Joti Singh – San Francisco, CA Artistic Director of Duniya Dance and Drum Company
Joti Singh, Artistic Director of Duniya Dance and Drum Company, is a choreographer of Bhangra from India and dance from Guinea, West Africa. Her project is a dance performance, interweaving choreography with text and music, telling the story of the Ghadar party, founded in 1913 in San Francisco by Punjabi activists to fight for Indian independence from the British. Singh’s great-grandfather was the president of this party from 1914-1920. The performance layers Singh’s experiences as the daughter of immigrants, with the life of her great-grandfather and the fight for independence. The project will draw on Bhangra, as well West African dance technique and incorporate innovative non-traditional pieces.
2013 Festival Weekend One Artist
“Red, Saffron and Green”
“After nearly fifty years in exile in foreign lands, I’m home. I left incognito-under an assumed name to work for freedom. I returned a free man on an Indian ship under its own flag.” –Bhagwan Singh Gyanee
The above quote is by my great-grandfather. He was president of the Ghadar party from 1914-1920. The Ghadar party was formed in San Francisco in 1913 to fight for Indian independence from Great Britain. The centennial of the political party is next year, 2013, and “Red, Saffron and Green,” will be presented in honor of this anniversary.
Gyanee, having become politically active, left India in 1909, wanted dead or alive by the British government for treason. After spending time in Southeast Asia, my great-grandfather arrived in San Francisco in 1914. He went immediately to the Ghadar party headquarters, which was located coincidentally just a few blocks from where I currently reside in San Francisco. He organized for Indian independence from here, writing revolutionary poetry, publishing a newsletter, lecturing and fundraising, and even spent two years in a federal penitentiary in Washington for his involvement in the movement to decolonize India.
The piece explores themes of colonialism, nationalism, immigration and activism. The choreography weaves Bhangra, a harvest dance from Punjab, with Punjabi folk music and theater practices, as well as archival photographs, film and the poetry my great-grandfather wrote, to tell the story of the Ghadar party. Acclaimed singer Ishmeet Narula contributes to the composition of the music and will be singing live in the performance.
“Red, Saffron, and Green,” also delves into the contemporary experiences of Indian-Americans living in San Francisco, and integrates the present into the past. Looking at the present-day struggles against colonialism, the piece incorporates contemporary musical and choreographic elements as well.