I’ve recently realized that I’ve not engaged with local South Asian arts and culture to the extent that I had back home in New York City. Nearly 9% of Singaporeans and permanent residents trace their ancestry, wholly or in part, to the Indian Subcontinent.* Among cities, Singapore has one of the largest overseas South Asian populations. (South Asians constitute only 3.8% of New York City’s population.)
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To rectify this oversight, on Saturday afternoon, I checked out “En Anubhavam: My Inspirational Journey,” a 90-minute recital featuring distinguished Singaporean classical dancers and musicians. The performance was one of many held during the Esplanade’s 10th anniversary weekend, Dedicated to You, a celebration of the arts and artists in Singapore. Aravinth Kumarasamy, Managing and Creative Director of Apsara Arts and Artistic Director of En Anubhavan, invited five bharatnatyam dancers and three Caranatic vocalists to reflect on their inspirations. The show was incredibly cohesive despite the variety of voices. I, of course, had my favorites: Bo Shambo, a booming vocal solo by Sushma Somasekharan; Chinnan Chiru Kiliye, a minimalistic dance solo in remembrance of her mother, by Roshni Pillay Kesavan; and a thillana, an abstract, pure dance which highlighted the beauty and peculiar characteristics of kuchipudi, by Shantha Ratii.
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Did you catch one or more of this weekend’s dance, music, or theatre performances?
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* The Singapore Department of Statistics defines “Indian” as a “race.” My understanding is that individuals who may trace their ancestry to the modern-day countries of Sri Lanka or Pakistan are “counted” as “Indian.” Additionally, “Indians” in Singapore are defined in terms of nationality and residency status. “Indian Singaporeans,” or “local Indians” are locally-born second, third, fourth, and even fifth generation descendants of immigrants from South Asia. In addition, a significant percentage of migrant workers here are from South Asia. They seem to be referred to by their nationality, e.g. “Bangladeshis” or “Sri Lankans.” “Indian nationals” or “Indian Indians” refer to Indian citizens. There is also a not insignificant number of South Asians from other diasporas who have made their home in Singapore… like me! (The Singapore Department of Statistics does not have information about those who are not “Singapore residents,” defined as both Singapore citizens and Permanent Residents. Indeed, in the brilliant Encyclopedia of the Indian Diaspora, editors note that “(o)fficial figures for workers on temporary contracts are difficult to obtain because the Ministry of Manpower in Singapore considers the information sensitive.”)