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Slum children form own band to rock on

Seventeen-year-old Sameer’s day begins and ends with doing odd jobs for the family where his aunt works as a domestic help.

Written by Aneesha Mathur | New Delhi |
March 28, 2009 2:13:18 am

Seventeen-year-old Sameer’s day begins and ends with doing odd jobs for the family where his aunt works as a domestic help. A student of Class IX at an NGO-run school,he now has an additional ‘job’: running a band,comprising four other schoolmates.

The band formed by the five students of Ramditi JR Narang Deepalaya School,in Sheikh Sarai,plays everything: from Bollywood numbers to western rock classics. The children come from nearby slum areas of Jagdamba Camp,Khirki Village and Banjara Basti areas. Their skills almost wholly self-taught,the teens have now come a long way from beating classroom desks for drums. Encouraged by teachers and school principal Geetanjali Krishnan,they have by now have given performances at the FICCI auditorium,and British and American Embassy schools,and won prizes at local competitions.

Sameer says he watches VH1 channel at the house where he works,and performs them on stage after learning and teaching them to fellow band members. “I love the show ‘Rock Rules’ and try to catch the live performances screened on weekends,” he says.

Sameer came to the Capital four years ago from Darjeeling; he says he learnt the basics of playing the keyboard,drums and guitar in the school there. But the rhythm took shape only when he met Mohit,Anil,Bharat and Jyoti in Class VII at the school here. All music enthusiasts,they soon began to hone their skills by playing the drums on desks and using an old guitar of the school choir.

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Seeing their interest,the school got a drum kit,keyboard and guitar for the group of teens — they were allowed to practise after school hours and the principal routinely lends them her own CDs.

Outside school,Anil,who learnt drums “by watching drummers on TV and on Sameer’s instructions”,works as a part-time gardener at a Panchsheel Enclave house while Bharat,the school’s resident choreographer,washes cars to supplement family income. Mohit,the keyboard player and bassist,also does odd jobs to earn money; Jyoti spends her evenings with household chores at home. 

Education,they say,will get them everything they need,including the opportunity to continue with music. While Anil and Sameer want to study engineering,Jyoti wants to be a teacher.

Mohit wants to be a pilot,though his inspiration is rooted to the ground — his brother,a driver.

The five,incidentally,begin Class X from April 1.

Students from the British School helped the five-member group perfect their music and English language skills as part of the school’s community access programme. And while their command over the lyrics is picking up,their enthusiasm and talent make up for it to rock on.

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