MELA Recommends | New York City Summer 2017

It’s the first day of summer and summer in New York City means even more performing arts! When it’s summer in the Big Apple, there really is NO excuse not to see show or attend a concert, especially when there are plenty of options that are outdoors (so you can enjoy that sun) and free.

This summer, we’re especially excited because we feel it’s a landmark summer for South Asian performing arts! Not only is there a great diversity in forms, but South Asian artists and art forms are being presented on MAJOR (by that we mean nationally and internationally recognized) stages across the city. These factors coupled with the fact that New York City is our company’s backyard, here is the first edition MELA Recommends – our suggestions on some cool South Asian performances you shouldn’t miss.  Whether you are in the mood for Bollywood, bhangra, theatre, or Indian classical dance – we’ve got you covered! It’s important to note that this list is by no means comprehensive, but rather a look at the some of the many options for you in NYC this summer. 


Brooklyn Raga Massive Tribute to John and Alice Coltrane at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn Festival
Friday June 23, 2017 at 7:30pm. Prospect Park Bandshell, 9th Street & Prospect Park West, Brooklyn, NY. Free admission. Website

Brooklyn based music collective Brooklyn Raga Massive opens for Pharoah Sanders with their raga-inspired take on the music of John and Alice Coltrane.


 CRASH by Pamela Sinha
July 21 – 23 at 7pm as part of Soulpepper’s New York Festival. The Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street, New York, NY. Tickets $20 – $30.

Pamela was a part of the heart-wrenching play Nirbhaya and based on the reviews of CRASH, it looks like this award-winning work is no less powerful.

Brimful of Asha Ravi JainBrimful of Asha by Ravi Jain
July 25 – July 29 (times vary) as part of Soulpepper’s New York Festival. The Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street, New York, NY. Tickets $20 – $65. Buy tickets here. More details.

Canadian actor-director Ravi Jain’s funny and heartwarming play Brimful of Asha is coming to the Big Apple! If you liked seeing Aziz Ansari’s non-actor parents in Master of None, I’m sure you’ll love seeing Asha Aunty (Ravi’s mom – who we’ve never met and are not related to, but of course we’re going to call her Aunty) in this two-person show where mother and son tell their sides of the story of trying to get Ravi to agree to an arranged marriage during a trip to India.


August is when things get BUSY, so make space on your calendars!

Bollywood Boulevard at Lincoln Center Out of Doors
Panel Discussion – Tuesday August 1, 2017 at 7pm. Film Society of Lincoln Center, 144 West 65th Street, New York, NY. Free admission.
Performance – Thursday August 3, 2017 at 7:30pm. Damrosch Park, 62nd Street, between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues, New York, NY. Free admission. More details

Bollywood Boulevard Lincoln CenterBollywood Boulevard has it’s world premiere at Lincoln Center Out of Doors. Through Bollywood’s iconic music and dance, the show traces the journey of Hindi cinema through time from the first Indian film (Raja Harichandra in 1913) to today. Live music, dance, and multimedia come together in this international collaboration between creatives in the US and India. It promises to be a fun-filled evening that’ll take you down memory if you’re a lifelong Bollywood fan and/or introduce you to Bollywood’s greats if you are a newer fan. Experience the exuberance, color, and romance of Bollywood on one of New York’s most iconic stages!

The show is coupled with a panel discussion India’s Identities through Bollywood Cinema with expert filmmakers, journalists, and academics to explore how Bollywood cinema represents India’s various identities and how that storytelling can continue to evolve and include all Indians.  The panel is presented in conjunction with and curated by India Center Foundation. 

Basement Bhangra DJ RekhaBasement Bhangra’s 20th Anniversary at SummerStage NYC
Sunday August 6, 2017 from 2-7pm at SummerStage. Rumsey Playfield, Central Park, New York, NY. Free admission. More details.

DJ Rekha and Basement Bhangra are an institution in South Asian cultural life and the NYC club scene. So much is owed to her and her role in making bhangra part of popular culture and creating a space where people of all backgrounds could get together and dance it out to desi music. On August 6th, Basement Bhangra has it’s swan song – celebrating 20 years and saying good-bye on one of the biggest outdoor stages in New York City – SummerStage.  This 5 hour party features an impressive line-up of artists alongside DJ Rekha including Apache Indian, Punjabi MC, and Madame Gandhi and could not be a more apt way to say farewell and await DJ Rekha’s next chapter.

Erasing Borders: Festival of Indian DanceViraja Shyam Bharatanatyam
August 13 – 15. Pace University and Wagner Park, New York, NY.  Workshops and Indoor Concert are tickets, outdoor performance is free. More details including full schedule.

A staple in the NYC classical dance scene, Erasing Borders: Festival of Indian Dance by the Indo-American Arts Council returns for its 2017 edition which includes a day of dance workshops and indoor evening performances at Pace University as well as an evening of outdoor performances as part of Battery Park Dance Festival – New York’s longest-running free public dance festival. Erasing Borders has brought gifted artists and lesser-known Indian dance forms (predominantly classical forms) to its stages and this year is no different. Some of the artists we are looking forward to seeing include Shruthi Mohan (Mohiniattam), Kalamandir Dance (contemporary Indian), and Viraja and Shyamjith Kiran (Bharatanatyam).

Drive East
August 21 – 27, 2017. Dixon Place, 161A Christie St., New York, NY. Ticket prices vary. See the full schedule and buy tickets.

A summer of South Asian performing arts in New York City can’t be complete without Drive East – a weeklong festival of Indian classical dance and music by Navatman that aims to brings Chennai’s December Season to the Big Apple. The festival features over 20 performances by over 50 artists in 7 days. The festival features not only traditional presentations, but also include a couple of cross-cultural performances. Our top picks include Jin Won and Sue Yeon Park (kathak witth korean drumming and dance), Ustad Aashish Khan (sarode), Sujata Mohapatra (Odissi), and Navatman Music Collective (carnatic choir).

There is so much diversity in the types of South Asian performances taking place in New York City this summer. We encourage to take advantage of all this great programming. There are many other events around, so don’t limit yourself with just this list. Take a risk to see something new and take a friend with you!

Comment below and let us know if there is something that you think should have been on this list. If you go to any of these performances, we’d love to know what you thought!

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