The beginnings of learning – Baithak School Concert Initiative

Background

In Baithak’s endeavour of taking Indian Classical Music to children from all backgrounds, we began school concerts. The idea was to take artists to municipal schools, after school centres run by various NGOs and provide children with exposure to Indian Classical Arts; who may otherwise never be able to access this art form due to various socio-economic constraints. As popularly propagated Classical music is considered fit only for ‘classes’ and not an affair to be indulged in by the ‘masses’. Baithak’s strong belief in the indefinite potential of human beings and especially children prompted us to engage with the most deprived classes of our society and engage them in classical arts. Though the team was apprehensive of how children from slum communities, construction sites etc. would receive these concerts the efforts began. To the team’s surprise children enjoyed the concerts to the fullest. They had relevant questions and encouraging feedback for the performing artists. Baithak is now devoid of any apprehensions as we have experienced the power of classical arts and the limitless potential in each child.

First School Music Concert at BJR School, Yerawada

The school music concerts were definitely a great exposure to children, parents and teachers who attended the concerts however, they were equally or even more important for the artists performing in these school concerts. Indian Classical Music is currently appreciated only by a small section of the society and performing artists very well know how to perform for such a group as there is complete knowledge of what phrases will pull a wah-wah, what taan pattern will be applauded, what sequence of bandishes will create excitement etc. Unfortunately, a performance can be curated to be made successful and let’s not talk about the damage that all this does to the art form.

Baithak tried to understand how the school music concerts impacted the students, teachers and the performing artists and documented these experiences in form of videos, anecdotes and opinion articles. Below is the compilation of the same.

Baithak conducted the first School Music Concert in the Babu Jagjeevan Ram School at Yerawada. The students listened to Indian Classical Music for the first time and here is what they felt.

Student 1 

Student 2 – 

Baithak also asked teachers about their experience and here is what they had to say.

Teacher 1 – 

Baithak ensures that each performing artist shares his/her feedback and share their overall experience in the form of an opinion article. Here are all the articles written by the artists themselves in the language of their choice.

Ashlesha – Dhrupad Musician  

Dhrupad Concert at BJR School

I was recently looking at some of the charts available in stores for kids as “study material”. One of them was musical instruments. It had the guitar, tabla, keyboards, drums and a lot of other instruments. *No* sarangi, sarod, rudra veena, tanpura, pakhawaj, esraj, santoor, surbahar, chitra veena, mridangam and so many other Indian instruments! Most of my friends in Pune (11th standard) didn’t know what a Tanpura looks like and what its function is. Forget the function, but they have had the misfortune to not be lost in its sound — ever! From my childhood in Valsad and the numerous SPIC MACAY concerts that I got the opportunity to listen to, I know that kids are innately very curious and interested in all kinds of music and they listen. Yesterday’s concert was a testimony to this fact.

Performing at the school was a great experience.  I thought that being there much before (around 10am) the concert started gave an important opportunity to interact with the kids.  They could see the instruments being tuned and some even ventured to play them. Before the concert began many boys asked questions about the Tanpura maintaining a distance. They were thrilled when I invited them to come and play it. Then they ventured to Krishna who was on the pakhawaj and showered him with questions about the pakhawaj. Overall the kids were very polite and warm.  As soon as I entered the school compound, a boy from 8th std came to ask if I needed help and enthusiastically directed us to the hall.

Then came the part where I sang aalap in raga Vrindavani Sarang. I sang a 12 minute slow aalap during which there was no disturbance from the kids — then when the jod and jhala started they were more engaged with the rhythm and clapped with Krishna demonstrated a Sool taal avartan on the Pakhawaj before the bandish. I think my initial talk should have been interactive as I put out a few fundamental thoughts that I would have liked them to take home but should have reiterated.  The actual singing was slightly disturbed because of the sound.  There were many times (especially after hitting the Pancham) when the sound of the Tanpura itself was disturbed due to feedback from the sound system.  That left me feeling a little unsure about my music too, and I was wondering if all of it was in tune.Overall although my voice didn’t cooperate as much as I would have liked, I thoroughly enjoyed performing and talking to the kids during the concert.

I think the kids are very enthusiastic to communicate.  If an initial rapport is established, I think they will have a lot of questions.  I was very heartened that they sat silently without becoming restless through the 40 mins of music being presented to them. As I discussed with Dakshayani later a Dhrupad workshop would be fantastic to do with these kids.  Also I think maybe sitting among the audience and singing is something else that ought to be tried out.  It certainly makes the kids more at ease asking questions and interacting with someone who is at their physical level 🙂

Thanks to Krushna Salunke for the wonderful accompaniment. It was humbling to have family and close friends in the audience. Kudos to #BaithakFoundation for the superb work they are doing.

Saumitra – Harmonium Solo Performer 

Full House Attendance at TMCP Centre, Bavdhan

प्रबोधिनीच्या प्रशालेत शिकत असताना अनेक शिक्षकांकडून, मार्गदर्शकांकडून वारंवार अशी शिकवण मिळत असे, की पुढे जाऊन कुठलेही क्षेत्र निवडले, तरी स्वतःपुरते मर्यादित काम करून थांबणं पुरेसं नाही. वैयक्तिक पातळीवर उत्तमतेचे टोक गाठायचा प्रयत्न सतत चालू असलाच पाहिजे, पण त्याचबरोबर, आपल्यासोबत इतरांनाही बरोबर घेऊन जाण्याची क्षमता पाहिजे, त्यासाठी काम केलं पाहिजे. क्षेत्र कुठलेही असो, काम करताना सामाजिक भान नसेल तर ते काम एका अर्थाने अपुरेच. संगीतक्षेत्रात काम करायचा निर्णय झाल्यानंतर असं चित्र आहे की ठराविक वेळाचे, ठराविक साच्याचे हे काम नाही. त्यातून प्रामुख्यानी शास्त्रीय संगीताचे शिक्षण असल्यामुळे, संगतकार कलाकार वगळला, तर वैयक्तिक अभिव्यक्तीकडे कल नैसर्गिकपणेच जास्त असतो. अशा परिस्थितीमध्ये, नेहमीच्या तालमी – कार्यक्रमांव्यतिरिक्त असे काय काम करता येईल ज्याचा एका मोठ्या समुदायावर परिणाम होईल, असा विचार एकीकडे सुरु असतो. या दिशेनी एक संधी नुकतीच माझ्या वाट्याला आली.

बैठक फौंडेशन आणि तारा मोबाईल क्रेशेस यांच्या संयुक्त विद्यमाने २० जुलै रोजी माझा एकल हार्मोनिअमवादनाचा एक कार्यक्रम झाला. कार्यक्रमाचे ठिकाण होते बांधकामावरच्या मजुरांच्या निवासस्थानाशेजारची एक पत्र्याची खोली.! आणि श्रोते होते तिथल्या बांधकामावरचे जवळजवळ ४०-५० मजूर, व त्यांची २५-३० मुले. सामान्यतः शास्त्रीय काय, कुठलेच संगीत जिथे फारसे कधी गायले – वाजवले – ऐकले गेले नसावे, अशा ठिकाणी एक संगीताचा कार्यक्रम होऊ पाहात होता. मुळात हा उपक्रमच धाडसी.! पण बैठक फौंडेशनचे मंदारदादा व दक्षायणीताई यांनी ती जबाबदारी पेलली, व यशस्वी सुद्धा केली.

आपल्याला कुठे कार्यक्रम करायचा आहे हे ऐकल्यानंतर दोन प्रतिक्रिया ताबडतोब आल्या. एक, नक्की करूयात ! दुसरी – पण, करूयात तर कसा करूयात ?! pastedGraphic.png:-O अशा प्रकारचा पहिलाच कार्यक्रम असल्यामुळे कुठलेच आडाखे बांधणं शक्य नव्हतं. १०-१० मिनिटाच्या अनेक रचना वाजवूया, इतकंच आधी ठरवणं शक्य होतं.! कार्यक्रमाला अनुभवाची काहीच पार्श्वभूमी नसल्यामुळे, झाल्या कार्यक्रमाचं सांगीतिक मूल्य सामान्य होतं, ही कबुली मी देणं मला योग्य वाटतं. कारण ह्या कबुलीमध्येच प्रेरणा आहे, एका प्रयत्नावर न थांबण्याची. तरी पण, या निमित्तानी बरंच काही घडलं.

कार्यक्रम सुरु होण्यापूर्वीच्या निवेदनात “कार्यक्रम ऐच्छिक आहे, न आवडल्यास निघून जायची पूर्ण मुभा आहे” असं स्पष्ट सांगितलं गेलं. ( इतर कार्यक्रमांमध्ये देखील श्रोतेमंडळी ती घेताच असतात, पण तसं निवेदन होणं हे नवीन होतं.!!). पण, तसं सांगण्यामागची भूमिका अशी होती, की ज्यांना स्वतःच्या मताचे स्वातंत्र्य देखील दुर्मिळ आहे, त्यांना ते देणं, ही देखील किती गरजेची बाब आहे.! असे खूप सूक्ष्म विचार या कार्यक्रमाच्या प्रवासादरम्यान मनाला शिवून गेले.

सुरवातीची चुळबुळ थांबल्यावर अनेक मिश्र प्रतिक्रिया उमटलेले चेहरे दिसले. बहुतेक चेहऱ्यांवर प्रश्नचिन्हं होती. मंदारदादानी आमची (प्रणव आणि मी) व आमच्या वाद्यांची ओळख करून दिल्यावर देखील चिन्हं कायम होती.! मग दादानी “ह्या वाद्यांची नावं काय.?” असा प्रश्न केला. कॉलेजच्या पहिल्या वर्गात प्रोफेसर महाशयांनी उगाचच वर्षानुवर्षांची सलगी दाखवत प्रश्न विचारला तर जे होतं, ते झालं. शांतता. मग तिसऱ्या रांगेत एका ताईंनी “तबला” असं हळू आवाजात उत्तर दिलं. ते बरोबर निघाल्यावर मागून एक आवाज आला “और इसको हम पेटी बोलते है.!”… त्यावर दादानी त्याच्या गंभीर पण मिश्किल स्वरात “बिलकुल सही ! लेकिन जो लोग कई साल ये सिखते है वे इसे “हार्मोनिअम” कहते है” अशी टिपण्णी केली.! पुढे पुढे मोकळेपणा येऊ लागला. काहींची चुळबुळ काय चाललंय ते कळत नसल्यामुळे होत होती, पण बऱ्यापैकी लोक कुतूहलाने पाहू लागले. तासभर वादन झाल्यानंतर बघतो तर लहान मुलांची पुढच्या ३-४ रांगांमध्ये वर्तुळं तयार झाली होती… मांडी घालून, मग त्यांच्या मधून, मग त्यांच्या खांद्यांवरून, मग गुडघ्यावर बसून (का उभं राहून ?) बघत होती. खोली तर पूर्ण भरलेली होती, पण बाहेर सुद्धा २०-२५ लोक ऐकत होते, हे कार्यक्रमानंतर कळलं. संगीताप्रति आकर्षण नैसर्गिकच असतं नाही का ? pastedGraphic_1.png🙂

खरं सांगायचं तर, आधी काहीच माहिती नसल्यामुळे, एवढ्या सकारात्मक प्रतिसादाची आम्हाला कुणालाच अपेक्षा नव्हती.

या कार्यक्रमात प्राणवची भूमिका देखील खूप महतवाची होती. एरवी जास्त करून मुख्य कलाकारच कार्यक्रमाला वळण देत असतो. पण, ह्या वेळी प्रणवचा सहभाग हा संगतकार म्हणून मर्यादित न राहाता, सहकलाकार म्हणून होता, ज्यामुळेच कार्यक्रम अधिक प्रभावीपणे पोहोचू शकला. त्याचं सहकार्य अमूल्य होतं. संगतकारांचा परिचय फक्त कलाकार म्हणून नसावा, तर मित्र म्हणून असावा, हे मालिनीताईंनी आग्रहपूर्वक जपलेलं तत्व पुन्हा एकदा ठसलं.

या कार्यक्रमाच्या प्रकाशात एक गोष्ट जाणवली, की गेल्या बऱ्याच दशकांत शास्त्रीय संगीत विशिष्ट वर्गापर्यंत मर्यादित राहिलं, संकुचित होत गेलं, ते कदाचित, कदाचित, त्या वर्गाच्या सामूहिक मानसिकतेमुळे व इतर सामाजिक, प्रशासकीय कारणांमुळे. पण, आता संधी उपलब्ध आहे, ज्याद्वारे आपला परीघ वाढवता येईल. आणि तो वाढवणं महत्वाचं आहे, कारण …

“भैया अभी आपने कौनसा राग बाजाया?”

“भैरवी”

“और उसके पेहेले?”

“गौरी, और खमाज”

“जी”

“आपको राग मालूम है?”

“जी हां, कुछ कुछ नाम मालूम है” …

असाही एक संवाद कार्यक्रमाच्या शेवटाकडे झाला.

ही फक्त सुरवात आहे, खूप पुढे जायचं आहे. बैठक फौंडेशनच्या ह्या उद्दिष्टासाठी आपण सर्व त्यांच्याबरोबर यथाशक्ती प्रयत्न करूयात.

मंदारदादा (Mandar Karanjkar), दक्षायणीताई (Dakshayani Athalye), प्रणव (Pranav Milind Gurav), अनुराधाताई (Anuradha Kuber), श्याम काका (Shyam Ozarkar), सिद्धी (Siddhi Ozarkar), वैखरी (Vaikhari Ozarkar), “तारा क्रेशेस”, या सर्वांचे मनःपूर्वक आभार.! pastedGraphic_1.png

Saumitra mentions that he for long has been thinking about how he can create social impact through his music and was not aware how his art form can help socially. Baithak’s concert at the Tara Mobile Creches Centre in Bavdhan provided him with an opportunity to work for a social cause. He mentions that it was difficult for him to perform for an audience who had no previous exposure to Indian Classical Music, as he did not know what to play and what will be appreciated by the audience. He decided to go by his gut feeling and connect with his audience through his honest effort of presenting the music that he appreciates. He was taken back when the audience showed great interest in his music, his instrument and had relevant questions. He learnt a great deal due to this exposure. learning and was humbled but he experience.

Poorva Shah – Kathak Dancer 

Second Concert at BJR School, Yerawada
Second Concert at BJR School, Yerawada

One of the most satisfying, fulfilling, exciting and enjoyable experiences of my life. I was more than happy to share with these young minds my love for Kathak and other classical art forms and was amazed to see and hear their response. I did a lecture demonstration for a municipal school yesterday. The little ones were intrigued, curious, interactive and followed and enjoyed more than I ever imagined they would. That’s all I had really set out to do that day, and when many of them came to me and requested me to teach them something after my lecture demonstration I realised I had created an enquiry in their mind and that’s much more than I could ask for from this exercise. The warmth and love I received from the kids at the end of the day was definitely the cherry on the top ! pastedGraphic_2.png❤️pastedGraphic_2.png❤️pastedGraphic_2.png❤️

Thank you Baithak Foundation for this truly unique opportunity.

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