Get Ready for Ottawa’s Largest South Asian Event: SouthAsianFest!

The Annual SouthAsianFest is the largest gathering of its kind in the National Capital Region. This admission-free festival is open to the public and attracts crowds from all cultural backgrounds. Up to 10,000 revellers are expected to take in the exotic non-stop action over two days.

The 2013 edition of SouthAsianFest will feature Splash! Boat Cruise (a three-hour tour on the Ottawa River) on Friday, August 16 and an all-day outdoor festival on Saturday, August 17 at Confederation Park in downtown Ottawa (across from the Lord Elgin Hotel).


The objective of this annual family-friendly event is to enhance Ottawa’s cultural landscape by showcasing different genres of South Asian performing arts and supporting local artists by providing them with a platform from which to showcase their talents. SouthAsianFest also provides an opportunity to enjoy mouth-watering South Asian cuisine.

The festival aims to promote awareness of Ottawa’s 50,000-strong South Asian community. Festival highlights include face painting; Indian classical music; Bhangra (a genre of joyful, celebratory Punjabi music) and Bollywood performances; a soccer kicking cage; Midway family fun; and henna body art.


The SouthAsianFest falls under the mandate of the Ontario South Asian Community Association (OSACA). The festival is the community’s biggest event of the year and has been steadily growing since the first festival in 2009.

When asked why the South Asian community felt there was a need for such a festival in Ottawa, festival producer Hunsdeep Rangar who also produces CHIN RADIO’s daily MirchMasalaRadio had this to say.

“The South Asians are well established here. They have good jobs, good homes and nice cars. We’ve reached the second level, I would say, of creating a home within our new home. Arts and culture are often what happen after a community has installed itself in a certain way in society. This was something that was lacking in Ottawa, despite the great number of South Asians here – affluent in various sectors of society.


Myself, being in the arts, being in music since I was a teenager, I had a pretty good idea of what was needed and what this involved. We decided this was definitely a gap in the National Capital Region that we needed to fill. So essentially that’s the way SouthAsianFest came about in 2009. It is aimed at raising the community’s profile in the NCR in terms of visibility and also to provide a platform for local talent. Kids who are learning how to dance or how to sing aspire to be on stage some day, because we pick 20 to 25 artists to showcase at the festival. They’ve seen the crowds. They’ve seen the setup. For them, these are the South Asian Grammys in town. They’re excited by the central presence of the big stage and the feel of an event that’s very much a part of the Ottawa fabric.”

Rangar explains the genesis of the festival. He said, “we (at CHIN RADIO) wanted to create a socio-cultural scene. How we did that was by looking at gaps that existed in the city. Some of those gaps were in terms of no real annual festival to represent South Asians. Apart from that, we started out with a South Asian Wedding & Fashion Show. We also started a spring event on Parliament Hill, where Prime Minister Stephen Harper attended a Punjabi Harvest Festival known as Vaisakhi. These are becoming annual events that showcase South Asian life in a different way.

We at CHIN wanted to host more events, create something new. We often support other groups by becoming media sponsors, and MC’ing at their events. We piggyback events and provide leverage, since we have the media presence to ensure success at fundraisers and gala events, as well as smaller community initiatives. We try and partner with the movers and shakers who want to bring positive change within the South Asian community in Ottawa by adding a marquee event to the calendar. So part of that requires private-sector funding and funding from our sponsors on radio.”

Among the major highlights of the 2013 SouthAsianFest is the boat cruise on.

“The Friday night cruise is a huge buzz kicking off SouthAsianFest,” Rangar explains. “You will feel that you’re at a Bollywood nightclub. People of all ages enjoy a community event and are often draped in saris and Indian outfits as you feast on Indian food and music as you cruise along the Ottawa River. The SPLASH! cruise is an event that’s been selling out year after year. It is open to everyone: a good one-third of people on board are not South Asian. Guests are encouraged to dress in South Asian clothing, if they wish. Ladies wear Indian tops with skirts.”

Rangar explains what makes the festival in Confederation Park distinctively South Asian.

“The acts on stage make you feel that you could literally be watching this in any South Asian city because we have very popular Bollywood-style dances and a flash mob interacting with the audience, but we also have the artistic and traditional side of the tabla and sitar, the arts from around Afghanistan and other regions of South Asia, showcasing their talents. So people are catching a glimpse of the entire Indian subcontinent glorified on stage at Confederation Park. We also have people who are part of the Canadian fabric. They may be singing English songs or rhythm and blues. So we have grass-roots coverage but we also cover the diaspora in terms of artists performing and whatnot. We are traditional, but we are not only traditional because people evolve and styles evolve and it’s great practice to capture this evolution.”

Organizers are expecting close to 10,000 people at this year’s. The headline act is making his first appearance in Ottawa. Pakistani rapper, songwriter, record producer and singer, Imran Khan, will rock the stage. Khan, who grew up in the Hague, was signed to Prestige Records in late 2007. He released his single Satisfya in 2013 and is currently producing and recording a second album which will be released later this year.

South Asians are one of the most culturally vibrant communities in the country. In fact, they are the largest  visible minority in Canada according to the 2006 Census which estimated there were 1.3 million South Asian people in Canada.

Rangar stated, “we’re seeing South Asians in every facet of society – from professors to CEOs to MPs to stand-up comedians. South Asia not only consists of India and the surrounding countries – Pakistan, Sri Lanka, but also the East Indian cultures of Trinidad and Tobago, Fiji, the Caribbean islands, and the United Kingdom (the largest source of Punjabi music catering to the tastes of North America). There are MPs of South Asian origin. Yasir Naqvi, the MPP for Ottawa Centre, is of South Asian origin. South Asians benefit from good values instilled in every home, which are respect and learning. These are the core values. I also feel South Asians appreciate the opportunities and the rewards for education and honesty found in Canadian society and the Canadian system. It’s a nice mix. South Asians really do appreciate Ottawa and Canada as a place to live and bring up their families.”SouthAsianFest-Logo-on-White

FRI AUG 16 (7PM): SPLASH! Dinner and Dance Boat Cruise on the Ottawa River Catered by the EAST INDIA COMPANY PUB & EATERY

SAT AUG 17 (11AM – 9PM): MirchMasalaMela: Confederation Park Outdoor FUN for the Family! • Free Admission • Food & Retail Vendors • Live Performances • 613 ROCKS! • Local Talent • Midway Family Fun Park

For event information: (613) 291-8624 or