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music Pune Society

Teenagers, Respect and Indian Classical Music

Three years ago, I and Dakshayani were quite frustrated this time of the year. Very enthusiastically, we had appointed 3 teachers under Baithak Foundation to teach at our three partner schools. This was a very concrete step to take Indian Classical Music to kids from underprivileged backgrounds. 

Through lot of ground work in the communities across Pune, sadly, we learnt that Honey Singh was the only ‘classical’ singer our next generations had heard of along with an ‘old lady’ called Lata Mangeshkar. 

What can be done to introduce our kids to our rich heritage? We always wondered. 

“Shall we appoint teachers to teach music in the schools?” Was the first idea that came to our mind. 

Since funding was not a constraint at that point, we started interview processes and also started creating a curriculum which could be taught in the schools. Our enthusiasm took a serious blow when we got to know the teaching skills of practicing young musicians. 

“We will train them” we were determined. 

After the recruitment, with initial training, we let the teachers go into the classrooms. The model was devised in such a way that all the grades would have two music classes every week in which we would talk about how music originated, types of instruments, some basic concepts like Swar, Taal, Lay, Raag etc. Initially both I and Dakshayani would attend the classes to give feedback to teachers and course-correct. We would often conduct informal meetings as well as well curated trainings for these teachers. 

Teachers often complained of discipline issues in the class rooms. One of the major complaint they had was lack of respect. 

“When I take classes at my home, the collector’s son comes and learns from me. He touches my feet every time he comes. These kids do not even know basic manners.” Said one of them, oldest by experience and age. 

We would also have meetings with the school staff and would request their intervention in the classes so that they went on smoothly. 

In spite of all this, just within three months, we saw resignation from the first teacher floating in our inbox.   

“I know your intentions are good; but these kids can never learn our music because they don’t know how to respect.” Said the same teacher whose relationship with kids had almost become hostile by then. 

We accepted the resignation and thought of finding a replacement. Before we could do that, came the second resignation. The program at third school was halted because of multiple issues, incompetency of the teacher being prime one. 

In short, our program had miserably failed. It was same feeling a start-up founder would have when his product backfires even though there is plenty of seed funding. 

It was very easy for us to conclude that these kids really do not deserve this kind of music and why force-feed them? This has been the common notion about Indian Classical Music anyways. Many musicians had told us this theory of how this music is meant for the rich- economically and socially. 

In spite of all this, both of us had a feeling that we were doing something wrongly. Instead of blaming it all on the kids, let us carefully examine the flaws in what we were doing.

The very first mistake that we realised was, we forced this music on kids. They had never heard it, never experienced it. So the first correction, we thought our program needed, was eliminating ‘compulsory’ aspect and making the program sign-up based.

The second grave mistake that we were doing was teaching in classroom an art form which was highly experiential. Can we make them experience the art form rather than teaching it in a classroom?

Baithak@Classes program was an outcome of these two learnings. We decided, for first two years, let us just do concerts in the schools for which kids can sign up if they wish to. No one is forced to attend. 

Out of the three schools we were working with, we rolled out @Classes program in two schools. We created nice poster for the first concert and put them in the respective schools. 

As the principal of one school says, “I thought, hardly ten students will sign up. Within one hour, I had fifty sign ups with me. I was surprised.” 

The concert was very well appreciated. We got similar but more engaged audience for all next concerts. 

“We liked Kathak. How can we learn it though?” Getting such questions from students became very common.  

Due to increasing demand from the students, @Classes program was further evolved to include workshops in it. 

After two years of concerts and workshops, Baithak, school and students – all felt thinned for deeper engagement. Everyone thought that we needed regular Art Clubs in school.

This is how The Taalim Project was born. We designed a fellowship program where fellowship was awarded to a musician who would teach a batch of 10-20 kids once a week. 

Acclaimed dancer and Guru, Arundhati Patwardhan joined us as our first fellow and took the bunch of 15 boys and girls under her wings. 

Arundhati Patwardhan in middle of a mesmerising performance at a school in Solapur. This concert was organised in association with Precision Foundation, Solapur.

After teaching these kids for couple of months, Arundhati Tai once proposed – “Can we arrange a small performance of these kids in our institute’s annual event?” 

That moment was truly priceless for all of us! 

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Dakshayani was standing in the stage wing of Tilak Smarak Mandir, where Kalavardhini’s annual event was going to happen. Kalavardhini Team was kind enough to give a slot for Arundhati Tai’s students to perform a Vandana. 

The fifteen boys and girls were excited as well as confused; probably it was the very first time they were inside an auditorium; that too with a few hundred connoisseurs waiting to watch their performance. They were all dressed in a particular manner, to which they were not used to. 

The students were nervous, under extreme pressure, in a different air altogether. To everyone’s surprise, without anyone telling them, each of the kids touched Arundhati Tai’s feet before they began their performance!

Students of iTeach Ahilyadev Holkar English Medium School with Arundhati Patwardhan.

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The same bunch of kids, which could have been easily labelled as ‘manner-less’ reached a stage where they felt like respecting their teacher. Can respected ever be demanded? Or it has to be earned like Arundhati Tai did through her unmatched commitment towards her kids? 

The kind of ecosystem and patronage in which our music flourished ensured that this respect was always paid; either genuinely our out of force and fear. Now, the situation is very different. The respect must be earned. The process of touching the hearts of young ones and gaining their ‘true’ respect is very beautiful and worth all the efforts involved.   

To know more about Baithak Foundation’s work, visit : www.baithak.org

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Pt. hariprasad Chaurasia Pune

Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia in Pune Festival 2013

Generally, in India, Kerala is considered to be god’s own land. For me, Pune is gods’ own land. Of course, my context is totally different. Kerala, one of the most beautiful states in India is blessed with incomparable natural beauty. Pune has its own reasons to be called as gods’ own land. Pune is gods’ own land because gods often come to Pune.

Who are these gods? For me, they Pt. Shivkumar Sharma, Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, Ganasaraswati Kishori Amonkar and many more artists are these gods. They come to Pune and have blessed this city with their divine music. For many days, we did not have a single good concert in Pune and hence, I was desperately waiting for some concert. This thirst is soon going to be fulfilled. Pt. Jasraj and Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia are performing a concert Panchtatva in Pune Festival. I again got a reason to consider myself blessed.

I keep all the activities of the day aside and travel a lot to get passes. After getting the passes I am really happy. This situation is worth thinking. Why it makes music lovers so happy if they get an opportunity to listen to their loved artists? The credit goes to both; the artists as well as the listeners. I just came across a video recording of Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia. He is old. He looks to be tired. But when he is playing, he is at ease. His breath is relaxed; as natural as wind blowing through woods. His ease, the flow in his breath, the flavor created by his fingers and his breath, his steady, firm exploration are all beyond human capacity.

Each Raga has a unique nature. Its unique nature and presence is the identity of the raga. Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia gives you the perfect taste of the Raga. You can almost personalize the Raga. It gets a perfect personality, with emotions and nuances.

Pune Festival is having a performance of Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia. I am eager to feel his meditative breath resonating in the Bamboo energized with hours of this meditative resonance.

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Pune

Is Pune that bad?

Every person loves the place where he has been brought up. All the humans love their native places. People in life shift to better cities but still, they miss something which they find at their native place only.

This is true with almost all of people. We wrongly judge cities due to attachments, emotions and sentiments. I have lived in near about dozens of cities. I have no native place of mine. I have been a wandering fellow. 3 Years is the maximum period which I have spent in any city, excluding Pune where I have beeb staying now since 4 years.

I have right to anwer this question correctly. Because, I was a stranger in every city. I was just a temporary visitor of all the cities in which I lived. It is a trend in the Nagpur region to blame Pune and people from Pune city. They can blame anything in Pune.

I today start thinking about what each city in which I lived gave me. One thing for sure is, everywhere you get same, you take differently an different places. I have been thinking so steadily over the topic but still, Pune wins my heart.

Why? Am I being biased? To be honest, I am not.

In all other cities, I stayed for about 17 years. I could never hear live Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, Shivkumar Sharma, Jasraj, Zakir Hussain and such musicians. In Pune, they come many times an year to pour out the joy. I could read books of Mangesh Padgaonkar in Nagpur, but in Pune, I got an opportunity to be with him for one night and a day and have dinner and lunch.

I get all the books I want in Pune. In other cities in which I lived, I do not think there is any possibility. I got such friends in Pune, those are 30 years older to me, very busy and very successful and yet, they leave everything aside when I visit them and even come on a hill nearby to listen to my flute.

Pune is superb.