Cultural diversity faces the music in Auckland

Ratna Venkat 

New Zealand cherishes Auckland as not only the most populous but also the most ethnically diverse city.

For a multicultural ‘Super City,’ cultural integration and assimilation is beneficial.

Auckland also faces several challenges, the most important of which is maintaining harmony between different cultures.

Diverse Dominion Road

‘Dominion Rd The Musical,’ is a theatrical production that illustrates the theme of diversity in the Super City, and what happens when commercialisation aims to take over quality of life. It considers the suburb of Dominion Road as an example of Auckland’s (and New Zealand’s) changing demography.

An original homegrown production presented by ‘Sharu Loves Hats’ and directed by Borni Te Rongopai Tukiwaho, ‘Dominion Rd The Musical’ opened on Wednesday, August 9, 2017 at Glen Eden Playhouse Theatre, located at 15 Glendale Road.

Shows will run until Saturday, August 19 at the same venue starting at 730 pm.

The Musical features five professional actors – Jackie Clark, Marissa Holder, Mustaq Missouri, Brady Peeti, Benjamin Teh and an eleven-member Chorus.

Music and Theatre

Being part of this musical was the first for Dhruv Mody, an Auckland resident who plays the Sitar, a North Indian stringed instrument backing Mustaq’s character, as well as the role of Dinanath ‘Dinu’ Mehta in the Chorus.

Speaking to Indian Newslink, Dhruv said that he never thought of himself as a ‘musical theatre guy’ before this production came his way, although he has been exposed to music all his life.

“My learning and experience with Carnatic Vocal, Tabla and Sitar gave me opportunities to showcase my musical prowess in the Auckland arts scene. The thought of mixing theatre with music however never did cross my mind until now,” he said.

The Dominion Story

‘Dominion Rd The Musical’ follows a group of residents and business owners on Dominion Road who fight against a proposed development of their street as ‘Chinatown.’

Though penned as fictitious, writer and co-lyricist Renee Liang was inspired by true events experienced by ‘Dominionettes,’ who continue to face the threat of a ‘Chinatown’ being established on their street.

Interestingly, most people from the Chinese community are against this idea, who believe that this is a deliberate attempt to culturally and commercially segregate their group from the rest of New Zealand’s communities.

As Renee said, “A mere cultural labelling of one of the oldest settler groups in New Zealand.”

The Mumbai Parallel

Although not a ‘Dominionette’ off stage, Dhruv was able to see parallels of his early life in Mumbai and during the production of ‘Dominion Rd,’ enabling him to evoke the right emotions both in his Sitar recordings and his character development on stage.

“Mumbai is a cosmopolitan city, with residents not only from other parts of India but from around the world. My life as a ‘Mumbaikar’ and the fond memories I have growing up in a vastly diverse environment is somewhat akin to being a ‘Dominionette’ but on a much smaller scale,” he said.

Multicultural Music

Besides incorporating traditional instruments such as the Chinese Erhu, Guzheng and the Indian Tabla in track recordings, music composer and co-lyricist Jun Bin Lee, along with producer Sharu Delilkan, were keen to include the Sitar.

Dhruv said that there were a few initial technical challenges.

“The Sitar that I used is old and small; hence, it has a specific tonal quality. Despite the instrument being ‘high maintenance’, Jun was very patient in making sure that the recording was of a professional standard,” he said.

Dhruv said that the diversity of musical instruments used in ‘Dominion Rd’ perfectly supported the multi-ethnic characters showcased on stage.

He said that while cultures may be restricted from communicating with each other due to language or lifestyle differences, music has no language and hence goes beyond the parameters of cultural boundary.

Donning the Hat

Creative Producer Sharu Delilkan from ‘Sharu Loves Hats’ is proud that ‘Dominion Rd, The Musical’ is the first production that reflects Auckland’s diverse culture, with the creative team being apt representatives of Dominion Rd’s melting pot of ethnicities.

“We are fortunate to have a cast and crew that mirrors Dominion Rd’s unique demography, and are confident that our audiences too will enjoy witnessing this unique cultural collaboration on stage.”

 

What: Dominion Rd The Musical
Who: Sharu Loves Hats
Where: Glen Eden Playhouse Theatre

15 Glendale Road, Glen Eden

When: Until August 19 at 730 pm (Wednesday to Saturday)
Tickets: www.dominionrdthemusical.nz
Contact: Sharu Delilkan; Email: sharu@sharu.co.nz

 

Photo Caption:

  1. Dhruv Mody (Picture by Gemishka Chetty)
  2. The Cast (from left) Mustaq Missouri, Benjamin Teh, Jackie Clarke, Marissa Holder and Brady Peeti (Picture by Andrew Malmo)

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