Quaint melody - young musicians play for street children

January 10th, 2009 - 11:29 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 10 (IANS) Adheer Ghosh, 20, is very busy like many other Delhi University students who are juggling daylong extra-curricular activities in addition to academics. But there is a distinction in this young guitarist’s weekly schedule - a two-hour session when he conducts music workshops for street kids at Shastri Nagar in north Delhi.Ghosh is a volunteer with Music Basti, an initiative of young musicians of the city to interact at a forum with street and homeless children.

At present these informal interactive workshops are conducted for small boys under the age of 12 at a non-custodian boys hostel at Sarai Basti, supported by NGO YP Foundation.

“I enjoy the sessions, it’s an interactive informal forum. Each time I take something back with me,” Ghosh, a third year English-honours student at Kirori Mal College, told IANS.

Ghosh is a part of his college music society Musoc and is also member of Five8, a popular youth band.

“The first time I came it was just to watch and the experience of watching these kids bubbling with enthusiasm and asking questions about how an instrument works was an eye-opener,” Ghosh admitted.

Since July 2008, when the project began, there have been 12-odd sessions.

“This is the coming together of musicians with a purpose - while the music is competent professional music the audience here is not the usual gig,” said Suhail Yusuf Khan, a sarangi (Indian string instrument) player of the Advaita band.

When Khan pulls out his instrument and plays a soothing raga or sargam (pattern of notes), it seems to have a calming effect on the otherwise boisterous kids.

With gleaming eyes and rapt attention they listen, ask questions about the music and how the strumming sounds the way it does - soon they too croon along, singing songs originally composed by Advaita.

Muhammad is an eight-year-old staying at the Uma Pandey children’s home run by NGO Aman Biradari. The boy is a regular at the sessions and specially enjoys listening to the sarangi.

“I like it here, I used to roam around in the streets earlier, now I got admission in a school,” said the enthusiastic child.

“I like it when they (the young musicians) play. I look forward to it - the music gives a sense of peace of mind,” Muhammed told IANS.

Avinash Bhagel, a violinist and member of Musoc, who has helped conduct a couple of the workshops, pointed out: “Their interest is overwhelming. They grasp things quickly and remember - things that often an accomplished musician can’t get.”

The concept of using music as a forum to interact with underprivileged children is the brainchild of Faith Gonsalves, a student of history at the Lady Sriram College.

“I really love music and wanted to use a different medium to interact the kids,” Gonsalves said.

These sessions according to Gonsalves, serve a dual purpose.

“Most NGOs focus on teaching maths, Hindi, English to the children - which too is really commendable. Through these music interactions, the kids can learn music and the sessions are also meant for recreation,” Gonsalves said.

The music played at these sessions is not the popular Bollywood jamboree; it is in fact a blend of Indian classical and western music.

Music Basti has a simple process to volunteer for anyone interested. To extend any help - musical and non-musical, one can send an email at musicbasti@gmail.com with personal information and details of how they would like to volunteer or work.

“After talking to them and seeing if they can interact with kids, we accordingly set them up. Any form of volunteering requires commitment, even if it is a one-off thing and the interaction needs to be tailored to the age and interest of the kids,” Gonsalves added.

In 2009, Music Basti hopes to conduct workshops in multiple locations in the city. Workshops were on till November 2008 conducted on a bi-monthly basis after which they were suspended for the winter - when many of the student volunteers had exams.

“We hope to conduct workshops at least three times a month in a location. It is a small project; any expansion will be gradual.”

The reason is that all the volunteers are mostly college students or working individuals who are doing this part-time.

But the whole lot appears very optimistic and determined.

“It takes just two hours each week - there is no reason not to do it,” Adheer said.

“We may not have the logistics to give each kid an instrument on which he can learn, but we do generate a lingering positive interest in a few children,” Gonsalves added.

(Shweta Srinivasan can be contacted at Shweta.s@ians.in)

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