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#DIASPORA: Countdown begins to the biggest, most colourful London Mela ever

Europe's largest outdoor South Asian Festival returns to West London this weekend with a spectacular line-up of music, dance, visual arts and food.

The London Mela 2014 promises a veritable treat of vibrant riches of South Asian origin including the world's biggest-selling female Bhangra artist, Indo-Canadian music sensation Raghav (of 'Angel Eyes' fame), British singer Arjun, British-Pakistani comedian Nadia Manzoor and Pakistani singer Asim Azhar, the 'Justin Bieber' of his country's burgeoning pop music scene.

The London Mela attracted a record 80,000 people to Gunnersbury Park in Acton last year and that figure is certain to be topped this Sunday, 31 August.

The Festival features nine separate zones, including Main Stage, the BBC Asian Network New Music Tent, Lycamobile Community Stage, Care Pakistan Magic Mela Family Area, Oxfam Global Local Stage, Tastes of South Asia Food Market, a spectacular Outdoor Arts performance arena as well as numerous exhibitor markets and stalls.

Bhangra star Miss Pooja will headline the event, leading the Main Stage line-up which also includes award-winning British artist B21 who returns to the stage after a 12-year hiatus.

Raghav, Arjun and Asim Azhar will also take to the main stage.

Some of the most influential figures in the British Asian music scene, including BBC presenter DJ Nihal and Kan D Man will host some of the UK's finest emerging talent at the Asian Network's New Music Tent. 

Among those lined up for Sunday are desi-reggae artist Cold Fever, singer-songwriter Salique and Nesdi Jones, the petite YouTube sensation from North Wales who's been described as the 'Desi Gori' and whose fans include none other than Yo Yo Honey Singh.

Music has long been a vital part of the Mela but it's certainly not the only one.

More than a dozen performers and groups will take to the Lycamobile Community Stage including comics, traditional Nepalese dancers and Tabla artists.

Among the other highlights on the day are Nadia Manzoor's 'Burq Off!', a hilarious one-woman show which provides a unique insight into the identity struggle of a young British Pakistani girl growing up in a conservative community in modern Britain; a Carnival procession by the renowned arts company Mahogany; and a family-oriented performance by the Nutkhut performing arts company blending shadow puppetry, interactive story-telling as well as eastern classical dance and music to tell stories about the Mughal Empire.

Arguably one of the biggest attractions at the Mela in recent years has been the stage of the British charity Oxfam which has partnered with the event over the last three years.

The public will be invited to explore the priceless work Oxfam carries out across the South Asian sub-continent.

Ajay Chhabra, Artistic Director of the Mela, said: ‘We bring everything from the weird and the wonderful, from rock stars to Mughal Emperors, all to the suburbs at this year’s London Mela.

"Featuring an international premiere with our headliner, Miss Pooja, one of the biggest stars in the world of Bhangra, to the London premiere of Nutkhut's "Navrattan" by Simmy Gupta.

"This year’s event is bigger and better than ever before! We have a growing force of young volunteers who bring their own special brand of Mela humour to the event and we've tied in Oxfam with our new and experimental music stage.

"The event finishes with "Utsava" - our brand new Mela Carnival commission which snakes its way towards the main stage for an unforgettable finale. I'm proud of the way we continue to be the leading force in the transformation of Mela across Europe by celebrating and presenting the best of the South Asian global diaspora."

- For a full listing of events, visit www.londonmela.org

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Ram Gopal Varma’s 26/11 film begins shooting in Mumbai

Filming has begun in Mumbai on director Ram Gopal Varma’s latest film, the first Bollywood movie to deal with the 2008 terror attacks on the city which left 166 people dead. The controversial director – known for his films about the Mumbai Underworld – took to his Twitter account Friday, …

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