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Record Crowds at Music Masala’s Hurricane Holi

Masala Radio crew at Holi Mela at Rosenberg’s Seabourne Creek Park.  Photo: AMA Photography by Aisha Khan

Masala Radio crew at Holi Mela at Rosenberg’s Seabourne Creek Park.
Photo: AMA Photography by Aisha Khan

ROSENBERG, TX: When an unexpected cold front hit Houston in the wee hours before Holi on Sunday March 24, the morning setup crew’s Ninad Gupte texted to headquarters “Hurricane winds here…tents are flying”, Masala Execs Sunil and Sandhya Thakkar, and the Masala team quickly nicknamed the event “Hurricane Holi.”  Winds eventually died down in the middle of the event, but even then, record crowds turned up at Rosenberg’s Seabourne Creek Park to enjoy the 6th annual Aapka Colors Holi 2013.  Nikhil Shukla and Sameer Goswami from AapKa Colors TV Channel have been the title sponsors for several years and this has become the signature event for them. “What we try to convey through our TV channels is evident at this Holi Mela. Celebration of life and our culture,” Diamond Sponsor Tara Energy’s Malik Jamal said,  “We energize Houston, but this crowd energized us, wish there was a way to tap the energy emitting from these youths and Holi-crazed fans!” The “Green Holi” theme was evident in the new herbal and non-toxic colors sold exclusively by partnering with Gujarati Samaj of Houston.   The colors just washed off, even from clothing, and were safe to mix in the environment.  Bio-degradable balloons and oxygen-releasing plants beautifully decorated the stage, and the 100+ volunteer crew and Masala team wore green on lime green shirts to remind everyone to think “green” and preserve our planet.

Lt. Aaron Slater on the camera exclaimed that despite the cold morning weather and winds, the event drew a record crowd, “somewhere between 16,000 and 17,000 people,” though definitely “a later crowd than normal” as the weather became more and more beautiful in the afternoon.  “I was here last year and this year the crowd seemed more enthusiastic.  This was well managed event and there were no issues all day which is surprising considering the number of attendees.”

Indeed, the God-given air-conditioning was a blessing with the equinox Sun beating down from a clear sky as thousands reveled in Holi madness.  The highlights of the day was the multiple filmings of the Harlem Shake Holi video, with a wild crowd throwing colored powder in the air to the crazy beats of “Con los Terroristas.”

BleedThrough Productions’ John Hale exclaimed, “It was the craziest thing I have ever shot, must have been a couple of thousand of people in front of the stage, dancing like they were possessed, and all listening to one guy (Sunil Thakkar) to throw Holi powder just at the right beat… madness to perfection!’  Harlem Shake Videos were shot in several locations, the largest in front of main stage with DJ Zee, and at the Gazebo Bash with DJ Nish & DJ Rizz, and in the middle of the Sponsors row with DJ AV.   The Keemat Roti rolling contest had the audience rolling in laughter as Sunil T had the couples fiercly try to roll out the most rotis in 3 minutes.  The winning couple Mr & Mrs Goyal won a $100 gift certificate from Gold Sponsor Keemat Grocers, and all contestans won a free bag of….you guessed it…atta!  A color explosion of Holi revelers, Harlem Shake, and stage entertainment photos by AMA Photography by Aisha Khan are on display now on www.masalaradio.com, houstonholi.com, or facebook .com/HoustonHoli.

Sugarland City Councilman Harish Jajoo dubbed it the most organized Holi, with such a huge variety of events for every age group and taste.  “You guys (Masala Radio) have really raised the standards of Indian events and festivals, I am simply amazed,” said Silver Sponsor Sanjay Khanna of Superior Granite by Vivaldi.”  Contributing to the event were over 100 sponsors, 15 resturants, 35 booth vendors, 20 professional vendors, 30 Masala Crew, and over 100 volutneers from UH PhiKappaPhi, The Village School, and  Austin / Bellaire / Dulles / Hightower High Schools.

The entertainment-starved were fed colorful comedy by Masala Radio’s Sunil Thakkar introducing mesmerizing Bollywood dances by Houston’s leading dance schools.  Ek Do Teen’s little 3 and 4 year olds stole the audience’s hearts.  Shariqbhai of FunAsia was so excited that he announced free bollywood movies to all Holi revelers through the official date of Holi, March 28.

Bellaire High School led by Milan das celebrated the 25th Anniversary of Hindi classes with there presentation of Oh My Ram!.    Shivangini offered a reprieve from Bollywood with their folk and kathak based movements to Mere Dholna and Barso Re.  Gold Sponsor Gary Yan of Alings Hakka yet again surprised the audience by presenting a range of Chinese dancers, finishing off with himself as Psy in Gangnam Style (Korea – China – same thing…!)   Rhythm India with over 50 performers dazzled with their stream of dance classes, the lead group with vibrant green sarees in celebration of green Holi.  Houstonian – turned Indian TV Channel Star Mauli Dave made a rare appearance, crooning a few melodies about Holi and from her latest Bollywood releases.  Finale act Nach Houston brought the house down with a music variety music montage, dramatic dancers, and the visual play of holi as their white costumes were doused with every color of the palette.   Thakkars’s kids Simran and Sahil made their debut as emcee’s as they introduced the next item – their parents and the Masala Crew Dance.   Masala Radio Jockeys included Prenka, Rajoo, Dilip, Alka, Bijuria, Kashmira, Priya, Naina, Ajay, Sushil, Abhishek, Priti, and Ina.  Event crew included the RJs as well as Amisha and Shilpi, Rinku, Ninad, Krupa, Shivani, Hima, Shreya, Shah, Ravi, Devan, Maulik, and DJ Zee.  Other mind-blowing performances were giving by Nithya Hari’s Dancing Stars, Nupur Dance School, Bollywood Shake, Shingari’s School of Rhythm, and Anonymous.  The entertainment ended with a Black & White Jhalak Dikhla Jaa dance competition judged by Aapka Colors annoucning three winners, Shah & Star, Dhaval & Chandani, and the winning couple Malav & Aradhana. Aapka Colors presented the winners with luxury logo items, and all participants received designer perfumes from W Perfumes.  Stage sound boomed throughout the park with a 30,000 watt system by Ad  Sounds.

Hordes of the “just plain hungry” were delirious with food court choices.  Madras Pavilion, Mayuri, and Ashiana turned out traditional North Indian full-on fare.  Sankalp dished out South Indian dosas and idlis, Sagar Indian cuisine wonderfully presented Indo-Chinese.  Standard Sweets served hot fresh baturas and chole, along with very Punjabi Kadi, Maduran Mirch Masala appealed to chaat lovers.   Home-style spicy kichadi and pav bhaji were a hit at Neeta’s Indian Cuisine (not for the weak-tongued)! Zaika ran out of their amazing vada pav, and Fadi’s added the only non-Indian fare of Mediterranean cuisine. As an added bonus, HeartBeat Lives doled out classic Holi songs.  And of course delicious cold drinks, sugar cane juice, faloodas, kulfis, and ice cream floated down from Baloch Ice Cream and Faloodas, Natura Ice Cream, and Chadrika Masala. The new Organo Gold dispensed samples and sold full sizes of robust organic coffee, while Ekal Vidyala gave away free chai.  Alings Hakka was so busy at their restaurant, they donated their Gold sponsorship booth to Maharasthra Mandal, a non-pofit group who sold snacks for the kids.

Even the row of sponsor booths were filled with crowds, especially with the freebies passed out galore.  Aapka Colors provided a free photo booth (until the wind snapped the booth in half) and coveted “green” reusable luxury tote bags,  Texas Children’s gave away free tambourines, and MD& Associates – free popcorn.  BMW showcases three latest model BMWs, which at the end of the event were just as colored as the people.

“My favorite part of Holi was the new 14-foot high Rath (Chariot) procession by SKAI foundation,” said co-association Hindus of Greater Houston rep. Vijay Pallod.  The Chariot held Lord Jaganath, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, who in the story of Holi comes to rescue Prahlad from burning to death while in the lap of his evil aunt Hollika.  Young singers from ISKCON chanted “Hare Krishna, Hare Rama…” as the chariot was pulled by devotees to the Holi Pragitya (bonfire) site.  Due to up to 27 mph winds, the Rosenberg Fire marshal did not allow the 10-foot Holi Pratigya (bonfire) planned by the partnering Gujarati Samaj of Houston (GSH).  GSH’s president Nishaben Mirani and vice-president Ajit Patel did not give up and finally received permission for a smaller Holi fire to which the devoted offered their prayers.

Seema Desai of Texas Children’s Hospital exuberated, “my team of non-Indians were delighted with the warm reception they received from Indo-American families.  They want to come back with their own people and enjoy the festival next year!”  Indeed, there was a record turnout of non-Indians, from mounting publicity and interviews.  Fox 26 News covered the event, and featured it on their Sunday evening prime time news.  The Houston Chronicle covered the event on the front page of Monday’s City & State page.

For more information, photos, and videos of Houston Holi, visit masalaradio.com, houstonholi.com, and facebook.com/hosutonholi.  

Halo Re Halo….Bura Na Mano…Holi Hai!

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