Bombay Blues

Music mohalla

When Suhail Yusuf isn’t at the studio where his band Advaita is mastering their album,he travels from C.R. Park to Shastri Nagar in North Delhi.

Music Basti gets Delhi’s young musicians to interact with slum children

When Suhail Yusuf isn’t at the studio where his band Advaita is mastering their album,he travels from C.R. Park to Shastri Nagar in North Delhi. There,at Sarai basti,in front of a bunch of eager children,Yusuf brings out his sarangi and plays. With him is Faith Gonsalves who watches the performance. Ask her to describe it and she’ll tell you that it’s difficult. “I am very happy that this has been so successful,it began as an experiment. To see the expressions on the faces of the children has encouraged us to carry forward the project into 2009,and hopefully further,” says Gonsalves,the brains behind Music Basti.

The “experiment” began unofficially six months ago when Gonsalves,a music lover,wondered if there could be a better,more creative way to interact with slum children. Music obviously was a powerful tool and in time Music Basti was born. “While volunteers in various organisations go in and teach children or play with them which is incredibly commendable,I wanted to use a different medium and engage a different set of young people in the city,Delhi’s young musicians. Most of Delhi’s musicians have little or no access to these children and vice versa. Music Basti serves as the basis of networking and helps to create a format for interaction with the kids,” says Gonsalves who along with her sister Pattie and friend Gaurav Kodesia came together and worked on a musical documentary of the same name. The film incorporates the process of the project,how it developed,the workshops themselves,their impact on the children and the team involved. Most importantly,it explored the musical environment of Delhi,examining what is happening with young music in Delhi. “There are several developing bands,college music societies,independent groups like Artistes Unlimited and others,many of which are featured in the film. It aimed to bridge the gap between these individuals and the many street children and homeless children in the city,” says Gonsalves. The film uses entirely original music of Delhi bands like Advaita and Five8,as well as Artistes Unlimited.

The workshop with the musicians began in October and has been a learning process for both the musicians as well the children. “It’s been a wonderful experience,to be able to take our music to these kids has been nothing short of terrific,” says Abhishek Mathur of Advaita. Apart from Mathur,Yusuf and Mohit Lal from Advaita,Adhir Ghosh and his bandmates from Five8 along with Avinash Baghel,a city-based violinist are also involved in the project.

Music Basti has a simple procedure for anyone interested in volunteering. All they need to do is email Gonsalves with their personal information and how they would like to volunteer or work with the project. For those interested in conducting workshops,it is also an easy process. Musicians need to visit the location to understand the place and familiarise themselves with the children. “The children are young,below 12 years of age,so music and interaction needs to be tailored to their age and interest. This is essential,along with the fact that any form of volunteering requires commitment,even if it is a one-off thing. It also requires a degree of professionalism and commitment if the experience has to be worthwhile for everyone involved,” says Gonsalves.

Sessions are informal and interactive,and very basic as well. The point of a session is to use music to create the foundation for interaction and for a larger purpose than teaching songs or sargams and the parts of an instrument. “In 2009,we hope to conduct workshops in multiple locations in the city. Workshops are conducted on a bi- monthly basis,but in 2009 we hope to conduct workshops at least three times a month in a location. It is a small project,any expansion will be gradual,taking into account the capacity we have as college students or working individuals who are doing this part time,” says Gonsalves. More than the workshops and the music and the people who teach them,these children love the fact that there are people who want to spend time with them. And what better way to do that,than with a little music?

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