The annual Edinburgh Mela rounds off August’s festivities with a multi-cultural explosion of music, dance, fashion and food. Milo McLaughlin offers a comprehensive guide to this year’s event.
What is the Edinburgh Mela?
The Edinburgh Mela is an annual multi-cultural festival of “world music, dance, fashion, food and fun” that regularly attracts more than 20,000 people.
The Mela takes place at the end of August/beginning of September, making it a great way to see out the Edinburgh Festival season.
Melas are a South Asian tradition that have spread across the world. The name itself is a Sanskrit word meaning “gathering” or “to meet”. The first Edinburgh Mela was held in 1995 to showcase the talents of the city’s ethnic minorities but has expanded since then to become a key fixture on the cultural calendar.
Where is it?
The Mela has previously taken place at at Meadowbank Stadium and Pilrig Park, but is now held at Leith Links, where it’s been based since 2010.
The organisers are encouraging those attending to travel to the festival using sustainable transport such as walking, cycling or by bus or train. More info on getting to the festival.
When is it?
Doors open from 12noon on Saturday, August 31 and Sunday, September 1.
The programme kicks off from 12.30pm, running until 8.30pm.
The Mela closes at 9pm on both nights (so expect the dancing to start early).
This year’s Mela has managed something of a coup for the Sunday evening headline act on the main stage. Nineties dance pioneers The Orb will be joined by Mela favourites Kakatsitsi Master Drummers from Ghana, in an exciting collaboration which went down a storm at Glastonbury this year.
But that’s only one highlight of the weekend’s line-up, which will feature over 300 performers bringing music and dance from South Asia, Cuba, Argentina, Kenya, Ghana, China, Brazil, Senegal and Spain.
Appearing on the Main Stage on Saturday will be DCS, known around the world as pioneers of the British Bhangra movement and the chart-topping, multi-award winning singer Mumzy Stranger.
There’s also a chance to see Edinburgh’s own Johnny Mirza, Asian Voice Entertainer of the Year Navin Kundra and Vancouver-based Delhi to Dublin who combine electric sitar with breakbeats and Celtic fiddle-playing.
Sunday’s line-up includes the Edinburgh Chinese Choir, world-famous Bengali singer Gouri Choudhury, DJ Surinder Rattan and the infectious Afro-Cuban ten-piece band Son Yambu.
And that’s just a few of the highlights from the main stage! There is also the Mix Stage which promises “a blend of live hip hop and beatbox, funk, soul, DJ sets and live performance” and has even been expanded from last year to make more room for dancing.
Highlights on the Mix Stage include the Osiligi Maasai Warriors, a seven-piece Maasai performing group from southern Kenya, and North Edinburgh hip hop group Northern Xposure, who have worked with The Roots, Mos Def and Amy Winehouse.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, the World Dance Feste is also taking place throughout the weekend, with amazing performances planned by dance companies and crews showcasing their skills including Punjabi folk dance, circus skills, parkour, classical Indian dance, Argentinian Tango and Brazillian Capoeira.
What else is on offer?
As well as such an eclectic selection of music and dance performances, there are plenty of other things to do and see at the Mela.
There will be numerous stalls offering a selection of unusual and interesting purchases, and a range of delicious food available at the Global Food Village.
The Mela Kidzone will feature interactive nature-inspired workshops along the theme of ‘Go Wild’, and plenty of other activities to keep the kids entertained, including a Storytelling Longboat.
In addition, the Mela Fashion Show will unveil the creations of international and local designers.
The entry fee for the Edinburgh Mela is £4 per adult per day, which includes access to everything in the programme. Children under 12 can attend free of charge.
Tickets for Sunday will be available for purchase on the day from the festival site box office from 11:45am, and tickets for Saturday are still available for pre-sale.
MORE INFO: The Edinburgh Mela Website