Music review: Edinburgh Mela

THE music programme at the Mela on Sunday was unlike anything you’d find at any other Scottish festival. That’s not just because the genres of Asian music represented are unlikely to find their way to the main stage at T in the Park, but because there’s a different atmosphere at play here.

The Bollywood Brass band were a revelation at the Mela. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
The Bollywood Brass band were a revelation at the Mela. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

With a significantly Muslim audience in attendance, alcohol was in limited supply – the result was a still-lively crowd, made more family-friendly by the lack of unpredictability which alcohol inspires.

There were two stages dedicated predominantly to music.

One, the Awaz FM stage, welcomed musicians and DJs playing contemporary Asian dance beats, as chosen by the Scottish Asian radio station, and was sporadically popular. The other, the under-canvas main stage, featured a diverse range of performers, including traditional singers of Qawaali – a form of Sufi devotional music – the Chishti Brothers and hugely multi-talented instrumentalist and singer Suzana Ansar.

London’s Bollywood Brass Band were a revelation, a group of multi-ethnic players in flowing robes with Bollywood-style dancers and a repertoire of lively contemporary and classic film and folk hits. The audience seemed to thin out somewhat after the Bollywood Love Story performance, but many remained for lively Luton rapper Raxstar’s set, played on his own alongside a backing DJ and rich in R’n’B and EDM beats.

Swami weren’t greeted with a huge crowd, or certainly not the audience their eclectic but absolutely commercial fusion of bhangra and dance-pop deserved. With a DJ and a live, loud drummer backing them, the trio of vocalists were as active and lively as much of the crowd weren’t – which was a real shame, because this was well-executed, party-starting pop. The set was rounded off by Leeds group Sahara, the finale to one of the finest and most necessary forums for cross-cultural enjoyment and understanding in Scotland.