By Surekha Vijh
NEW YORK: It was a youth, a student and a desi show, illuminating the stage with an unbeatable energy and enthusiasm.
Hundreds of students from the different US states participated and perfumed ethnic dances, including bhangra, dandia, kuchipudi and bhartnatyam, along with modern hip hop to raise funds for varied charitable causes.
Representatives from more than 25 different universities supported Karisma, an annual charity dance showcase in New York City.
The star attraction of the show was a youth sensation, Arjun Kumaraswamy, known by his stage name Arjun, lit up the Karisma charity show. The auditorium echoed with his songs, everybody singing along with him. Many waited to get a photo with him.
British singer-songwriter, record producer Arjun performed his popular songs including ‘Kolaveri.’ He shot to fame through his online musical performances and became popular by following an R&B cover version of “Why This Kolaveri Di.” An uploaded version on YouTube, the song received million of views.
Arjun, a Sri Lankan-born Tamil, has a degree in architect but hose music and won the Best Urban Act at the 2012 UK Asian Music Awards. Playing the role of Luke Lewis in new online drama “Steffi,” Arjun was chosen by Anirudh Ravichander to perform the song in the movie Vanakkam Chennai.
“I’m delighted to be in New York City and performing for a great cause and also for desis,” said Arjun. “It’s wonderful to see how music brings us all together,” he added.
Karisma co-founder Meenakshi Krishna, a medical student at Harvard and a past captain of Harvard’s Bhangra team, who started it five years ago with Sonia Joshi felt it allowed them to combine their love for the arts and community service.
Starting off as a local talent show with a budget of $500 and a fundraising goal of $3000 to last year where they raised over $20,000. In 2011, they made a service trip to Nepal and Delhi and worked with students in rural villages who had limited access to education,
“That was where the motivation for our first Karisma and service initiative came from,” said Meenakshi, a trained bharatnatyam dancer from the age of six by Guru Satya Pradeep.
“Not only do we come together as a community, but at personal levels, our love for dance transcends the individual at this point and becomes an avenue for us to help others.” she added
Last year they raised funds to provide vocational training for women who were victims of domestic violence and abuse in Nepal. Additionally, they also funded a program that installed over 10,000 skylights in rural Nepal.
With many of the students who were being the children of immigrants also came from similar rural conditions in south Asia. Their hope was to do their small part and help light the torch for others.
They are also working for children battling with pediatric cancer and for women who have been victims of domestic violence and various other atrocities.
Their organization was run on volunteer basis, which ranged in age from high school students to graduates.
“We are fortunate to get things easy being the second generation, while our parents really worked hard,’ said Meenakshi.
“Therefore, we all have an ability to give back and to inculcate a sense that dance or singing is not just for competition or for oneself but it is about giving back and creating larger change,” Sonia added.
Meenakshi’s parents Akhilesh Krishna and Kalpana Jain hosted out of state students and performers.
Other parents too felt if students at young age realized that an impact can made in the community and they can do something powerful through the arts, then they may continue to pursue that and the arts in the future.
Normally in many among South Asian families’ arts was not considered lucrative field, however, it was not just through medicine or law but also through the arts, people can use their passions and outlets to help others.
Karisma brought the best South Asian Dance teams from the east coast together on one platform including some who have been featured on Fox Network’s So You Think You Can Dance, NBC Network’s America’s Got Talent including Wanted Aashiqz, Cornell Bhangra and Anakh E Gabroo, NY’s premier Bhangra team. without a competitive platform. They have also been featured by the Indian Television Network (ITV –Gold), the Harvard Crimson, the Harvard Gazette, New England India and other news networks.
Monty Kataria hosted the event. The show was held at Colden Auditorium of Queens College in New York City.