Indian Classical Music Concerts at Construction Site
From the moment Tara Mobile Creches Pune (TMCP) approached Baithak Foundation to curate an event series for one of their centre we were both excited and curious to know how this engagement would turn out. TMCP officials were even a little surprised when we jumped on the opportunity of engaging through Indian Classical Music with children of construction labourers. Baithak hosted the first Indian Classical Music concert at a TMCP Centre in Bavdhan, Pune on 20th July 2017 and were greatly delighted by the entire experience. Preparations began by spreading a word about the event.
Background to the TMCP Centre (our concert venue):
In India cities are growing rapidly commercial skyscrapers and residential complexes are mushrooming everywhere. Even today these edifices are built by human labour. Landless laborers and marginal farmers drift into cities in search of work in times of crises and end up mainly as daily wage earners on construction sites. They work long hours and have no access to proper housing, sanitation, electricity or even water. Since they constitute a floating labour force, they are not organized and the official machinery does not take any cognizance of their existence. The construction industry is the second largest employer in the country, but workers who toil ceaselessly to build Modern India are virtually invisible. While the parents change the skyline of our cities, their children are left to fend for themselves among piles of rubble and construction material. By the time they are five or six, they are burdened by a whole range of demanding chores including looking after their younger siblings. They have no access to schooling, to health care and above all to a childhood. TMCP runs a centre at multiple construction sites in Pune where children of construction labourers come to play, learn and enjoy their time when parents are not around. Most of the children at the TMCP centres come from Maharashtra itself (approx. 40% Intrastate migrants), followed by migrants from Chhattisgarh State from Central India (approx. 9%), Karnataka State from the South (approx. 9%) and the Lamani Nomadic Tribe (approx.11%). Migrants from other States in Central India (Madhya Pradesh), North India (Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh), East India (West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar & Jharkhand), South India (Andhra Pradesh), Western India (Rajasthan) & from the North – East (Assam) usually form the remaining beneficiaries of the TMCP services. A small section of the beneficiaries also come from the neighbouring country, Nepal.
The TMCP Centre is a multicultural and multilingual community with no earlier exposure to Indian Classical Music and we definitely didn’t know how our initiative will be received.
Concerts at Construction Site: The issue of access is many times related to spaces. Our modern concert venues are inaccessible to masses and especially to disadvantaged communities because of the inherent grandeur nature. Many feel that these spaces are meant for rich and the affluent class members and not for common man. Many don’t even know that these spaces host free events open to all. Even if the space is open to anyone in public we know for sure that a fancy car will be let in without an enquiry whereas 2 men (especially of colour and simple clothes) walking or on bike may be asked hundred questions in an intimidating manner. Baithak Foundation felt that it will be important to take Indian Classical Music to space which are easily accessible and not intimidating. Thus we decided that the TMCP Centre itself will make for a good venue as it is right in the middle of a construction site with houses of the labourers around.
Some apprehensions: Due to our isolated and disconnected lives we are unaware of many simple things. Unaware of living conditions of people other than us, our family and our friends, of emotional states of ourselves and others, of aspirations and frustrations that people have. Baithak Foundation is definitely unaware of the larger reality of lives of construction labourers barring some basic knowledge. We don’t know what they do in leisure time (whether they have leisure time), what music they listen to, what kind of music do they have access to (apart from FM) etc. All we know is we have a form of music that has tremendous power to make us sensitive, understanding, joyful and caring. We also didn’t know whether children will sit in one place for an hour listening to music they had never heard before. We were not sure if parents will be able to spare time from work and come to attend a musical event. When we approached the artist we did not know how to describe the event and the expectations from the artist. The artist also didn’t know what to play because he did not know what will engage the audience. We were taking a leap of faith.
The response: When the Baithak Foundation team reached the TMCP Centre we saw the coordinators calling parents and children for the event. Not sure if everyone was joining willingly, we insisted that the coordinator announced that this event was optional and there was no compulsion to attend. Despite the clear announcement the venue had more than 60 people inaudience (adults an children together). We did not have a single person leave for the entire duration of the concert. Almost everyone enjoyed and few suggested that we host the concert outside (this one was indoors due to rains)where more people are able to attend. Many told us that they will look forward to the event next month.
We saw many children and parents sitting silently, eyes closed. Some children (2/3) were even put to sleep because of the soothing effect of the music.
Our interaction with the artists also revealed to us that there is huge need to continue such events as it offers the artists a complete different level of exposure where they are constantly getting tuned to their unfamiliar audience.
We will continue doing monthly concerts at TMCP Centre at Ganga Legend, Bavdhan, Pune in the year 2017-18 and we are very sure that this journey will be an exciting and an enriching experience. Event updates will be shared on our Facebook Page and here at www.baithakcommunity.org