About the Founder
Founder and CEO
The jane of all trades, Heena assumes a range of roles including cultural consultant, curator, booking agent, artist manager, teaching artist, and advocate for diversity and equity in the performing arts on and off stage. A sanitation engineer turned tabla player and performing arts entrepreneur, she started off in the arts as a dancer and choreographer of Indian dance, and most recently turned producer and artistic director of the dance-live music-multimedia show Bollywood Boulevard and immersive dance experience Garba360. Originally from Toronto, Canada, Heena now splits her time between North America and India. Through MELA, Heena seeks to foster partnerships to create meaningful cross-cultural experiences, help artists build sustainable careers and use the arts to build greater equity.
Heena is an APAP Leadership Fellow, ISPA Global Fellow, board member for NAPAMA (North American Performing Arts Manager and Agents), and member of WOCA (Women of Color in the Arts) and Women In Music.
How we got here
Phase 1: In House Productions
MELA Arts Connect draws its roots from Rhythm Riders Music Productions – the production house and management company for creations by rhythm meastro Pandit Divyang Vakil and his son and world music composer Rushi Vakil. Affiliated with Pandit Vakil’s music institute – Rhythm Riders Music Institute in Ahmedabad, the company promoted Indian classical arts through performance and education. While the Vakils created high-quality accessible performances of Indian arts, contemporary and classical, the business head Heena Patel worked to build sustainable performing careers for the artists, honing her expertise as a manager, booking agent, and marketer.
Rhythm Riders’ first artist was contemporary classical tabla ensemble Talavya. In the process of growing the band’s presence and career in the United States and Canada, Heena became acutely aware of the hurdles that prevents South Asian performing arts from being as widely represented as they could be in the international marketplace – setting the stage for phase 2 of the company.
Phase 2: Expansion of Services and New Avatar
Building on its ongoing collaborative efforts to promote Indian arts and world music, by 2014, Rhythm Riders began to more formally expand its booking and management roster, while also working with US and Canadian presenters to grow their programming of performing arts of the Indian subcontinent (finding the right artists for their needs) and matching a larger network of artists to the rights gigs, including performances for South Asian organizations and Indian weddings. In 2015, in light of the larger mission and changed goals of the organization, Rhythm Riders became MELA Arts Connect – a cultural connector and consultants for South Asian performing arts and culture.