Golden voice from Shillong

Golden voice from Shillong

Pastoral tunes

Golden voice from Shillong

If they are not aiming for the goalpost, they are singing a melancholic ‘Khasi’ tune or strumming to ‘Stairway to Heaven’. It is no secret that music (after football) forms one of the cornerstones in North-East India. Pauline Warjiri, who hails from Shillong, and is the founder of the Aroha Choir, Aroha Children’s Choir and Bangalore Chamber Choir, was recently in the City to conduct a few workshops at The Harmony School of Music run by Sandra and Ryan Oberoi.

Describing her short stay as delightful she hopes that she was able to open a door to children in subjects like music reading and improvisation during this stint. To an outsider, it seems as though children from the North-Eastern states are given notes, in place of toys. Pauline attributes this early inclination to music to the pastoral, tribal culture, the community expression and the egalitarian society that predominates the North-Eastern tradition which have helped music act out as a level-playing field.

Ironic then that she considers Bangalore’s music scene as more vibrant and one that contains a lot more opportunities than Meghalaya. “Still, the music scene in the City has a long way to go. It is concentrated only in pockets and there is a need to avail a centralised and a strong base. People learn music now though private means which is very expensive and the Government has to step in to ease the burden on artistes,” she adds. And for this, she says, spending on infrastructure and human resource, in terms of intensive teacher training and developing a curriculum at the school levels, have to take place.

However, she doesn’t consider the North-East as socially isolated as compared to the rest of India when it comes to music and finds it heartwarming when she sees them making their mark in other cities. “This helps bridge the gap between the Seven Sisters and the rest of India,” she says, in a reassuring tone.

Pauline, who has also taught abroad, finds that India has to cross milestones to be even compared to music abroad and this is primarily because of neglecting the basics of music at school levels, especially at nursery level. She feels that even classical music would still be considered elitist if schools don’t educate students. One can hear the dismay in her voice when she says, “In terms of infrastructure, we have little or none. At school level, we have none.”

Her collaborations with world-class musicians are her shining achievements to date but Pauline’s main thrust remains developing music in the vernacular language and putting performers back in touch with their mother tongue. But despite her accolades, Pauline’s prime motivation arises from the changes she is able to notice in children through music, be it among autistic adolescents or those who are traumatised by accidents. “Music is an inspiring, creative force,” she says.

Now working closely with the government to build a comprehensive plan in music education, she excitedly says that Meghalaya would be the first state in India to have given importance to music education if the plan materialises.

Hailing from Meghalaya, one of the highest rain-fed states in the country, Pauline’s music proves to be a delightful, pleasing shower in the midst of tumultuous uproars that she carefully controls. Wrapping up her love for music in one sentence, she says, “Music is an expression of life.”