Komagata Maru tragedy inspires musicians for this year’s Vancouver jazz fest

Published: June 16, 2014

Undated handout photo of titled “The Komagata Maru” 1914 by John Thomas Woodruff from 100 Photos That Changes Canada, Wednesday, November, 4, 2009. HANDOUT/PNG Merlin Archive


The 1914 Komagata Maru tragedy in which 376 passengers arrived in Vancouver on a ship from Punjab, India, but were forced to return inspired two projects at this year’s TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival.

Composers Michael Blake (michaelblack.net) and Neelamjit Dhillon (neelamjit.com) both present new works this year.

The players come from unique points of inspiration. One has direct relationship to the incident and the other a broader scope.

“One of my relatives was H.H. Stevens, the minister of customs and excise, who was actively involved in the incident and was a horrible white supremacist,” says saxophonist Blake. “It was so at odds with the family history that I thought with the centenary this year I should do something with the great Canadian band I have about it.”

With Barking Sphinx Performance Society’s support, Blake composed the Komagata Maru Blues to make a statement about tolerance and inclusion.


Saxophonist Michael Blake. Submitted photo.

Saxophonist and tabla player Dhillon composed his Komagata Maru as a 60-minute performance of original music, contextualized projected archival photos and more to be released as a recording in time for the festival. The two musicians didn’t know each other. They do now.

Dhillon was invited to play tabla on one song in Blake’s performance piece.

“Unlike Michael, I don’t have a direct connection to the Komagata Maru, but its history has always been a part of growing up in the South Asian community in B.C.,” says Dhillon. “I felt part of a marginalized community because of it and there are other marginalized communities in Canada still coming by boat; still encountering resistance. I wanted to take this reality via the Komagata Maru and examine people’s histories on the boat using specific Indian raga forms.”

Both compositions are meant to inspire strong emotions and with the intent to strengthen the ties to a pluralistic and caring multicultural society.


Neelamjit Dhillon Komagata Maru, Performance Works, Saturday, 1:30 p.m., free

Michael Blake’s Komagata Maru Blues, Ironworks, Sunday, 9 p.m., $25


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,



Stricken by her mom’s death, Sikh filmmaker learns ‘to keep moving forward’

LARISSA CAHUTE VANCOUVER DESI When Vancouver filmmaker Baljit Sangra’s mother suddenly died after being struck by a car, Sangra was so devastated that she wanted…
Continue Reading »

Parliament hill

Dosanjh: We must criminalize glorification, encouragement of terrorism

UJJAL DOSANJH SPECIAL TO VANCOUVER DESI Canada is no stranger to terrorism. Nonetheless what has happened in the heart of our capital on the heels…
Continue Reading »

Royal Wedding

Aga Khan’s eldest son Prince Rahim and his wife Kendra Salwa Spears expecting their first child

VANCOUVER DESI The Aga Khan’s eldest son Prince Rahim and his wife Princess Salwa (Kendra Salwa Spears) are expecting their first child, the spiritual leader…
Continue Reading »



Stricken by her mom’s death, Sikh filmmaker learns ‘to keep moving forward’

LARISSA CAHUTE VANCOUVER DESI When Vancouver filmmaker Baljit Sangra’s mother suddenly died after being struck by a car, Sangra was so devastated that she wanted…
Continue Reading »


Surrey mayoral candidates share city visions at first meeting

AMY REID VANCOUVER DESI SURREY — Surrey mayoral candidates met for the city’s first all-candidates meeting Thursday night at SFU. Six of the seven candidates…
Continue Reading »


Surrey MP Nina Grewal’s account of the shootout in Ottawa

NINA GREWAL SPECIAL TO IANS  When Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was speaking at about 9.30 a.m. Wednesday in a caucus room of parliament, we…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...

student dead

Two dead, including gunman, in school shooting north of Seattle

DOUG ESSER THE ASSOCIATED PRESS MARYSVILLE, Wash. — A student opened fire in a high school cafeteria north of Seattle on Friday, killing at least…
Continue Reading »

attack on Parliament Hill

Ottawa shooter kicked out of Burnaby mosque two years ago

Zehaf-Bibeau was asked to leave the mosque, because he had “gotten a hold of keys and stuff from the mosque, and when he got out…
Continue Reading »

labour laws violation

U.S. company penalized for mistreatment of Indian employees working 122 hours in a week

MICHAEL LIEDTKE THE ASSOCIATED PRESS SAN FRANCISCO – A Silicon Valley company is paying more than $43,000 in back wages and penalties after labour regulators…
Continue Reading »


Surrey soccer captain played the U-18 national club championship using only one foot

KYLE BENNING SURREY NOW SOUTH SURREY – Kyle Sohi’s perseverance and performance in the 2014 Sport Chek National Club Championships U-18 Cup Final might go…
Continue Reading »


Barinder Rasode announces plan to develop field hockey pitch in Surrey

Third field at Tamanawis Park would cost approximately $3 million KYLE BENNING SURREY NOW NEWTON – Barinder Rasode and the One Surrey team were at…
Continue Reading »

Bollywood Latest

Stan Lee-Bollywood

Stan Lee plans Bollywood film on his first Indian superhero

VANCOUVER DESI Stan Lee, the legendary ‘Spiderman’ creator, is reportedly planning his Bollywood entry with a film on his Indian superhero character ‘Chakra: the Invincible’….
Continue Reading »


Even my parents think I am weird, says Bollywood ‘Queen’ Kangana Ranaut

HINDUSTAN TIMES Kangana Ranaut has always made unconventional choices, be it her movies or the way she dresses. And the actor says she’s happy the…
Continue Reading »

Happy New Year-Bollywood

Happy New Year: Mandatory ‘formula’ and all those old Bollywood references

HINDUSTAN TIMES Film: Happy New Year Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Abhishek Bachchan, Boman Irani, Sonu Sood, Vivaan Shah, Jackie Shroff Director: Farah Khan…
Continue Reading »