By Harman S. Pandher
On May 25th, the Surrey School District held it’s 3rd annual Punjabi Speech Fest for elementary school students in grades 5, 6 and 7. Four schools – Green Timbers, Newton, Strawberry Hill, and this year’s host school, Beaver Creek – participated, with around 300 students in total either giving Punjabi speeches or performing Punjabi cultural items throughout the program.
Prior to the Speech Fest, elementary Punjabi classes held their own speech competitions, and 10 finalists were selected to represent their schools at the district level. The finalists were: from Green Timbers, Sukhman Kambo; from Newton, Jaypreen Gill (grade 5 medal), Manpreet Sahota (grade 6 medal), and Mehneek Chahal; from Strawberry Hill, Tashveen Sekhon, Sahil Koshal, and Navreen Khakh; and from Beaver Creek, Jaskaran Deogun (overall most outstanding speaker trophy), Jasmeet Sidhu, and Seva Pandher (grade 7 medal).
Elected representatives from all levels of government were in attendance, including School Trustees Bob Holmes and Gurpreet Thind, MP Sukh Dhaliwal, MLA Harry Bains, and City Councillor Tom Gill. The panel of judges included Harnarayan Singh of Punjabi Hockey Night in Canada, TV personality and psychologist Mandeep Patrola-Rai, spoken word artist Harman Kaur, and Barj Dhahan, the founder of the Dhahan Prize for Punjabi Literature.And the student MCs, Gurleen Brar and Simrat Sidhu, did a fine job of managing the jam-packed agenda.
All in all, the Punjabi Speech Fest was a success once again with parents, teachers and community groups, such as the Punjabi Language Education Association of BC, coming together to celebrate and encourage a new generation of Punjabi voices.
This year’s top grade 7 speech, given by Seva Pandher of Beaver Creek Elementary won the hearts of the judges. The speech titled “The Voice of Our Generation” opened with the following lines.
“In today’s world, many things keep us separated: money, greed, politics. But there’s one thing that always tries to bring us together. That thing is music. And there’s no doubt that our young audience loves one type of music more than any other.”
Seva talked about Hip-hop music. He elaborated on what hip-hop music meant. He said Hip Hop music is not just about listening but it is about living. ” Hip Hop music tells us about the reality of big cities, street knowledge, and life’s bittersweet truths.”
Even Punjabi artists are making it big in this form of music. ” But don’t think that Hip Hop scares us. It often makes us laugh too. For example, Punjabi Canadians take great pride that some of our Punjabi Canadian artists, such as Superwoman, Humble the Poet, and Fateh Doe, are making a name for themselves in Hip Hop.”