Leith Links gear up for Mela Festival

Around 30,000 people will descend on Leith Links for the Mela. Picture: Ros Gasson
Around 30,000 people will descend on Leith Links for the Mela. Picture: Ros Gasson
Have your say

Flamenco dancing, beat boxing, hip hop and melodies from around the world will combine in a crescendo of music and dance at this year’s Mela Festival.

Around 30,000 people will descend on Leith Links to enjoy the best in multi-cultural entertainment and give a colourful send-off to the festival season on August 29 to 31.

And this year is extra special, marking the 20th 
anniversary of the Mela, now a well-established staple of the Capital’s August festival calendar.

Last year’s event was hampered by high winds – but organisers are hopeful that the sun will come out to ensure a successful weekend of performances.

Mela director Chris Purnell believes this year’s packed programme – featuring international acts, newcomers, creative children’s entertainment and a host of world food stalls and wares – has something for everyone.

And keen to build on the success of the Leith event, the Mela will reach beyond the confines of the city the following week – bringing a taste of the vibrant festival to Glasgow, Perth and Inverness.
“This signifies our ambitions for the event and how we can reach out to Scotland. We see ourselves as a national event and a people’s festival for the city,” says Chris.

The two decade milestone will see the Mela – which means “meeting place” – live up to its name as Scotland’s biggest and best celebration of world music and dance.

This year’s extravaganza will kick off with the world premiere of The King of Ghosts, a collaboration between young musician Soumick Datta, pictured, – who plays Indian lute-like instrument the Sarod – and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

After the debut performance at the Mela, The King of Ghosts – inspired by the classic 1969 Indian art house film Gupi Gayen, Bagha Bayen – will go on to tour Glasgow, Perth and Inverness at the start of September.

Reggae musician Cornel Campbell, a Jamaican contemporary of Bob Marley, is also on the bill with his new band The Soothsayers.

Throughout the weekend Edinburgh-based beat boxer Danny Ladwa will take to the stage as well as Polish folk group Wielkopolska – who give their music a Scottish twist by playing the bagpipes – and Chinese electronic punk/opera outfit DaWangGang. Apache Indian followed by renowned Italian DJ Gaudi will bring down the curtain on the Sunday night, after a hectic weekend with an eclectic mix of performers over three stages.

Festival-goers can also enjoy skilled choreography at the Mela World Dance Feste, try out new spices in the Global Food Village, and watch a colourful display at the famous Mela Fashion Show. Children can also enjoy their share of the fun at the Kidzone Animela, which is this year themed on animals from around the world.

Soumick Datta says he is excited about showcasing his new piece of music at the Mela, adding: “Weaving Indian folk rhythms, powerful Raaga based melodies with avant-garde string writing, I wanted to bring together Indian and western traditions.”

Although this year’s Mela programme brings together artists from Poland, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Jamaica, China, Gambia, Rajasthan, Cuba, the Ukraine and Kenya, it still keeps traditional and contemporary South Asian culture at its heart.

Chris says: “It’s becoming a very popular event amongst all the communities in Edinburgh, and further afield. We’re very happy to have a home in Leith. It’s a great site and the festival goes outside that conclave of the city centre. There’s no better place than Leith – it’s a very vibrant, lively multicultural place which has a great history. It’s a lively end to the festival season, and we are happy to be in that position.”

As for the weather, it is in the lap of the gods – but Chris is hoping that there will not be a repeat of last year’s high winds, which forced the team to close the event early on the Sunday afternoon. “We are just looking at the skies and hoping that it gets it out of the system over the next few weeks,” he says. “We are looking for an Indian summer in more ways than one.”