for the event, which included an assortment of Yale undergrads, parents and professors.
The festival featured a classical Buddhist dance originating in Nepal, songs from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and an act called the multi-lingual act. In the multi-lingual act, four different dances to four different songs — each from a specific region of India — were integrated into one segment. Ahmed said that she was also impressed by the number of non-South Asian Yalies who danced in the show, noting that only one of the four performers in the senior act were of South Asian descent.
“Roshni was diverse in the sense that it was completely opened up to other members of the community, not just South Asians,” Ahmed said.
Another notable act in this year’s Roshni was Yale’s first-ever Hindi a cappella performance, arranged by Reena Esmail MUS ’11.
Most of the a cappella singers had different musical backgrounds — some trained in opera, others in classical Indian music — and none had experience singing a cappella Hindi, Iyer said. She added that though this posed initial challenges, the end result was a success.
“It was really well-received by administration members,” Iyer said. “We think we’re going to create a full on a capella group with rush in the spring — people have already asked us if they can rush the group.”
Overall, the audience’s reaction was positive, and most were struck by the energy of the festival, said Thomas Rokholt ’14, who attended the show on Friday. Isadora Italia ’14, another audience member, said that she loved how the crowd cheered the entire time for their friends.
“The Bhangra team was my favorite,” Italia said. “The costumes were colorful and the energy was incredible. The dance was about 10 minutes long and they remained dedicated the entire time.”
An after party at Indian restaurant Thali Too followed the show. Mohand said he especially enjoyed the after party because it allowed the performers to celebrate along with audience members.
“It was a great way to end the show, with all of the people in the show and all of the people who went to the show,” he said.
The South Asian Society Board meets Mondays at 9 p.m.