Spotlight on South Asia

Amrinder Gill Concert Kicks Off Year of South Asia Events

Punjabi film start, singer and songwriter

Amrinder Gill will perform songs from his latest movie, Lahoriye

Punjabi singer and film star Amrinder Gill will perform in concert Oct. 14 at UC Davis’ Mondavi Center, headlining a wide-ranging series of events this academic year focused on South Asia.

Gill will sing songs from his latest movie, Lahoriye, a tale of two Punjab villages on opposite sides of the Indian-Pakistan border and two young lovers.

The border-crossing theme of Gill’s concert is a thread that runs throughout the 2017–18 series of performances, exhibitions and talks about South Asian arts, culture and history.

The series explores the diversity of the region and its centuries-long influences on the world in a variety of forms—ancient and contemporary, history and imagination, body and spirit, society and culture.

Other shows at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts will feature ancient Sanskrit theater, traditional musical theater of northern India, and a Canadian dance troupe that blends a traditional South Indian dance form with Western aesthetic sensibilities.

Crossing Disciplines and Borders

Faculty and graduate students who study South Asia from an array of disciplines across campus, in collaboration with community partners, have also organized lectures by visiting scholars and artists, a photo exhibition, a film festival, an author reading, a music symposium and a religion conference.

Lead sponsors are the South Asia Without Borders initiative, launched in 2016 by the UC Davis Middle East/South Asia Studies Program (ME/SA), and the Department of Religious Studies.

Smriti Srinivas, director of ME/SA and a professor of anthropology, said there is a groundswell of interest on campus in learning about South Asian societies and cultures.

“The South Asia region, with a fourth of the world’s people, is a vibrant center of humanity,” Srinivas said. “It includes the diverse yet connected societies, cultures, and ecologies of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bhutan, and the Maldives and their overseas communities.

“Our South Asia without Borders initiative includes exciting public events orchestrated by faculty and their graduate students in collaboration with community partners across disciplines and regions. We want to stimulate greater understanding and new conversations about South Asia. Our vision is a dynamic, multicultural, and globally relevant South Asia.”

Religious studies events will include a February 2018 lecture on Islam in India, an April 2018 symposium on a Carnatic music composer of Hindu tradition, and a June 2018 conference on the study of religion in India.

Four ME/SA events will highlight Punjabi arts, religion and culture, beginning with Gill, one of the most recognizable voices in the Punjabi and South Asian music scene. The others are a video art and narrative performance by Delhi-based artist Seema Kohli in November; a film about a Punjabi-Canadian wrestler in January 2018 (part of a South Asian film festival); and a lecture by a scholar of Sikhism in April 2018.

A photo exhibition this fall and a talk next March on the Ganga River spotlight connections of natural and cosmic realms. 

An artist talk and an author reading highlight the works of two South Asian Americans: Neha Choksi, a Mumbai- and Los Angeles-based artist, will speak in February; novelist Nayomi Munaweera, who was born in Sri Lanka and lives in Oakland, will give a reading in April.

Student Ticket Giveway for Gill Concert

Proceeds from Gill’s concert will benefit a fund to establish Punjabi language and cultural studies at UC Davis.

UC Davis has deep ties with the Punjabi communities of California, with numerous Punjabi American students and more than 800 alumni, said Nicole Ranganath, a historian and ME/SA lecturer who curates UC Davis’ new Pioneering Punjabis Digital Archive launched last year in collaboration with Yuba City’s Punjabi American Heritage Society.

Tickets for the Gill concert go on sale Wednesday, Aug. 23, at the Mondavi Center. The first 200 UC Davis students to arrive will be given free tickets, (The price for student tickets is $25 each. Other tickets range up to $99.)

“There will be so much energy and dynamism. It’s going to be an incredible concert,” Ranganath said.

Here is a look, by academic quarter, of upcoming events.

Fall 2017

Photography exhibition: Land, Water, and Rock, featuring works by Debal Sen, a cardiologist and nature photographer whose images have appeared National Geographic, BBC wildlife documentaries and his three books, Wild Bengal, Panch Kedar and Once Upon a Time. Sen said his exhibition depicts forests, rivers, ocean and animals in a spectral light—neither day nor night, “suggesting a world, which, although elusive, can always be accessed by the ‘other world’ consciousness.”

Sept. 29-Nov. 1
Mondavi Center lobby
Opening reception, Sept. 29, 6:30 p.m., with talk at 7 p.m.

Conference Center, Ballroom A