The 26th annual Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America convention, otherwise known as FeTNA, has now ended – drawing to close an extremely successful & well-orchestrated celebration of Tamil culture in Toronto. Attended by thousands the entire 3-day event was very well planned by a dedicated team, and somehow managed to squeeze in salutes to all of Tamil business, education, literature, history, politics, music, drama, dance and, of course, film and its associated celebrities.
The convention kicked off with a private ‘Dinner with the Stars’ for sponsors, donors & media, during which beloved Kollywood singers Kalaimamani Mano, Isai Payanam’s Charulatha Mani and Super Singer’s Sathya Prakash answered questions for the press & gave the audience a brief taste of the music they would hear later that weekend, accompanied by Toronto’s Bharathi Arts group. When asked why they chose to participate in this year’s FeTNA convention in Canada Mano very humbly explained that he considered it a privilege to participate in such a large scale gathering devoted to Tamil arts, and, at a time when Tamil music has lost so many of its greats, like legends PB Srinivas and TM Soundrarajan, opportunities to honor the Tamil language were essentially opportunities to honor their memories & contributions to the culture. While Sathya Prakash expressed his happiness to return to Toronto yet again to participate in a grand concert, Charulatha Mani hit the nail on the head when explaining that she jumped at the chance to attend because she was proud of the merging of North American Tamils of both Indian & Sri Lankan descent, stating that “for the first time I’m seeing this unity for a language and not a country”.
As the first full day of the convention, Friday July 5 was chalk full of talks & networking sessions encouraging the growth of Tamil businesses in North America & abroad, in concurrence with events regarding Tamil literature, political issues and presentations by American Tamil associations. The day also included some star power in the form of comedy by Robo Shanker and a full Carnatic music concert by Charulatha. The day ended with a formidable dance performance of the ‘Sivakamiyin Sabadam’ choreographed by the world renowned Madurai R Muralidharan, that greatly showcased local talent & surpassed expectations – proving that the cultivation of ancient forms of Thamizh storytelling are being kept alive by today’s NRI youth.
On Saturday attendees received the convention’s primary dose of Tamil arts and cinema, as the day was filled with ongoing Carnatic music, contemporary dance performances,dramas, concurrently running Youth seminars on various topics, and time with Kollywood attendees, including actress Oviya and director P. Samuthirakani, who moderated a debate regarding friendship in the modern age. A press conference was also held for the team behind A Gun & A Ring, the Canadian Tamil & English language film directed by Toronto filmmaker Lenin Sivam that has been steadily gaining steam and attention around the world; the conference ensued great discussion over the film’s categorization as a “cross-over” given its diverse cast & Canadian-set storyline, and also revealed that producer Vishnu Muralee is in talks with Indian distributors regarding its release.
FeTNA 2013’s peak of attendance was of course the concert on Saturday evening featuring Mano, Charulatha, Sathya Prakash, American-raised Super Singer runner-up Pragathi and others,accompanied by Toronto’s very talented AGNI music troupe (who deserve a special mention for their musical performance, intricate choreography & entertaining use of visuals). An entirely packed Sony Centre enjoyed a fantastic concert presenting a mix of recent cinema hits & classic Illaiyaraja & AR Rahman gems, appealing to all ages present. Charulatha shed her classical persona to rock her hit “Chillax”, amongst others; Sathya Prakash also brought down the house with his own playbackhits, but his shining moment had to be his performance of the evergreen “Senthamizh Thaen Mozhiyal”. And the kingmaker, Kalaimamani Mano, enthralled the audience with animated performances of the biggest hits of his career including “Nee Oru Kathal Sangeetham”, “Thillana Thillana”, “Aathangarai” and “Mukkala”, proving that his voice & personality are practically ageless.
Overall, kudos must be given to FeTNA 2013’s organizing committee, the Canadian Thamizh Congress and the American FeTNA association as a whole, for devoting immense amounts of time & effort to make the entire convention such a well-orchestrated success. Despite a few late starts & minor scheduling confusion, which are expected with an event of such size, the whole weekend was impressively maintained by devoted volunteers, and should be considered a proud achievement by Toronto’s Tamil community, especially. Some may say that the event was tailored for business leaders & artists versus a more general cross-section of Tamils, but the crowd of thousands present truly appreciated the wide offering of programs & spirit of unity.The purpose of FeTNA to encourage the preservation of Tamil language & culture amongst its own descendants was certainly achieved; but,with the staggering amount of business & cultural knowledge gathered at the convention this weekend, the North American Tamil diaspora also successfully demonstrated generations worth of educational & artistic accomplishments, positive contributions to international economies and their significant role in providing color & depth to the Canadian & US landscape as a whole.
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