Recently I was able to catch Alok Nayak for a conversation regarding all things INDIKA, as the festival commences within the first week of November there was no better time to do so. Full of an excitement for the coming festival, that proved to be contagious, the many facets of INDIKA were detailed and the love for its message was clear.
I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with Alok, someone with a real appreciation of community and offering something in the way of vibrancy and enthusiasm we could all use going into the back end of this year.
We sat in 92 Degree’s bustling Hardman Street location and talked about November’s INDIKA festival and all it entails. It was a refreshing experience speaking to someone who carries such an excitement in their work especially when it centres around unity in the community.
We discussed the ranging events that the city centre region will enjoy over the next two weeks as well as plans for the future of INDIKA. There was an aspiration and joy I found infectious and cannot wait to attend INDIKA myself.
Hello Alok, great to meet you this afternoon, its really exciting to get to speak to you about INIKA, just to start off, can I ask, in your own words what is INDIKA and what is it really about?
What it’s all about is to bring the best of Indian artists and culture to the city. We want to bring a big variety of performances and experiences for people, especially in music and dance. The idea is to bring world class performances, things for anyone to enjoy. The reason we are doing it in Liverpool is that this city has got this amazing culture, amazing venues, we have the right vibe here.
The idea is really to lift peoples’ spirits, bring people a bit of joy, happiness, inspiration and especially at this time of year. It’s a nice time to do all this. A lot of our performances have a lot of emotion, a lot of colour, richness and energy which is designed to lift people up.
Well, it sounds brilliant, I’ve noticed you have mentioned the cities venues, is there any specific venues that you are looking forward to filling with colour and light?
Well, one of the interesting things is where we’re sitting now actually! For the first time, we’ve done an exhibition in a couple of cafes. So, an exciting thing is we’ve partnered with 92 Degrees and around us you can see this exhibition that is inspired by Indian music.
Oh really! Wow, we were just speaking about that while we were getting a drink…
This is one of the things we are doing this time yeah, there’s the intro’ there about the exhibition. We’re working with a lot of venues where you see great art already, like the Tung Auditorium or the Philharmonic Music room, but what we feel is also interesting this time around is we’re bringing new artists and working in new spaces as well. The newer spaces we are in, 92 Degrees is one of them, both here (Hardman Street) and on Jamaica Street. We’re doing some DJ afternoons over there, playing Indian music. Another newer space that will be involved will be BundoBust, on Bold Street. Again, that will be a DJ night, but there will also be a special menu and a Diwali brunch on the 12th of November. A third newer venue would be The Reader, we’re doing some reading sessions, for children as well as people of all ages.
That’s great, there sounds like there is plenty of variety!
I think what’s exciting for me this time is taking Indian art across 8 different venues in 12 days!
It sounds expansive, it’s not just one place…
Yeah, and we’re in the right place here. So around us we’ve got, the Music Room behind us, there will be 3 concerts there. The Everyman, The Unity Theatre then a bit further up the room we’ve got the Tung Auditorium. So, this area will have a lot going on. But we are also at the Capstone Theatre and of course BundoBust!
It’s great to know so many places will be filled with light the first two weeks of November! Diwali is the festival of light, isn’t it?
Yes, so INDIKA is inspired by Diwali, but it actually means ‘of India’, literally. We are from Liverpool, Milap is from Liverpool, but I do believe it truly is one of the only cities where we could do this festival. With all the venues within walking distance, you know you can create a buzz around the place!
I’m sure the atmosphere will be felt! I know you’ve mentioned a few aspects of the festival, but are there any parts that you personally are most excited for?
Well, we don’t just book artists for festivals, we do a lot of work to bring those acts to the stage. One I am really quite excited for because of this would be the INDIKA Collective. So, this is a new band we’ve created for the festival, apart from programs, we also produce our own music. This is going to be a band of seven artists, from India and Britain and they will be performing original music as well as more popular folk songs as well. I really feel this will be amazing, it’s a brand-new band but there’s a great international fusion. There’s a guitarist a couple of percussionists, three singers and they’re all fantastic artists, in their own right. They will be performing at the end of the festival on Saturday the 11th in the evening in the Tung Auditorium. Another aspect of the festival we’re really excited for is our dance program. One performance is a children’s dance performance named, ‘Sita’s magical Forrest’, that tells a beautiful story. Indian dance is interesting because it uses a lot of mime, gestures, facial expressions so it is a lot like theatre. That will be in the Unity Theatre on the 2nd of November.
I’ll definitely be sure to keep my eye out for those performances! I would like to ask you, as the creative director has there been any challenges? Or specific aspects of the festival you’ve looked forward to getting your hands on?
I think the challenge with events will always be bringing people out to the actual event, to book tickets. We’ve been here in Liverpool since 1985, but we haven’t done a festival like this for four years! So, a big challenge has been getting dates and designing it as we haven’t done it in that long. Getting people used to it again, the fact there is an Indian arts program in the city, because there is so much going on in the city. Since the last festival we’ve had Eurovision, all the big festivals coming back our friends have done great work with African Oye, all the amazing festivals here in the city. But our INDIKA festival has been a little bit low profile, but what we aim to do is take this big jump forward, taking it out to eight venues. I think one of the big challenges has been telling the story, what is it? What is it all about? What to expect.
Well, I think the space it will come across, in as many great places as you are this year, there will definitely be an atmosphere hard not to take notice of!
We really, genuinely feel that anyone, from any background of any age should find something in the festival they enjoy. Whether it be dance and drama, there’s dance events; if you want to try music, there’s plenty. There’s British Asian music performed by Talvin Singh who is a well-known Brtish-Asian artist who has created a field of his own! He’s one of the headline acts, performing on the 5th of November at the Tung’. So, we have bigger name artists, we have emerging artists, a real variety.
It all sounds fantastic, as a big fan of music there’s certainly events you’ve mentioned I am massively interested in! It’s been great to speak to you Alok, I would just like to get your thoughts on the future of INDIKA, after this coming month what are your plans for the future?
We want INDIKA to reach a position as an international festival, we’d love people to come from around the country to the festival and eventually also around the world to visit it. We genuinely believe there is no other festival like this, there are festivals of classical music, of dance, but there’s nothing like this will all kinds of ranging Indian artforms across multiple spaces. We’d love people to come from different places outside the city and experience it. We do hope it will grow, in terms of the number of artists, venues, number of performances, but we also want it to expand outside the city too. We are looking into events outside the city region, the five city regions around Liverpool we want to grow out there. This year we are focusing on music and dance, but we would also like to focus on other artforms also.
Well as I say, it all sounds fantastic and you will definitely see me there in the first weeks of November, thank you again for your time and enjoy the festival.
Liverpool has long been a city of converging cultural identities, a real melting pot that only grows a greater tapestry with each event, movement or festival and there is no doubt in my mind that Indika will offer another shining example of that.
Thanks to Alok and INDIKA.
INDIKA Artists are also looking forward to the events!
“It is such a joy and an honour to be asked to perform within Indika festival in Liverpool in 2023. Memories of Milap concerts back over 15 years in Liverpool, celebrating the music and wonderful and diverse culture of India both from touring artists and within the UK, remain brilliant and beautiful in my hearts mind and have continued to colour brightly my own artistic path to this day. I look forward with wonder and awe to experiencing these performances once again and to collaborate musically as part of this, is a dream come true. Thank you Indika festival!”
“It’s exciting to come back to Indika 2023! I am thrilled, and looking forward to performing my thematic bharatanatyam solo parama padam – the life’s game of snakes and ladders for the dance lovers of Liverpool”
“Asparas Arts Dance Company is delighted to partner with Milap in presenting the UK premier of our iconic work Sita’s Magical Forest performed by British dancers”
“We’re overflowing with joy and anticipation to present our Sarod Recital for the very first time at the enchanting Indika Festival in the heart of Liverpool. Join us to experience the magical melody of Sarod.”
“We can’t wait to share the Indika Festival with the people of Liverpool, and hope it soon becomes an international highlight for Indian arts around the world. I was part of Milap when it was founded; the founders who were from India lived in Liverpool. They wanted to create something that showcases Indian art and brings people together. The original idea of Milap, which means, to greet each other in friendship and today we do it under the motto ‘Uniting Hearts Through Arts‘.”