Musical learning

Ainak pehne, lathi pakde chalte the woh shaan se; zaalim kaape thar thar, thar thar, sun kar unka naam re. Kad tha unka chota sa aur sarpat unki chal re; duble se patle se the woh, chalte seena taan ke. Bande mein tha dum, Vande Mataram”. This song from Bollywood movie Lage Raho Munna Bhai could be heard echoing through the serpentine lanes of Motilal Nehru Camp in Munirka.

Follow the sound and you reach a small temple compound where young children are huddled together, busy singing the number to the tunes of a guitar and a
harmonica.

The children come together every weekend to learn music from a group of music enthusiasts from the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) Delhi as part of the Music Masti Project, which imparts music education to the underprivileged, and identifies their
hidden potentials.

Explaining the idea, Sidharth Ranjan, who started the initiative nearly three and a half years back, says that while imparting primary education to children (as part of National Service Scheme IITD teaching programs), they realised that the only way to develop the kids’ interest and inspire them to learn was to make their teachings interesting.

“Keeping that in mind, we organised ‘Music Masti, an event where we performed music and dance before them and also invited them to show their skills or any interests.

Eventually, a group IITD music enthusiasts joined hands and took the initiative (further) to impart music education to children, and the journey began,” Ranjan, a graduate of the electrical engineering department, tells Metrolife. “Also, we put focus on inculcating values so as to bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots,” he adds.

Under the initiative, the children are usually taught songs based on current social topics, or those that help sensitise them about some virtue or emotion. “This helps them develop a sense of responsibility for the society, sense of self-confidence and encouragement to work hard. We also try to generate values like respect, empathy, equality,” says team member Abhishek Arora. Some of the songs include Aye Watan Tere Liye (Karma), Illahi (Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani), Papa Kehte Hain Bada Naam Karega (Qayamat se Qayamat Tak), O Ri Chiraiya (Satyamev Jayate), Hai Junoon (New York), Roobaroo (Rang De Basanti), and Chhoti si Aasha (Roja).

“Bhaiya(s) always teaches us good things. Sometimes we ask them to teach us songs by Honey Singh but they insist on songs which would teach us something and help better our lives,” says 12-year-old Uma, one of the 10 kids who attend the sessions every week.
But the project is not without its share of challenges, point out Neelotpal Nag and Zaheer Hassan (team members) who say that it took the group some effort to bring the children on board as “the parents have a perception that arts do not help in providing a bright future and it diverts their interest from studies”.

“Another challenge we face right now is that only one boy comes for Music Masti. So, there is a huge gender disparity in the project, which is mainly due to the involvement of children in household activities and family business.

Another is of location. We teach in a temple premise and it often becomes uneasy for both kids and volunteers on hot days, or when there is some procession going on at the place,” shares Nag.

Nonetheless, the group stuck to its aim and has been successful in inculcating values to the children. Summing up their journey, Hassan says the students were initially very undisciplined and it took a lot of effort to bring them on track.

“But now they have improved a lot. They fight less, obey more and sincerely listen to what is being said. Initially they were mostly singing Honey Singh songs and had a completely different taste in songs, but now they are gradually shifting towards listening to songs of different genres (including motivational and patriotic songs, groovy and jolly songs and also romantic songs of decent nature),” he says.

But for some, like 13-year-old Shashi, the project is a stepping stone towards her dream. “I aspire to become a singer and there is no better way to learn and reach that goal,” she says, smiling.

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