It is 10 am on a chilly Friday morning as we climb down the valley in Kalkeri village, 23 km from Dharwad in north Karnataka. Even before we see the school, we hear teen tal being played on the tabla, joined by voices singing the raag Bhairav. Soon, the air fills with music. One can hear the distinct notes of the violin, the harmonium and flute.
Morning classes are in full swing at Kalkeri Sangeet Vidyalaya (KSV), a school for underprivileged children in the region. “Mornings are for music,” says H Somashekhar, who runs an academy of music in the city. After Somashekhar’s tabla class, which began at 8.30 am, the students will have a vocal training class.
By including Hindustani classical music in the curriculum, the school is trying to pass on the legacy of their forefathers. Dharwad is the birthplace of the Kirana gharana, with stalwarts such as Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Vidushi Gangubai Hangal and Kumar Gandharva hailing
“A place with such a rich history in music almost warrants a school,” says Adam Woodword, director of the school. The small, thatch-roofed clay classrooms offer an almost reverential quality to the music being practised within them. A quick scan of the three-acre campus reveals that the classrooms are named after ragas and the musicians who mastered them such as Poorvi, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and Pandit Puttaraj Gawar, among others.
KSV was founded in 2002 by Canadians Mathieu Fortier and his wife Agatha. “We wanted to do something entrepreneurial, so a school fashioned on the gurukul system was decided upon. Music brought some purpose,” says the British director.
The first class had a group of 12 children, locals who were taught by Fortier. Today the campus holds 250 students, from class one to 10. The residency school does not charge a fee and is run by Woodword without government aid.
We are present there as a part of Jagriti Yatra, an initiative that takes selected people around the country to learn about local business models. “Though the emphasis on music is evident, academics is not compromised upon,” says Woodword, who also teaches gardening, a personal passion, to his students.
Next year, Woodword plans on digitising the classrooms. In a Q&A session towards the end, someone points out that Woodword’s students appear happy and carefree. “Childhood is, unfortunately, too short a time. We try and ensure they make the most of it,” he says.
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