Flute Recital by Saurabh Vartak at TMCP Centre Bavdhan

In August 2018, Baithak invited Saurabh Vartak, a promising and young energetic flautist, to interact with the children and the community, and present his art in an hour long session. He was supported on the Tabla by Unmesh Banerjee.
Saurabh presented a detailed exposition of Raag Bhoop, beginning with the Alaap – Jod, and then two compositions in medium paced 10 beat rhythm cycle (Zhaptaal) and fast paced 16 beat rhythm cycle (Teentaal).
He improvised the Raag with discipline and subtlety. Many children voluntarily sat as close to Saurabh as they could, watching him make music from a seemingly trivial bamboo piece. They were wonderstruck, that the bamboo flute, an instrument with very basic construction and design had the potential to portray a vast spectrum of musical sounds.
page2image11384
About 30-40 children and 10-15 elders attended the concert. Post concert, both the artists interacted with the students. They talked about their instruments and how to play them. Children hesitated to ask questions in the beginning, but eventually opened up.
Saurabh and Unmesh were very happy after the concert and wholeheartedly mentioned that they would love to perform frequently at such unconventional locations. Baithak finds it encouraging when artists look forward to creating such experiences again and again, and it reaffirms Baithak’s faith in the power of music to transform lives.

Sitar Recital by Ms. Jaya Jog at TMCP Kondhwa Centre

The concert on 20th of August 2018 featured a sitar recital by Jaya Jog, a senior disciple of Ustad Usman Khan. She was supported on the tabla by Ketaki Vaidya. The audience for the concert comprised of all groups of children, 3 years to 18 years old, along with a handful of parents residing in the community for which the centre is working.
Jaya ji commenced once the room was ready for her with an eager audience and the technicalities were taken care of.

The event poster

Like a true artist, she started off by first interacting with her crowd and giving them basic know how about music and the instrument she would be playing for them – the sitar. She educated the children on what makes a prose/lyric a song – which according to her would be ‘sur’ and ‘laya’. Jaya ji then went on to introduce the sitar and its parts speaking about the sound box traditionally made of a specific kind of pumpkin, the wooden neck of the instrument, along with the main strings and sympathetic strings. She made the session participative by guiding the children with a recitation of the ‘saptak-s’ – the students seemed fairly thrilled to sing along.
A fun filled interaction of varying combinations of the saptak-s on the sitar and the children was then followed by a short solo presentation by her student, a composition in Raag Bhoop, set to taal Teentaal (16 beats rhythm cycle). After which Jaya ji spoke about the first part of an instrumental recitation being known as the Alaap-Jod, and requested her audience to close their eyes in order to quieten their minds so as to enjoy the performance to its fullest. Jaya ji started Raag Bhoop with an Alaap-Jod, and the proceeded to perform compositions, set to vilambit (slow) Teentaal followed by a drut (fast) Teentaal.

Audience of the concert

Experiencing a room of an audience comprising of a variety of age groups which mostly consisted of children below 16 years of age, was pleasantly surprising, mostly because of their spirit to absorb this almost unfamiliar form of art with much fervor. A couple of the children also commented on how they felt after experiencing the music while keeping their eyes closed and fully indulging in the music.
Children trying to concentrate on the Alaap on sitar, by closing their eyes. After the performance, children asked questions like how many strings the sitar has, for how many years did Jaya ji learnt, what Jaya ji was wearing in her right hand index finger to strike the strings, etc. Jaya ji appreciated their observations, and answered all the questions in detail.
The children and a few parents present expressed that they were grateful to Jaya ji and Ketaki for their time and an incredible performance and interaction.

True art has no boundaries

Maanasa Visweswaran shares her experience of attending a Baithak @ Classes Concert

 

We often hear this phrase, “We live in the era of access”. But in my one year experience of living in India as a student and attending Indian classical concerts, I’ve noticed that the audiences mostly belonged to specific social classes or age groups. I wondered, if the classical arts are meant for the purpose of transcending any social construct, why does it still remain within its exclusive sphere of mostly well-to-do patrons? I have often heard, “Oh the masses only like commercial music and have no patience for classical.” But is this criticism fair? Isn’t one’s sense of aesthetics influenced by what we have heard or seen while growing up? If we keep classical arts within elites spaces and ticketed venues, then we continue to restrict its appreciation to only those who belong to families who have always been connoisseurs. 

That’s when the visit to the Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj school (Kasarwadi), gave me an insight into the capacity of classical arts to move the hearts of children. With starry-eyed enthusiasm, they watched carefully as Srabani explained the history of Odissi and format of the repertoire. 

But the real fun started when she explained the importance of Taals. She presented Megh Pallavi, which was set to Jhampa Taal, “Dhati Nam, Dhage Dhati Nam/Tati Nam, Dhage Dhati Nam”. The children were excited to clap to the Bols of the Taal, as she danced. Taals are not restricted to classical music forms. Every composed song has a definitive time structure. So even if the melody is alien, the response to rhythm is innate and natural. Even if the dance were an absolutely new experience, keeping the Taal would engage the audience and enable them to feel more connected to the performer. (This is why people enthusiastically keep Talam in Carnatic concerts, to participate in the performance in a way.) Megh pallavi was the perfect selection for the monsoon season. Although Pallavis are technically Nrtta, or pure dance items, this melody gives the dancer scope to express the joy of rains and denote the rippling of waters. The children had become slightly restless by this time, but keeping Taal helped to sustain that connection. Some of the kids were trying to hold the Mayura Mudra, which was the most commonly used Mudra of the pallavi. 

Full house with students, parents and teachers with eyes glued to the performer

Srabani then explained the Abhinaya item in the repertoire. This was an unfamiliar name, so she asked the children, “Do you all know acting?” The children answered enthusiastically that they knew what it was. Srabani described that one can narrate a story through expressions and movement. She was going to dance to Dashavatar, the 10 incarnations of Vishnu. So she demonstrated that when she places one hand on top of the other with the thumbs sticking out and making a circular motion, she would be denoting a fish. Similarly, when she clasps the palms together and sticks out thumbs, index and little fingers, she would be denoting Kurma avatar, or the tortoise. This was another element of fun for the children as they copied the mudras, showed it to their friends and tried to help one another. When she enacted the piece, the girls sitting around me were trying to guess the animal she was describing. Some of the kids were aware of the stories, perhaps due to their cultural upbringing. Some however were quite unfamiliar with them. Not everyone came from Hindu homes or were told these stories by their families. So what universally connected the children, cutting the boundaries of religion and culture, was the reference to animals. 

After the performance, Shrabani explained that the chronology of the Dashavatar could have a scientific correlation with evolution. She posed a question, “What is the first animal that evolved?” A boy answered, “Dinosaur!” Then she asked, “No even before that.” Someone then said, “Fish!” Another boy stood up and with childlike honesty admitted that he didn’t understand what she was trying to convey after Narasimha (Half-man, half-lion avatar). Srabani then explained the story of Vamana, and how King Bali became arrogant of his generosity and how Vishnu shattered his ego. She briefly explained the stories of the other avatars. 

Srabani answering student questions

The children asked questions like “How do you balance using one leg?”, “How long did you practice for this performance?”, “Doesn’t you leg hurt after a while?” and “Who is your guru and how long have you trained for?”. Some were curious about her identity and asked where she came from or what language she spoke.  One girl earnestly complimented Srabani saying that her “dance was very nice”. It was heartening to see the response that children had to the art. I realized that the older I became, the more I respond to the overall feel that art gives me and not really nitpick on nuances. But the children were interested in identifying the nitty gritties of what they saw and clarifying details that they couldn’t understand with the performer herself. This was highly refreshing. 

I realized that art would be enriched if people from diverse backgrounds became involved in it. In fact, children have bubbling imagination, which can translate into creativity if they are given access and tools. Very recently I asked my Guru Yogini di, how do we experiment with art and also know how much of experimentation is permissible. She then responded that there is no such thing as “permissible” within this expansive world of art. It’s the intent behind art that is most important.  

About the AuthorMaanasa Visweswaran is currently pursuing her undergraduate from SOAS in South Asian Studies and Sanskrit. She was trained in Bharatnatyam from a young age in Singapore and came to Smt. Yogini Gandhi in 2017 to learn Odissi.

The Joy Is Yours : Glimpses from an Indian Classical Music Appreciation Session

An account of Baithak’s workshop for iTeach teachers and staff

Background: 

iTeach has been Baithak’s partner since its inception. It has always encouraged Baithak to run pilots of various programs, experiment with new concepts, and thus, it has greatly supported the idea of providing children exposure and access to Indian Classical Music (ICM). iTeach is also privileged to have teachers who love what they do. Teachers at iTeach are often looking for inspiration to find ways to enhance their teaching skills and strategies, thus transferring their enthusiasm and love for learning to their students.

In the academic year 2018-19, Baithak’s @ Classes program will be run at three iTeach schools. Baithak was also recently requested to organise a small lecture demonstration for all its staff and teachers. Though some of the staff members and teachers are aware of the ‘WHY’ behind Baithak’s work, this was indeed a wonderful opportunity to introduce Indian Classical Music and its multiple benefits to the teachers. Baithak hoped that the session would raise awareness about Indian Classical Music, its current state, its benefits and the joy of knowing this highly developed system of exploring and enjoying the element of sound.

The Session: 

 After a long and tiring day, the teachers settled down in a small classroom of the Babu Jagjeevan Ram School in Yerwada. As a conversation starter, Mandar, the main facilitator for the day, asked the participants to mention one word that came to their minds when they thought about ‘Indian Classical Music’. In order to let their true feelings come out, he also mentioned that it would be fine if they said things like ‘boring’ or ‘slow’; no answer was to be judged as right or wrong. Participants immediately began saying – ‘peace’, ‘calm’, ‘technical’, ‘difficult’, ‘culture’, ‘soothing’, etc. Requesting the audience to keep their personal descriptions of Indian Classical Music in mind, Mandar sang Raga Bhoop. As the piece ended, there was silence for a few seconds, as if everyone was trying to soak in the melody that had lasted for a shorter while than expected. Calling the attention of everyone back to the words they had used to describe ICM, Mandar asked if they would still like to stick to their prior descriptions. This discussion left everyone thinking about their biases and judgements about ICM.

Indian Classical Music Appreciation session

Engrossed in Music

Then a teacher asked “Music, we agree is important and meaningful, But why classical music?” Another teacher questioned “Aren’t the pieces too lengthy, too sophisticated, too overwhelming and way too difficult to understand?”

Mandar patiently heard the teachers out and then put them at ease with a simple analogy. He explained that musical notes are similar to colours in a paint box. Once you are exposed to colours, the different varieties like oils, acrylics and pastels, the combinations you create when you mix them in your palette, the lines, the strokes and the various techniques you can use, you are well equipped to create a painting. How challenging can it be then, if you would like to choose to paint a child’s bedroom, or to decide when painting on a canvas, what kind of strokes you’d like to give a landscape with mountains?

The same applies to Indian Classical Music. A raga/classical melody can be simply interpreted as that which colours the mind. Once you have an understanding of the basic notes-swaras, the rhythm- taal, the speed-laya, the framework–raga, the lyrics- sahitya, the embellishments -meend, khatka, gamak, one can use this knowledge to enjoy the music during a performance, and one can also share that joy and perhaps leave its transforming influence on listeners.

More importantly, music is also like story telling. No matter how much you learn the technicalities and how much you practice, a musician must have a story to tell. This is similar to speaking a language – you may know the grammar and be skilled to use ornamental language but if you don’t have a story to write, what you write will just be gibberish. Also to understand a story, you don’t generally need to know the grammar. In the same manner, to enjoy music, you need not know the technicalities.

Importance of Indian Classical Music: 

Dakshayani added that classical music has a certain peaceful and tranquillising effect even if one is not listening to it with full concentration and it is only being played in the background. It goes on to becoming more of an inward journey for the listener and also for the artiste who is rendering it. She stressed on the fact that, now, more than ever, children need to be exposed to classical music. They are surrounded by constant stimulation and distractions that are lowering their attention spans and making them grow into aggressive human beings. They are also losing their connect with nature. Classical music, as innumerable studies have shown, has an effect of calming the mind besides enhancing development and creativity. A child’s aesthetic tastes form very early and thus exposing children to the arts is key to creating a sensitive and joyful generation.

As the teachers got a chance to share their initial thoughts on classical music, Dakshayani went on to point out that it is also very important to let kids, as early as possible, develop and build the ability to focus. She added that it is not unusual for kids not to love classical music instantly. A teacher, who understands how valuable this music is for the child, will ensure that it finds its way back into the unwilling child’s life. All that is needed is a pair of ears and an open mind, which a child already has. Until a child doesn’t get enough exposure or hasn’t taken the time to listen to several pieces, he or she will not be in a position to make a comment or form the right opinion about it. Thus, along with learning to understand classical music, the child is also building two important life skills: one, to remain focused at a task and two, that of perseverance.

So how does a teacher who has attended a Baithak workshop on Indian classical music take this into his or her classroom? Teachers and educators who are exposed to classical music through the workshop can use it creatively. Classical music can become the core of a history lesson, or be played at a low volume during math problem solving, or a particular piece can be used to signal transition timings from one activity to another.

Impact of Indian Classical Music: 

 As the workshop progressed, the teachers wanted to know more, hear more! Mandar happily obliged and went on to sing a bandish in Raga Bageshree, following which a teacher requested him to sing Raga Yaman. Accompanying him on the tabla was Rohan Chinchore. As Mandar indulged the teachers with the different ragas, they got comfortable and felt relaxed. One teacher sprawled out his legs to relieve the tiredness of the day and to enjoy the music, another pulled out her doodle book and started to colour, enjoying the music in the background. A couple of them swayed to the melody and one enthusiastic teacher even tried to catch the taal playing on the tabla!

Teachers exploring the instruments

Imagine this scene happening in a classroom: the children soothed by soft music being played in the background; how easy it would then be for a teacher to introduce a new concept to their relaxed minds!

As the old adage goes, the proof of the pudding lies in the eating.  The workshop proved that classical music has a calming influence. In fact, Music is so influential on the brain that the type of music you listen to actually has the ability to change the way you think and look at the world.  The workshop also provided an opportunity to discuss the myths and fears that surround ICM.

All that Baithak Foundation wants to do is to give children a chance to love classical music. The rest will follow.

Many faces of an initiative

The show must go on! Despite a heavy down pour that disrupted the power supply at the Babu Jagjeevan Ram School in Yerawada, Baithak Foundation carried on, undeterred, to present yet another successful concert at the school. This concert was held on 22nd June 2018 as part of Baithak @ Classes initiative. 

It was exciting to see students gather in large numbers to attend the concert but what was even more special was the fact that amongst them were the alumni too. Baithak has been associated with BJR for a few years now. Former students who had attended previous concerts were back to attend more! A pat on the back to the folks at Baithak for creating sustained interest in Indian Classical Music (ICM) among students. 

There was an unexpected failure in the power supply as the students settled down. Sensing that it would affect the sound system, the students and teachers at BJR got concerned. Unfazed by the sudden disruption, the organisers, welcomed the artistes, Ninad Daithankar (Santoor) and Rohan Chinchore (Tabla).

They moved the artistes from the stage, right to the centre of the audience area, and seated the students around them. The children were incredibly thrilled because they were now sitting right next to the artistes; almost like they were part of the performance! 

Silence swiftly descended as Ninad started tuning the Santoor. The sun was just dropping lower towards the horizon and the students had finished their day at school. Ninad intuitively chose a beautiful Raag – Bhoop – perfect for the evening. 

There were many challenges during the concert. The sounds of students playing on the ground, the traffic noises and even the small whispers among students were evidently audible. Also most of the students come from socially, economically and academically challenged backgrounds and this makes it extremely difficult to focus on any activity for long time. Thus students had to be constantly reminded about the expectations from them as audience. At the beginning itself the following 4 expectations were set to ensure that students took most from the music presented to them.

  1. Sit straight
  2. Focus on the sound of the instrument
  3. Maintain silence
  4. Leave the space quietly if you don’t wish to sit any longer

These instructions ensured that the students did not feel obliged to sit through something they didn’t wish to but at the same time respect the artists and other audience members.

After the aalap was over students intuitively applauded loudly and even whistled; as those were the only ways of appreciating they knew of. The Baithak Foundation team however had a conversation with the students and explained to them how they may appreciate the performance by clapping softly and ensuring that they don’t whistle. Students were also gently reminded of the 4 expectations; before the artist started playing the compositions.

Post the compositions, the students were requested to ask as many questions, share their their observations and openly appreciate the artists if they felt like. After some hesitation and probing students started asking questions. Many students even stayed back to closely see the instruments, touch them and tried creating sounds through them. Some students also helped Baithak team wrap – up post concert.

This concert was definitely not an easy one. However it strengths ones belief in the power of music and the immense potential every child has. The music, discussion and dialogues ensured that students enjoyed the concert despite all the challenges.

 

Challenging myths about Indian Classical Music

An account of first ‘Baithak @ Classes’ concert at RSM

A sweet-sounding melody filled a small classroom at iTeach Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj (RSM) School in Mundhwa, as two young and extremely talented musicians performed for the students of the school. Nearly ninety students from grades VIII, IX and X had registered to attend the concert of Indian Classical Music organised by Baithak Foundation. The Foundation, as part of its ongoing programme Baithak @ Classes, presented Yuji Nakagawa on the Sarangi, accompanied by Shruteendra Katgade on the Tabla. The concert was held on the 23rd of June 2018. 

Yuji Nakagava Sarangi

Poster of the event which was displayed in school.

Yuji Nakagawa hails from Japan and has trained under late Pt. Dhruba Ghosh while Shruteendra Katgade is a disciple of Pt. Yogesh Samsi. 

Baithak ensures that a poster is published 2 weeks before the concert and wiling students are asked to sign-up t be the audience. The large turnout of more than ninety students was unexpected and the students had to be divided into two groups. It was heartwarming to see the teenagers, all excited, standing in long queues to grab good seats for the performance – a strong indication that the good work done by Baithak Foundation is bearing fruit. 

A classroom was transformed into a small auditorium for the students. The organisers ensured that each student sat comfortably and enjoyed the concert in close proximity to the performers. Dhurries were laid out on the floor for students to sit on. A few cushions were provided for the musicians, and chairs were arranged for guests and staff members to create an informal and intimate setting for the performance. 

The two musicians performed enthusiastically, and generously gave of their art to both groups of students. Yuji played an enchanting Basant Mukhari for the first group and the second group was delighted with a Nat Bhairav. Shruteendra ably accompanied Yuji with an Ektaal for the first composition and a Teentaal for the second piece. The musicians played aalap and bandishes like they would do in any other public concert. 

Though almost all the students were listening to Indian Classical Music for the first time, they intuitively understood the importance of ‘sam’ and appreciated the musicians when they effortlessly landed on it. Instead of clapping loudly the students chose to snap their figures to show their appreciation during the performance. These soft and melodious snaps added a certain calmness to the environment. 

Post concert discussion with students.

Post concert discussion with students.

Post the performance, students had the chance to interact with the artistes. Most of them had never seen or heard a Sarangi before, and so they were curious to know more about the instrument. Their observations lead them to ask questions like – Why do you use powder while playing Tabla? What is the language of Tabla – can ragas be played on the Tabla?, Why did you choose to play Sarangi and not any other instrument? Also, there were questions about the artistes and their journeys in music. One student, who had keenly observed the artistes interacting with each other through eye contact, had a question on the importance of chemistry between the artistes when they improvise during a performance. Another student requested Yuji to play her favourite Raag Patdeep for a bit. Yuji was so delighted with the interest the young minds showed that he went on to play a pentatonic Japanese tune very similar to Raag Bhoop on the Sarangi. 

As Yuji continued to play, the students sat with eyes closed, silent, still, and so absorbed in the music that the outside world ceased to exist for them. When was the last time you saw high school students so drawn in by Classical Music? 

Melodious Flute Enthralls Kids at a Municipal School in Kasarwadi

Baithak @ Classes at Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj English Medium School, Kasarwadi
An account written by Saumitra Kshirsagar

 

The first day of school every year is always a mix of excitement and curiosity, especially for young children. New classrooms, new teachers, a sense of growing up – all makes it special. Over 120 students freshly promoted to grades 3 and 4 were in for a musical treat at Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj English Medium School (CSMEMS), Kasarwadi on 18th June 2018, their first day at school for the current academic year (2018-19).

Baithak Foundation had organised a flute concert at CSMEMS, as a part of its initiative – “Baithak @ Classes”. With this concert, Baithak and CSMEMS entered in their second year of partnership. Baithak Foundation believes that exposing children to good music in their formative years will have a lasting impact on them, and thus on the society. When it comes to schools and education, the Foundation also strives to erase the artificial boundaries created by class and community, thus trying to reach to every student through music.

 

Poster of the Event

Poster of the Event

Children were excited to know that there would be a music concert in their school. After the stage was set, teachers queued up students outside their respective classrooms, and assembled in the hall. Saurabh Vartak and Unmesh Banerjee, the artists for the day, presented Raag Bhoop. Saurabh, a young promising flautist, presented a detailed Alaap-Jod-Jhaala in the beginning. Unmesh on the Tabla joined in, for presenting compositions in medium paced Zhaptaal and fast paced Teentaal. The duo engaged in an exciting sawaal-jawaab towards the end of the concert, and students were amused to see the musical conversation between the Flute and the Tabla.

Saurabh patiently explored the nuances of Bhoop, and improvised various themes of the Raag gradually. His alaap was soothing, and taan-s were clear and crisp. Unmesh’s tabla blended well with the flute. Though almost all children were listening to a Flute recital for the first time, Saurabh sincerely maintained the authenticity of the art form and presented a complete Raag end to end.

We elders are often skeptical about the attention span of kids, but students as young as grade 3 attentively listened to the concert for an hour, and the entire credit for this goes to the artists. Saurabh kept the students hooked to the sound, a rarely seen thing in today’s music performances. Post performance, students asked many questions. They were curious to know how flutes are made, their history and the efforts required to learn how to play it. Saurabh patiently answered all questions and motivated them to excel in what they do. All the teachers of the school and a few parents were also present for the concert.

Saurabh and Unmesh said it was a memorable experience for them, and were surprised that students were quiet throughout the concert without anybody monitoring them! We now look forward to many such concerts!

Kathak Performance by Ameera Patankar in Ahilya Devi Holkar School in Aundh

Kathak Concert by Ameera Patankar at iTeach Ahilya Devi Holkar School
by Saumitra Kshirsagar

Baithak Foundation passionately works towards making Indian Classical Music easily accessible to children irrespective of their cultural and social background. It strongly believes that exposing children to good music in their formative years will create a positive impact on the society. On 13th June, the Foundation curated its first program for the current academic year (2018-19) at the iTeach Ahilya Devi Holkar School, Aundh. Ms. Ameera Patankar, a talented Kathak artist, presented a well sketched performance, handling all aspects of the dance style briefly and beautifully.

Poster of the event was displayed in school and kids signed up for the performance.

Around 80 children from classes 8thth to 10th had signed up for the concert. A few who hadn’t signed up earlier, also requested to be present for the concert. The concert began at 8:30am, just after the morning prayer, and was held on the school ground. Majority of the children were witnessing a live Kathak performance for the first time, and were curious about it. Unlike the traditional form of presenting a Kathak concert, Ameera instead chose to perform small pieces, with conversation in between explaining the specialties of each piece.

Ameera started the concert by explaining the origins of various classical dance forms across India. To make it interesting as well as easy to remember, she made the students imagine the map of India, and explained which state is known for which dance form, like Bharatnaatyam from Tamil Nadu, Odissi from Orissa, Kathak from Uttar Pradesh and North India, etc.

The first dance piece was a Vandanaa, an invocation to Shri Ram, which had slow graceful movements, set to an Alaap-like shloka. The next part was Taal Roopak, a traditional taal composition, with Gat-tukde, tihaayee and chakkar. She explained that a taal is a repetitive cycle of beats at a constant speed. She also made the students count the beats of Roopak in single and double tempo before starting the composition. Ameera drew attention of the audience to the distinctive aspect of Kathak – chakkar. She also explained the difference between “nritta” (pure dance) and “nrutya” (dance conveying a story).

 

Ameera Didi gave the basic information about Kathak to students in an interesting and engaging manner.

The third part was “Kaaliya-mardan”, illustrating the “nrutya” aspect of Kathak. When Ameera began telling the story, few students excitedly raised their hands and told that they knew the story! But many didn’t, so Ameera narrated the story and the performed the piece set to Taal Teentaal. She also told the lyrics which were in Braj-bhasha, and its meaning. The last piece was the evergreen song – Baaje Muraliyaa Baaje, an old classic, originally sung by Pt. Bhimsen Joshi.  For this piece, Ameera performed first, and then asked students their interpretation. Many students participated, and bit by bit told the entire theme of the presentation. It was inspiring to observe that Ameera could convey the smallest nuances of the song through her dance.

All the students enthusiastically participated in the question-answer session post performance. Counter-intuitively, boys were much bold in asking questions, and girls, who were initially shy, participated excitedly after a little coaxing! On behalf of the school, students gifted Ameera a sapling as a token of gratitude. Ameera said it was a memorable experience for her, as it was her first performance for an uninitiated audience, and expressed her willingness to participate in more such concerts.

images

First Baithak at World City Construction Site, Charholi

Baithak Foundation started Indian Classical Music (ICM) concerts at the Ganga Legend construction site in July 2017. The response form children and labourers has ben equally exciting and satisfying. It is through our collaboration Tara Mobile Creches Pune, our partner organisation who runs centres at multiple construction sites in Pune where children of construction labourers come to play, learn and enjoy; we had this great opportunity to take ICM to masses. Looking at the success of first few concerts, TMCP requested to begin similar work at another construction site in Charolhi village, near Pune. Baithak was eager to spread the joy of music and immediately decided to explore this opportunity. The first task was of understanding the area, access facilities, willingness of centre staff etc. Baithak’s first visit to the centre was literally crazy! With a long patch of kuchha/muddy road, vehicle breakdown etc. we definitely got a fair idea of what we were getting into.

The Muddied Track

We reached the centre after this roller-coaster ride. The entire place had an inherent tempo and was vibrant with colours, chatter and smiles. We were warmly welcomed and taken around the centre to show the different areas and help us understand the activities that are conducted in the respective sections. We were amazed to see babies sleeping silently in the simply made cradles. We tried to locate an appropriate space for the upcoming events which could accommodate at least 60-70 people. During our quick chats we found the centre staff keen to bring live music in the centre.

Children learning  through play equipment at the centre

It was decided that we will begin concerts at the centre from October. Like we always do, TMCP will be provided with posters for the event which may be displayed at the centre and in the labour camp to spread a word about the upcoming event.

The day of the concert couldn’t have been more adventurous. Pune received more than 100 mm rainfall in a span of an hour which resulted in flash floods in many parts of the city. The organisers and the artists were coming form different parts of the city and almost lost 2.5 hours in travel during their journey to reach the centre. The muddy patch leading to the centre was as bas as it can be.

The team finally managed to reach the centre 15 minutes late than expected but the program began immediately. The centre staff had ensured that the audience was already seated and waiting for the artists to avoid further delays. We began the violin recital after a brief introduction of the artists and Indian Classical Music. Initially the centre was filled with chatter, stray noises and cries but once the music began everything changed.

Anup began his recital by Raga Yaman. He played the slow aalap and then progressed to play jod and zala. He restricted the length of the usual elaborate exploration of a raga as he realised that none of the audience member had ever heard ICM before. He then engaged the audience in a short conversation about music. He then played 2 film songs and requested the audience to guess. The audience was now highly concentrated on each note that was being played. Some audience members were able to guess the songs and requested Anup to play more songs. He then played another raga for 10 minutes. He was specifically requested to play the qawwalli chadhta suraj dhire dhire and he honoured the request, with which we concluded the event.

The event was a great learning opportunity for all of us. The artists learned a great deal while performing in front of an uninitiated audience. Many audience members walked away after some time as they did not find the program interesting enough or had other engagements at home. However this also taught the performing artist to take extra efforts to connect with the audience. The centre had many small children who were crying and were unsettled and thus parents had to leave in order to avoid disturbance to others. This also probably highlighted the need to reschedule the time of the event based on discussion with parents as regards their schedule, free time etc.

Full house of audience

Baithak’s team was also able to identify the great need to debrief the centre staff about the expectations before, during and after the event; as some disturbance during the event could be avoided by ensuring some behavioural expectations through simple instructions and prior intimation of the same.

Despite the challenges this day was impactful and memorable as were were able to capture many ears. Even though many audience members left we had more than 10 parents and all children completely unwilling to leave the centre space and eager to listen to more music.

The artists of the event were deeply touched by the experience. They shared that they were astounded by children’s keen attention and audience’s positive response. Baithak team is now looking forward to conduct the next event and incorporate all the learnings from this experience.