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Mumbai Music Residency

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Mumbai Music Residency – Bluefrog

The Mumbai Music Residency at high end music venue in uptown Mumbai, Bluefrog, will give opportunity to a Live Music Now musician to develop their performing practice and future diverse career through a mentored residency, with mentor Vicky Cave.

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Well, the time has come for me to bid farewell to Mumbai and to India, and I shall be on the early flight back to the UK tomorrow morning. I have spent my last day seeing some friends, and doing (read, beginning) a bit of last-minute gift shopping. I went for a walk as the sun rose over the Gateway of India – probably the only time it actually has some space to breathe – and down to Marine Drive, where even at 6.30am, people are thronging the wide 3km or so palm-fringed boulevard, jogging, pretending to jog, or doing yoga and tai chi looking towards the Arabian Sea.

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The past week has been a whirlwind of goodbyes and gifts, and I’m so sad to be leaving the kids and organisations I have been working with. I had my last session with the trainee teachers of Muktangen, who are now in the midst of their exams and preparing for their graduation showcase in a couple of weeks’ time. At the end of the class, they presented me with a wonderful hand-made card, and said that as well as learning a lot, they have had a lot of fun in the classes; a last rendition of The Breakfast Song, was, of course mandatory. I also managed to see the children from Muktangen at a concert on Friday. The Bombay Chamber Orchestra gives some free tickets to the schools for each of their performances, and I was glad to be able to see them as they have been knee-deep in exams – why do they start them so young!? I then had my final Muktangen goodbye at the apartment of Liz and Sunil Mehta, the founders of the organisation, who gave me a wonderful (and very heavy) gift to take home. They have the most wonderful 19th floor view over the bay and Haji Ali, and we enjoyed some welcomingly cold (it’s getting so hot here) beer on their balcony.

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We had an extra-long session at the Mewsic centre in Govandi as Mr Patil wanted me to go over as many new activities and songs as we could –thankfully the kids were very active and awake, otherwise it would have been difficult to say the least. Despite the long journey to get there, I’ve really enjoyed working with the children and tutor here. Despite initial reservations, he has really come on board, and is keen to take on the suggestions I gave, not only in Govandi, but in the other Mewsic centres as well. I think it’s all well and good conducting workshops and sessions every week for the kids, but hopefully now the situation there will improve for the long-term, with the training and advice I gave, and the Resource Pack I left – I just hope that the office now takes it forward. When I said that I wasn’t coming back, the kids went 100% silent for probably the first time in the three months I have been going there. Again, the children were very kind in their words of thanks, especially as this is a community that is seen by many as resistant to outsiders – even people from other parts of the city. My final farewell from them was a Pied Piper-esque performance of Tue, tue barima, as I walked back down the fruit and vegetable laden dusty street to catch a rickshaw back to the station.

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Gateway SEN School was always going to be the hardest to say goodbye to, as you may have guessed if you’ve been following my waxing lyrical about the place every week. We started the day with a music workshop for the parents of the children, who meet once or twice a month, almost as a support group. They share ideas discuss issues that they are having with their children, before doing a dance, drama, music or art session with one of the teachers from the school. I think it’s a great idea, particularly as many ofthe parents didn’t know any other families who had children with special needs before they became a ‘Gateway Parent’. We decided to do the same sort of activities that we do with the kids, just so the parents can see what it is we do, and also so they can then perhaps engage in some music games at home. Yet again, the winner of the hour was Tue, tue barima, and one of the parents commented that they now know what their son has been singing all these months in the car. At the end, Poornima sang a short song for them with lyrics quite pertinent to what we had been discussing earlier, and all of a sudden, about half of the parents started weeping. I think so many of them carry around a lot of pressure and unnecessary guilt, and it was as if a collective valve had burst. Needless to say, 10 minutes later over tea and biscuits, they were all a bit embarrassed, but I think that it’s good for them to have a space to let out all of these pent-up emotions.

The classes were great, but tough, with many of them asking why I was going, when I am coming back etc. With our two most difficult boys, we had something of a breakthrough, getting them to do an activity and sing a song together. Whilst this may not seem like a big thing, these two boys – whilst very intelligent, with above-average reading and retention skills for their age – are completely in their own worlds and it can be difficult to engage them on a teacher-to-student basis, never mind with another child, so we were so, so happy. At the end of the school day I’m pretty sure there was a collective conspiracy to try to make me cry. All the kids had gathered to say goodbye and present me with some gifts and a huge card, and they all took their turn to say thanks and that they’ll miss me etc. Then, Aditya, possibly the cutest little boy on the planet put up his hand and said in his sing-song voice, ‘I love you’. I think that just about got me. As I have said so many times, the children and staff at Gateway are extraordinary, and I feel so privileged to have been able to be there for these few months – I only hope that they got from me even a small percentage of what I have gained from them.

Saturday saw my last session with the children from the street families of Worli. It really struck me that if some of the families werein a different social strata, then some of the kids would probably be in a school such as Gateway, especially the most clingy ones, but for many of the families, even mainstream education is time that could be spent doing something else; certainly, when Ramesh isn’t there to round up the children in the morning, the turnout is much, much lower for classes. Again, we had some difficulties with one of the girls lashing out and hitting some of the younger children, but I managed to persuade the teacher this time not to reciprocate with further physical punishment, though he did still scream at the boy who wasin tears. So, I ended up cradling this weeping five-year old in my arms, holding back the girl who lashes out with my knee, whilst doing pitch games with the rest; supreme multitasking!

My other main goodbye was to the kids in Kurla. I went to see the school musical they were putting on, and it was lovely to see them singing some of the songs we had worked on. The kids there also had a big effect on me with their eagerness and enthusiasm, especially the first week I went to help them to prepare for the Songbound concert, only to discover their tutor hadn’t come in months, and they didn’t know any of the songs. We just had a mammoth song-learning couple of hours, and they came back the next day knowing everything by heart.

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Other things happening over the past week included a couple of sessions observing one of the small choir groups at Mehli Mehta Music Foundation, an afternoon music workshop with a group of psychologists, final miniFROG brunches, and a lot of time going over the Resource Pack I have left with Gateway, Muktangen and Mewsic. They are all very happy with it, and I’ve explained that I will keep adding and improving on it. It has been such alearning curve for me to put together all of these songs and activities, and whilst it is quite substantial already (90 pages!), I think I can work on it a lot more when I have the time and resources in Scotland, though already I’ve been asked if it can be passed on to people in Vietnam and East Africa, so I’m rather proud of that!

I also had my recital with Silviya this week at Mehli Mehta. I was still recovering from losing my voice a couple of weeks ago, and whilst it had come back, and was working well in rehearsals, I think the amount of pollution in the city just took things about 20 steps backwards, and it is probably the least comfortable I have ever felt going into a recital performance, just because I wasn’t actually sure if my voice could handle a full programme of Mozart, Schumann (Liederkreis), Ravel, Howells and Macmillan, as well as some Scots songs (yes, I know, I need to stop being a stereotypical self-flagellating singer). Whilst it definitely wasn’t my finest hour as a singer, the audience were very complimentary, and of course, the Scots songs were the favourites. We were then taken to dinner at the house of one of the Foundation’s committee members – yet another amazingly sumptuous apartment, and another delicious Parsi feast. Mumbai certainly is a city of extremes in that sense.

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And that is that! In between there has been lots of dashing around saying goodbye to people, and I am just heading out to dinner with some of the teachers from Gateway. I’m sure you don’t need me to repeat that this experience in Mumbai has been a remarkable one, and all I can say to finish is that this definitely wont be my last time here. Just, please, someone get the recipe of Theobroma’s chocolate tarts; I’m not sure I can live without them now.

Written by Jamie Munn

It has been almost two weeks since I last wrote a post and much has happened in between, although the past few days have seen some enforced days off from hauling myself round Mumbai giving workshops as I completely lost my voice. Backed by the world’s noisiest, rattliest ceiling fan, which almost-but-not-quite manages to drown out the maximum volume my dying laptop allows when streaming BBC World Service, and aided by an endless supply of Tunnocks’ Caramel Wafers (thanks, Carol), and iced coffee, I was determined to use the ‘silent’ time to finish off the Resource Pack I have promised to give to the organisations I am working with here. It has grown limbs, wings and whole suburbs from what I originally intended, but I’m happy to say that the 90 pages of over 70 activities and 20,000 words are now complete and I just need to make sure that I haven’t made any glaring errors before passing it on.

It also gave me time to get round to the finicky job of writing the programme notes (can someone please teach me an easy way of lining up translation columns…), for the recital I’ll be doing with Silviya at the Mehli Mehta Foundation next week. We haven’t had so much time to rehearse because of my inopportune muteness, but I’m looking forward to it; we’ll be performing Mozart, Schumann Liederkreis (again), Ravel, Howells, Macmillan and, of course, some Rabbie Burns.

It was the big Songbound concert at blueFROG last week, with some of the kids I have been working with in Kurla and Kandivili performing alongside a choir that had come from Jesus College, Cambridge to give choral workshops around Mumbai. The kids really enjoyed working together with children from other schools, though the best part came when they all started singing Tue, tue barima. The children I had taught it to in Kurla and Kandivili had sung it for the Cambridge choir, who then passed it on to the other schools. I have to say; I’ll be looking forward to not having it ringing in my ears on a daily basis when I get back to the UK. I went back to the Kurla school a few days ago, for a final session – and they gifted me with a copy of the play they are performing tomorrow, which I’ll be going to see.

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Things at the Muktangen trainee teachers’ session, and in the Muktangen school continue to go well, though sadly things are coming to an end there too. I only have one more day left in each place, though I’m really pleased with the progress of the trainee primary teachers; they have really come on a lot since January, and whilst some are not exactly musically gifted per se, they now feel confident and able enough to teach some musical activities in the classroom. The children are also coming on, though I’m glad that for the next term, the class sizes for the music classes will be cut in half; trying to conduct activities with 70 children in a small, noisy (fans, traffic, children outside etc.) classroom isn’t exactly easy. The choir, too, has come on and they are now singing comfortably in two or three parts.

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We had a great, but messy session at the Mewsic Govandi centre last week making shakers with rice, beans and nuts. I had begun to introduce different percussion instruments to the children during activities, but there are so many of them, and only two drums and a few shakers, so thought this was the best way for them to all get involved in something together. I think more rice ended up on the floor than in the bottles, but we somehow managed to get a little percussion ensemble going to accompany the songs. What has struck me about working in Govandi is that whilst the translator promised since before my arrival never appeared, there has, for 99% of the time, been no need for one; the kids now know just to copy what I do, and often I hardly need to speak at all. Big cliché alert, but it just proves that music is the one universal language.

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Mr Patil, the tutor at Govandi, has asked for me to go for more time at the centre before I leave because he’s worried that we wont get through all the activities; it seems that the office hadn’t mentioned that we would be leaving a pack of resources that (should) be translated into Hindi and Marathi. Communication seems to be a stumbling block between the office and the centres, but I was just so glad that I seem to have won Mr Patil over – forget molehills, that is definitely a mountain that has been moved (I think I’ve mixed my metaphors, but never mind…)

The early Saturday session with the street-children in Worli went much better than last week (which ended in a mass brawl…) The children here have such complex issues, and you often just have to take them as they come – many not having slept or had any food, but the younger ones especially are so keen on all aspects of their education, so I know that even those who might not seem so involved (such as one particular girl who always seems on the verge of collapsing from exhaustion, or the boy who wont join in the circle if someone else has sat beside me), are showing their enthusiasm simply by being there.

My time at Gateway Special Educational Needs School, too, is coming to an end; I only have one day left there, and I will be very sad to leave the children. The school is such a warm and happy place, and I have become very attached to the children (how I will miss Vir emphatically saying ‘Hello Mr. Jamie’ in a sing-song way six times every time I enter a room that he’s in). We have made progress with some of the more difficult children, with some of them becoming more integrated in group activities. Sadly, Poornima, the music teacher, is also leaving, so Ayush and Silviya came with me to the lessons last week, and I hope that the gap will be filled; either by Ayush or someone from Mehli Mehta. Music plays such an important role in the school, and the director recognises its value to the development of these children – some of whom are unable to communicate coherently in any other form.

I gave a workshop for some of Poornima’s more ‘mature’ lady associates last week, and I realised that I have spent most of my time over the past few months talking to children, so had to make a big gear change for the adults. We are also doing one next week for ‘a bunch of corporates’, as we put it, so I guess in some ways, that will just be like talking to the children…

It was the festival of Holi here last week – the festival of colours. It has a typically complicated history, but is there to celebrate the coming of the spring, but also with some religious significance in Hinduism. Traditionally, bonfires are lit, with food and desserts thrown in as an offering to the fire god. The next day, the city explodes as coloured powder is thrown over people as everyone ‘plays Holi’. Usually, a lot of water is used as well, partly to make the coloured powders messier, but also to offer rain dances for the oncoming monsoons, but with the drought in Maharashtra ongoing, it became a bit of a stigma to waste water this year, with only the very rich secretly playing with water behind closed compound doors.

I wasn’t particularly in the ‘Holi mood’ given that I found out that my grandmother in Ireland had died the previous morning, so didn’t really do anything, but it was still funny to see grown men walk around the city with purple hair, bright pink faces, and red/green/blue/yellow stained clothes and skin for the next few days. Given the wonders of modern technology, I was actually able to somehow be part of the funeral in Ireland, and whilst it was of course difficult, it was nice to hear all of the fond memories people had of her and her life in the Middle East, Germany and finally Ireland, with plenty of grandchildren to keep her busy – read eternally bothered – in her retirement.

For Easter, we planned an Easter Egg hunt for the children at miniFROG. It was quite fun, and we had more children than we have ever had, though once again it was very messy; not sure that the staff were very pleased! I have also been going to a few of the choir classes at Mehli Mehta, and have been impressed by the teachers there, with Kodály very integrated into the teaching. Whilst the situations are very different; the children here are very much from affluent backgrounds, and there are half a dozen in a class rather than over 70 at Muktangen, I hope that there will be some crossover between teachers here, and at some of the other places I am working; Mehli Mehta already does a bit of work at Muktangen, and possibly Gateway too in the future.

I took a walk down to Crawford Market this morning, one of Mumbai’s principal markets. Officially, it is called Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Mandai, after it was renamed in the same patriotic (though same would rather it described as ultra-nationalist rather than patriotic) drive that saw Bombay become Mumbai, though the Crawford name seems reluctant to go away. It includes two fountains designed by Rudyard Kipling’s father, Lockwood, though someone has decided to give them a colourful makeover, commandeering them as a fruit stall. It is definitely one of those places where you can literally buy anything, and the endless tight corridors of stalls stock exotic fruits, imported pastas and oils, live animals, pungent spices, vividly coloured clothes, and even an entire stall devoted to stick-on beauty spots. It is the beginning of the highly anticipated mango season in India, so there was a sea of Alphonso mangoes at the entrance today. It is also definitely a place that tests your sense of smell/gag reflex to the extreme. Whilst going from the musty ‘root vegetable’ section into the sweet aroma of tens of thousands of mangoes isn’t too bad, I was close to vomiting as I passed by the meat and fish section; obviously non-refrigerated chicken and 37C heat do not mix well; it’s a smell that doesn’t leave you very easily. That, and the sight of thousands of live budgies, cats, dogs, chickens, and, if reports are to be believed, plenty of illegally smuggled flora and fauna, packed into tiny cages are what will stick with me.

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Just over one week left in India now, and what am I off to do this evening? Yes, Jurassic Park in 3D.

Written by Jamie Munn

A bit delayed, but lots to pack in; I’ll try to keep it short and concise (‘Yeah, right’, you all say to yourselves). I was in Delhi a two-hour flight from Mumbai, this week giving two workshops at the Global Music Institute. I actually found it quite strange having so little to do, considering how busy and concentrated everything in Mumbai has been. Delhi itself also seemed much quieter; it’s more spread out, and apart from the old city, the streets definitely aren’t teeming with life in the same way that it is here. The workshops were for young singers, and we spent the time going over exercises and technique, as well as a bit of musicianship training (pulling out some good old National Youth Choir of Scotland rounds especially for the occasion).

There was also plenty of time to do some sightseeing, and Delhi is full of ancient forts, monuments and mausoleums. I spent some time at Hauz Khas, with its serene lake-side setting, had a look at the Bahá’í ‘Lotus’ Temple – one of only eight continental houses of worship that exist in the world – and it is said that in some years, this temple receives more visitors than either the Eiffel Tower or Taj Mahal.

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Lotus Temple

Delhi’s big attractions are the Red Fort and Jama Masjid mosque, both in the old part of the city. I found it bizarre coming from the Delhi Metro (basically a cleaner, swifter, quieter, shinier version of the London Underground – even the logo and the announcements sound like the Tube) into Chandi Chowk, which not only seems like a different city, but a completely different cultural dimension in a different time with it’s overcrowded streets, bicycle rickshaws plying the roads, dilapidated buildings, people continuously filing in and out of Hindu and Jain temples and mosques, and the overkill of smells that mix highly perfumed flowers with spicy foods being cooked on the street, rotting vegetables, urine, smoke, car fumes and incense. At the end of Chandi Chowk is the Red Fort, build by the 17th century Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. It is huge in scale, and whilst much of its splendour has been plundered, you still get a sense of power that the fort served for the emperors until they were ousted by the British Indian government in the 1850s. From there I went to Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque (the courtyard can hold more than 25,000 people), and after arguing with a guard (where we both basically looked like fools for 10minutes mocking each other), I paid the bizarre entrance fee for ‘having a mobile phone on my person’, even though it was only being applied to obvious non-Indians (i.e. white and black people), despite its supposed universality. The mosque itself is quite spectacular and like everywhere else I’ve seen in India, all of life is played out there.

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Jama Masjid

I gave myself a free day to take a trip to Agra and pay tourist homage to the Taj Mahal. Even though it’s something I would normally avoid like the plague, I went on an organised tour, but I just wanted to not have to think about train timetables, tickets and haggling for a day and enjoy the comfort of an air-conditioned bus. In true tour guide fashion, he somehow managed to rush us through the amazing Agra Fort in 30 minutes. They have managed to retain much of the original work here, with semi-precious stones making up detailed inlay in the marble, and beautifully intricate columns and archways that seem to multiply endlessly. The lightening tour of the Fort meant that we could ‘spend more time’ in the shop that the guide had ‘carefully chosen for us’: i.e., the one that gives him the biggest commission.

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Agra Fort

We then made our way to the Taj. I wont say much about it other than that it really lives up to expectations; it looks as pristine as it must have done when it was first built, and despite the thongs of people who where there, there still seemed to be enough space for everything and there were still a sense of serenity in the madness, which is hard to find in Mumbai…

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Taj Mahal

The last stop on the tour was the supposed birthplace of Krisha in a small town just outside Agra. If you were looking for an image of your stereotypical India, then this town would be it; stray cows wandering the streets with impunity; monkeys making a mockery of their cute faces by viciously stealing anything edible from grumpy old men; shaky buildings overflowing with sacks of rice and pulses and baskets of exotic spices and fruits; a large sacred water source coated with a deadly looking film of green algae; temples and piles of rubbish galore, and in equal measure. The site itself is a complex of temples, pilgrimage sites and a mosque, though to be honest, even though the guide said everything was hundreds if not thousands of years old, it all looked very 1970s kitsch to me. Like everywhere else, it was full of life, with lots of bell ringing, gongs being struck, flowers being given in puja and women lying prostrate on the concrete floor as they make their offerings.

Before heading off to Delhi, things were still going full steam in Mumbai. Carol, the director of Live Music Now Scotland, spent her last few days in India coming with me to Kandivili, to see me working with the children in preparation for their concert at blueFROG with a choir from Cambridge. As before, the kids were so much fun, and we had a great, but exhausting time. I also went for two sessions with a group in Kurla. From the moment we started I knew that these kids would turn out to be my favourites. They were so immediately trusting, and even though they had been slightly neglected by their tutor, they learned everything quickly, and were so anxious to do well. When I went back the next day they had memorised the scrolls of words I gave them to learn, and was touched when a few came with thank you notes, little gifts, and lots of hugs and chatter on the way out.

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Kandivili

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Kurla – my favourties!

I know that it’s part and parcel of doing music workshops that you drop in for a few days and then back out again, but that particular school gave me slight feelings of guilt. The kids got attached so quickly, and were keen to confirm that we would do more again… but of course, I’m only here for a few more weeks That feeling is even stronger at the Gateway SEN School, because of the particular needs of the children there, and also because of that attachment, and the confidence and trust they have in you to turn up.

I was back at two of the Songbound schools over the past two days to see the children work with the choir from Cambridge. To begin with the kids were a bit lost, not quite understanding the concept of an SATB choir and having harmony being sung around their melody, but they soon caught on and took the idea of a conductor countertenor choral scholars and Cambridge-esque salmon chinos in their stride. In fact, I was told that when the choir went to the Kurla school, the kids taught the Cambridge students ‘Tue, tue barima’, complete with the silly movements we had made up for it; the bizarre popularity of this melody lives on!

I’ve had two more days at the Gateway School. Carol was with me last week, and immediately understood why I have been raving about the place so much. They have set such high standards for what do for the children, and they are very aware of what is needed. This week, the school had a visit from Shaun Tait (I have no idea who he is, but supposedly he is the David Beckham of cricket). One of the children in particular, who is normally so insular and quiet suddenly burst into life at the prospect of batting with Tait; it was so great to watch. Tonya Pulanco and Jossie O’Neill from Gateway New York are in the school doing workshops and observing classes over the next week or so. They are so knowledgeable and serve as a real inspiration for people working with children who have special needs. They came to see some of the music classes and were impressed by what we were doing, and how we had managed to integrate the activities together, and maintain even the more difficult children’s attention for the whole session in a calm way. Then came the stumbling block; Tonya asked me why it worked well, and I couldn’t’ really give a coherent answer. I think she was making the point that whilst some methods may come instinctively, it’s important to really analyse and reflect every single thing, because with these children, even the smallest change or fluctuation can make a huge difference in how they behave.

As well as a rehearsal with the choir from Muktangen, Carol also came to the music lesson with the street children from Worli (probably the neediest kids I am working with in terms of both poverty and social issues) last week, which was really fun. This week was very different; the early rise probably wasn’t helped much by the fact that I had been out for drinks with the Gateway teachers the night before, but that’s another story. For the most part, the session was good and we had lots of fun, playing some singing and rhythm games, using a dusty old banner for our ‘parachute’ in Sarasponda. Then suddenly one of the girls just flipped and started lashing out at the others – over some previous argument – with lots of punching, scratching, kicking and screaming. Needless to say, the youngest ones were in tears, and it didn’t help matters at all that the teacher began to scream at the children, hitting the ones who were fighting. I tried to calm them a bit, but in that situation where all sides are screaming at each other (of course the children imitating the adults), then there’s not much that can be done. I decided it was best to stop a bit earlier than usual and let them go back to their families and cool off. It’s the first problem like that I’ve had here, and even though it came out of nowhere, and the teacher didn’t help matters, I’m a bit frustrated that we couldn’t have sorted it out in a better way than just stopping the session.

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Worli

Tomorrow I’ll be back at miniFROG, and it’s also the Songbound concert, which should be fun. I’m also going to see Silviya’s recital at Mehli Mehta, and we’ll begin rehearsing for our own in a couple of weeks’ time. I’ll also be back at work with Mewsic and Muktangen as well as all the others, and will be doing some things with Mehli Mehta, including work with a choir for blind children, which should be really interesting.

Written by Jamie Munn

I know it has become a bit of a cliché for me to say at the beginning of my posts, but this week has certainly been a busy one. I made my first visit for a while to Aashansh’s Worli centre to lead a music session. It meant a very early start, but allowed me to see the sun rise beautifully over the Arabian Sea as I left the house.

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I met Ramesh, the founder of Aashansh in the colourful chaos of Dadar flower market, and we went to round up the children. The children from this centre come from street families who have made their homes on the pavements and street corners, from pieces of scrap metal and dusty blue tarpaulin. Unfortunately, the previous evening many of the families had these shelters demolished by the municipal council, so there was a bit of disruption in the community. I understand the authorities wanting to clear public areas of makeshift and illegal structures such as these, but if there is no alternative accommodation made available for these families, then it is just a vicious circle; even that morning many people were simply rebuilding what had been destroyed the night before. And so it goes on.

Nevertheless, the children turned out, and though some of them were clearly very tired, we had a good couple of hours of music making. As with most of the other places, rhythm is much stronger than pitch, and one of the four-year old boys had me flummoxed with the rhythm game he had come up with for me to copy; the hand movements were so intricate, quick and complicated. In amongst all the games and activities we did, I snuck in Tue tue, and as with all the other centres it was an instant hit. I’m still not quite sure why everyone loves this short Ghanaian song so much, but there are at least 500 Mumbaikers who now know it!

The Gateway SEN School goes from strength to strength, and I really look forward to going there every week. The children have really come on, and even the most shy and suspicious of the kids know me well enough now to trust me. I’ve found that the vibrations from my singing are very calming for some of the more difficult children, and we had the surreal situation of one of the children spending the entire lesson face down in my lap, but at least it kept him calm. Even more surreal was our lesson with the two trickiest boys. They were particularly restless this week, though managed to calm them down by turning off the lights and singing some folk songs to them. However, the only way that they would sing is when one had on the high-heeled shoes of the other teacher, with the other boy sitting on my shoulders; as the saying goes – the end justifies the means!

Carol Main, the director of Live Music Now Scotland is in Mumbai this week, meeting with organisations and attending some of the sessions with me. She came to the weekly lesson I take with Ayush for the trainee teachers of Muktangen. As usual, the ladies there were so lively and vivacious, throwing themselves into all the silly actions and moves I persist in asking them to do. They have really come on in the two months I have been here, they are more confident in volunteering to lead solos and play instruments, and the musicianship and sense of pitch has become more refined. It should be noted than none of these women are music specialists, and most didn’t have any experience with music of any sort before beginning their Muktangen training. I even managed to do my homework, and sang a Hindi song for them; OK, so it was the Hindi version of Twinkle, twinkle star, but longer with extra verses, so I was quite pleased with that – they didn’t even laugh at my pronunciation, so I must have done at least some of it right. After the session we met with Sunil and Liz Mehta who founded Muktangen to see how Live Music Now can cement its relationship with the organisation’s seven schools. They are such a lovely couple, and the set-up they have is great, so I hope the collaboration continues in the future.

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After a disastrous taxi journey to Govandi (I thought it would save some time, but managed to pick a taxi driver with no sense of direction), Carol and I met with Ankur and rushed along to the Mewsic centre to lead the session there. The kids, led by one of the older girls, were practising something I had taught them when I came in – I’m so glad they (the children and the tutor) are enjoying the things I’m doing with them as I was warned this could be a difficult place to work. There were lots of new young boys this week, so it’s good that the centre is attracting some new people. We carried on with the songs and games I taught last week, and added some extra percussion instruments and actions for the songs; the kids are becoming more confident at coming up with things during our rhythm games, and even the pitching is improving (which I thought would be an impossible task!).

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I then manoeuvred myself through the rush hour trains (crushed is not the word, though there seemed to be space for a wedding celebration complete with drums, bells and singers, and a man selling and demonstrating spring-loaded pencils like a bingo-caller as if they were the greatest technological advance since man landed on the moon), to get to a new school for me to help the children (90 of them) who will be participating in a concert at blueFROG as part of a Songbound concert with a Cambridge choir. After sitting on trains and enduring delays for almost two hours, I was no closer to arriving, so decided to call it a day and make the long journey back to Colaba to catch the end of a concert with Carol and the Mehtas at NCPA as part of the Arties Festival and recovered with a refreshing glass of cold coffee, which I’ve become a complete convert to.

Thankfully I had more time to get up to Kandivili the next day for a mammoth six hours of workshops with the Songbound choir. The school has around 400 children housed in the most cramped classrooms I have ever come across. It is right in the middle of what looks to me like a fairly major slum, and yet here were hundreds of kids diligently getting on with their work, turned out in perfect school uniforms and keen and enthusiastic about their schooling. There was no space big enough to take all 90 children together, so I did three sessions of thirty kids before taking groups of 10 children each to work on pitch, the words and expression in the songs (and, of course, have some fun with an ever-accelerating Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes – a classic if ever there was one). I know I say this each time, but the kids were so lovely, and yet again willing to do all the weird and silly actions and songs I was getting them to do. Even more impressive, was that they were so well behaved given that I, a completely new person, was the only teacher in the room. I’m sure when I was their age we took certainly take advantage of a situation if our regular teacher wasn’t there. I’m looking forward to going back there today, and I’m only sad that I can’t spend more time with them, especially as many had asked if it was a new weekly class… but you never know what will happen…

I can only contrast that to Sunday’s miniFROG session, where we are definitely dealing with Mumbai’s pampered children. There were two siblings who had obviously never heard the word ‘No’, and were probably the most uncooperative children I’ve worked with here, but, there you go. At least the dessert buffet was once again a winner.

I also went with Carol to meet the management of the Mehli Mehta Foundation, which runs a school that Silviya Mihaylova – another Live Music Now musician – is working at for six months. Like everyone else, they were so nice, and keen to build links with Live Music Now. They have also invited me to work with some of their outreach projects, including a choir at a school for blind boys. At the weekend I went to a screening of the Met Opera’s Rigoletto at NCPA, took a trip to see Dhobi Ghat, where many Mumbaikers send their clothes to be washed, and, of course had more wonderfully spicy Indian food (my tolerance has definitely peaked), so it has been a packed and varied week so far.

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The rest of the week will see some work with the children of Muktangen, lots and lots of Songbound sessions, a day at the Gateway School, a morning in Worli with the street-children, and planning a recital with Silviya, before rushing off to Delhi (I say ‘rush’, but it’s a twelve-hour train ride…) to conduct some workshops for the Global Music Institute there – it never rains but it pours.

Written by Jamie Munn

The mercury has been teetering over the edge of 40°C over the past few days, so walking around and travelling on dusty un-air conditioned trains (the fans just blow the hot air and dirt around) hasn’t been particularly fun, but gallons of lemon and mint ice tea are helping me power through – I just realised how much sugar goes into ice tea, so I dread to think what it’s doing to my insides…

As well as the usual classes at the Gateway School (Special Educational Needs – SEN) this last week, I was asked to be their ‘Special Guest’ at Grandstand – kind of like a whole-school assembly. My brief was to ‘introduce opera’, PowerPoint presentation and all. Alas, technology failed and the school’s computer wouldn’t play any sound, but the children still stayed interested; I think the photos of funny costumes, and photo-shopped pictures of singing cats helped… I gave them a short performance of a few pieces and just about got some sound out of the computer to do an activity with them. One of the young boys then declared that I had ‘done a good job’, so I guess I did OK then.

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The classes at Gateway continue to go well. The kids are enjoying the activities and the school’s founder shadowed us this week, and was so keen that we are now planning a mini-school show for the children’s parents in April. The older kids are especially engaged in listening activities, which I found surprising as many of them have difficulties staying still and concentrating, but the music seems to give them something to focus on; they came up with some fantastical stories after listening to Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture and Verdi Dies Irae this week. I’ve surprised myself at how well I’ve been able to work the children here; I was a bit apprehensive, as I don’t have so much experience working with children who have special needs. I’ve learned that the fewer words you can use the better (probably something I should learn when writing!), how important gaining and maintaining eye-contact is, how effective touch can be, and to recognise when not to pursue a reluctant child to join in an activity – they will almost always come back in a minute or so.

The work with the Muktangen trainee teachers also continues to go well and we are now building up a good repertoire of songs, activities and musical knowledge. Pitching has improved, but bigger leaps are still a challenge; we have built up a good relationship though, and one mock withering look (perhaps à la Maggie Smith) is enough to let them know that we need to ‘try that once more’. It is now much easier to integrate instruments into songs, and they are becoming much more confident at volunteering to lead the group in Body Percussion and warm ups. They have also given me homework, which I shamefully forgot to do this week, so I now MUST learn a Hindi song to perform for them.

The Mewsic Govandi centre was a bit subdued to begin with this week, which I found a bit strange as they are usually climbing the walls when I come in, but I think they had just been tired out by their dance teacher (a very retro young man, who lives in the 80s and revels in doing the ‘Moonwalk’ at the drop of a hat… no comment). It turned out to be probably the most flowing and coherent session I’ve had there. The kids (about 35 this week) grasped everything quickly, and I even got them all to sing a tiny solo in one of the activities. They managed to learn four new songs, we made a ‘storm’ using body percussion, I introduced them to playing some percussion instruments and we even managed to sing a couple of songs in canon – which for these kids was a big step. I wasn’t sure they’d be able to manage it, but after a few rounds they were staying in time with each other and managed to hold their own group’s tune. A tiring but successful couple of hours! The trip home from Govandi wasn’t so successful as someone had decided to throw a bag of clothes on the tracks in front of a train (the one in front of us thankfully), causing a derailment and train tailbacks for hours. Many abandoned the train and walked, but seeing as I was about 18km from my room (with its fan and cold water…), I had little choice but sit it out.

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Sunday’s Mini Frog session was, once again not very well attended, but we had two very keen children who stayed for the full three hours and kept Priya and me very much on our toes. The dessert buffet table was also particularly good this week, which is always a good thing.

It was my birthday last week (turning the ripe old age of 26), and it coincided with an unexpected day off as the Muktangen schools were having an ‘Open Day’, so I filled it with some touristy things I have been meaning to get round to. The lady who bangs on my door every morning with breakfast wouldn’t allow me to sleep in, so I made my way to the Taj Hotel to treat myself to coffee at the Sea Lounge. The ‘muzak’ on offer there is a surprisingly good compilation of western classical music (no Eine Kleine Nachtsmusik here…), though clearly one of the waiters doesn’t like Ravel as whenever one of his pieces came on, it was hastily skipped to the next track.

I then went to the Tea Centre, which doesn’t seem to have been touched since the 1950s. The waiters come complete in black bow ties and the tables include a bell to get their attention with. I had some flowering Darjeeling (though it looked unsettlingly like a sea urchin), before walking alone a breezily, palm fringed Marine Drive, bordered on one side with a row of striking Art Deco apartment blocks, before reaching a surprisingly clean Chowpatty Beach, though I still wouldn’t recommend getting in the water…

I found a surprising patch of peace and serenity in Banganga Tank, probably the only place in the city that doesn’t come complete with a chorus of taxi horns. It is a sunken spring pool (the water is said to have sprung from the Ganges in the 1300s), with raised steps on all four sides used to dry clothes, and flanked by temples, palm tress and ancient fortified houses. The only sounds came from the honking of the two dozen geese, which have made the water their home (though that doesn’t deter people from coming to drink the greenish water…), or the unison flapping of 100 pairs of wings when the resident flock of pigeons spied something better on the other side of the complex (I wonder how birds manage to do that; is it a case of 1, 2, 3… GO).

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Before meeting Anna and Silviya for dinner at Pali Village Café, I went to Haji Ali for sunset. It is a mosque, built just off the seafront, and connected to the mainland by a slim walkway lined on one side by stalls selling gaudy souvenirs and huge soft toys, and on the other by an endless stream of beggars, each with an affliction worse than the previous. The mosque itself in undergoing restoration, but the white domes and minarets still look spectacular, and I have honestly never seen such a vivid sunset (well, maybe I have, but you forget these things); the whole sky was a deep red, with the sun slowly dropping into the equally red Arabian Sea.

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It’s exam season here, so the newspapers have been focussing on school textbooks, and, how, all too often, they are inadequate or full of mistakes (both factual and grammatical). A couple of my favourites included a statement from a Class 10 Biology textbook for ICSE students saying that “Poor standards of living and poverty do not provide any recreation other than sex”, and one from a Class 6 textbook for CBSE students, stating that “Your non-vegetarian food causes you to easily cheat, tell lies, forget promises, be dishonest, steal and commit sex crimes.” Ok then…

Nothing else of particular interest in the news this week (mostly impenetrable politics), but I found this photo of an elephant that was struck and killed by a train quite striking.

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I took a wander round Bhendi Bazaar, which is an area populated mostly by Dawoodi Bohra Muslims, distinctive because of the gold caps worn by the men and colourful, but almost Amish-designed garments worn by the women. I chose the best/worst time to go, as they were celebrating the 102nd birthday of their leader, who also happened to be driving round the area. Thousands upon thousands of people rushed out of various mosques, shouting and screaming, and running to catch a glimpse of him. I wasn’t actually clear until I asked someone later whether or not it was a riot that I found myself in the middle of. The area is well known for antiques, or ‘antiques’ as most are simply replicas. I was somehow coerced into buying a big bronze elephant bell thing… I think I like it…

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I was given a ticket to a concert of Rajasthani folk music, given by performers who normally perform devotional songs for wealthy Muslim and Mughal families in Jodhpur. The concert was interesting, not entirely my cup of tea (think six 70-year old men ‘singing’ in a style akin to Chinese opera…), but it was fairly unique (so I was told, so I’m glad that I went.

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On a final note, I made my first Indian cinema trip this week, and boy do they know how to do it. The food stands are endless and include fresh pancakes (need I say more), the seats recline, there is an interval (so no annoying people endlessly going to the toilet), and… you can get pizza delivered to your seat during the film. Someone please introduce this to the UK.

I will be meeting with a few other groups this week, and there is the possibility that I’ll be working with three new organisations; I’m not sure how I’ll fit it all into the week, but where there is a will there’s a way. Carol Main, the director of Live Music Now Scotland is coming to Mumbai this week, and will be coming with me to some of the sessions, as well as meeting with various people. I also need to start planning my trip to Delhi where I will be taking some workshops and meeting with a couple of youth performing organisations, so it’s still all go!

Eunuch curses this week: 2 (and very burly ones at that).

Written by Jamie Munn

Another busy week here in Mumbai with many hours spent on crowded, rattling trains ploughing up and down the city. I’m getting on well with the music curriculum, initially just for Mewsic, but will probably now be given in some form to all the organisations that I am working with. As I mentioned before, it’s quite a task, but it will be a really useful resource given that no such thing exists for any of these schools/centres.

I went to the Mewsic Govandi centre to work with the kids (about 25 girls and 5 boys) and tutor, which, given last week’s resistance, I wasn’t anticipating to go well. It was the singing ‘specialist’ this week, and at best I thought he would sit in the corner, but after a little persuasion he got involved in some Body Percussion and even looked rather enthusiastic about it. He then taught a song, but like last time it was long, complicated and had little in terms of real ‘pitch’ – more like a rhythmic chant – and about a third of the children didn’t open their mouths the whole time. I then tried ‘Tue tue’, a song from Ghana, remembered from somewhere in the recesses of my brain –though it turns out that ‘tue’ sounds a lot like the Hindi word for rats so that of course prompted some chuckling. They took to it well, and enjoyed the build up of song, actions and movement. Again, the tutor got involved and even recorded it to use with one of his other groups. Success!

Muktangen was good again this week. With the trainee teachers, we are continuing to work on pitch (though a few of them are proving very challenging in that respect), and also on feeling confident enough to stand up, sing and lead an activity – which for some is more easily said than done. Again, we did ‘Tue tue’ (it was a bit of recurring theme this week, partly because once it’s in your head it NEVER leaves… ah, yes, there it goes again…). A couple of days later it was off to the school to do four sessions with the children (three classes of around 60 kids each and then choir of 30). They are great kids, but hard to keep quiet and concentrate given the amount of environmental noise around – there is another school below this one and the noise travels up, the school is on a fairly busy road and Mumbaikers love to beep their car horns, and noisy fans whirr away in each classroom battling the humidity. We continued on last week’s work and introduced some instruments – just about avoiding a small riot by adding some makeshift paint tins and pencil cases to make sure everyone got something – and the choir began work on a piece from my own schooldays, Alshosha d’varim. The piano player for choir plays by ear, which wasn’t a huge problem this week, but I will need to try and come up with a solution if she is to play the whole accompaniment… any ideas!? It was Valentine’s Day, so almost every child was keen to wish me ‘Happy Valentine’s Day Jamie Sir’ as they shook my hand out from its socket. I’m not sure any kids (even 10-year old ones) in the UK would gain much street-cred for wishing their teacher a Happy Valentine’s Day…

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I went to Dharavi Rocks – this week in the group’s ‘office’, on the edge of the slum. The Dharavi Rocks programme is mainly aimed at children who come from families working as rag-pickers and recyclers (the people who trawl through the rubbish dumps looking for plastic, metal etc., to sell on), and even the office was full-to-bursting with piles of books, (dozens of huge Spanish textbooks for some reason…) – indeed books seemed to make up the structure of the back wall. They spend most of the time working on a piece that they will perform in a couple of weeks, and I did a bit of rhythm work and singing with them. Only about half of the kids are actively involved in the group, so I hope some singing will get the others more integrated.

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I met with the people at Blue Frog, who run the Dharavi Rocks programme, but they have, by their own admission, have not had enough time or resources to support it as well as it should. They agreed that more direction is needed to make sure that it can continue developing and growing, and that Blue Frog should take a much more active role in that process and impose some structure to make sure that the programme fulfils its original objectives. I’m hoping that will now get things moving as it has so much potential. We had our Mini Frog session in the club again this week, which worked well. Hopefully by this session we will have worked out a space to do some music activities with the kids.

Govandi was my second home this week, as I travelled up three times, twice to the six-month old Gateway School of Mumbai. It is a school for children with special needs, modelled on, and supported by, the Gateway School of New York. It was established by a Mumbai mother who, after coming back to her home city from the US, found there was nowhere suitable for her child, who has SEN. It’s quite a remarkable achievement, and she has assembled a great teaching and support team. On my second visit I shadowed the music teacher as she went round the classes, and we’re hoping that we can develop the music curriculum to something that is tailor-made for the school’s needs. What they are using now is an imported system that seems quite limiting and the older children don’t find it so engaging. The kids are really lovely, and within a few minutes of going in each class I was being clamoured over, hugged and given ‘special invisible’ chocolates. I’m looking forward to working with them, and they are keen to build up a relationship with Live Music Now.

It was the end of the Kala Ghoda Festival last week (big jamboree of the arts), and I went to a concert on the steps on the Asiatic Library at Horniman Circle (I’ve told you before, no sniggering…). It was billed as a ‘fusion of Indian classical and Western classical’ music, and of all the people to walk on stage, the main performer was a piano student at my alma mater, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – RCS, (new name for RSAMD for those out of the loop). OK, so he is Indian, so it’s a little less random, but still…

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Kala Gohda Festival

Silviya (another Live Music Now/RCS musician in Mumbai, working at the Mehli Mehta Foundation), had been given a couple of tickets to see Ganga Nitya Vaahini, a one-woman Indian classical dance show by Malavika Sarukkai, and for those who know about these things it was the hot-ticket of the week. I’m a complete novice, but it was so engaging, and she was so fluid in everything that she did that the stories were so clear and vivid. Finally, on the cultural front I went to an few exhibitions at Jehangir Art Gallery, the best of which was Transcending Eternity a huge collection of paintings and large metal sculptures by artist Satish Gupta, based on various Hindu deities, including a magnificent 3 or 4 metre-tall vision of Ganesha.

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Ganesha

Food-wise, my spice palate is strengthening, and I no longer need a gallon of water to accompany every Indian meal, though I did have burning lips for about an hour after a tiny portion of something (don’t ask me what), so I’m not quite yet localised. I, of course, celebrated Shrove Tuesday with pancakes in Bandra with Anna (friend from Scotland), and am steadily building up a large stock of cake shops (no surprise there) and bakeries around my house; I’ll make it a mission to try all of them before I go.

Not so much in the news this week, although many cultural figures are becoming more and more concerning about censorship in India. An all-girl rock band in Kashmir has been forced to stop playing after receiving threats because of the music’s ‘unIslamic’ nature; Vishwaroopam, a film by Kamal Haasan has been heavily edited before being allowed on general release; Salman Rushdie cancelled plans to attend a book fair in Kolkata (Calcutta), after threats from Muslim leaders; a painting of a nude Hindu goddess was removed in Bangalore after vocal protests from those who ‘took offence’.

Next week will see more sessions with all of the groups and organisations, as well as concerts by the Symphony Orchestra of India (the first professional orchestra in the country), meeting with the Furtados School of Music, and also with RCS Principal, John Wallace – we really are taking over the city it seems!

Just now I’m off to a children’s birthday party. Wish me luck…

(No eunuch curses this week)

Written by Jamie Munn

I have been in Mumbai for over two weeks now, and am getting into the swing of my work here. My timetable is pretty full, with more to come, and it looks like the work and activities will have a large reach – in the past week I’ve met around 300 children!

I made my first visits to the Mewsic centres, in Dharavi (one of Asia’s biggest slums), and Govandi – a settlement a bit further north of the city. One of the first things that struck me about Dharavi was has permanent everything felt; completely different from the slums of Kibera and Korogocho in Nairobi. There were paved roads, buildings made of brick, signs of piped water and business activity was extensive. Most probably, this isn’t an average representation of Dharavi, but I was surprised none the less. The music classes are held in a small room, access to which is via an almost vertical staircase. The children sang a couple of songs for me with the teacher acting as ‘soloist’ and accompanying on the harmonium. It didn’t seem particularly engaging for the children – especially as many of them seemed to have trouble grasping the concept of pitch, and I’m not sure how much they actually learn.

The Govandi centre was markedly different; the children were livelier, and keen to show off what they could do. However, they seemed to be left much to their own devices, and in the two hours I was observing, there was only about 20 seconds of actual teaching (and that is no exaggeration). The teacher seemed more intent on making me feel uncomfortable, by talking about me (loudly in Hindi) with Bhushan, from the Mewsic office. I can understand why teachers might resent having a ‘trainer’ coming in at the behest of ‘head office’, to critique them, but to purposefully do so in front of the children was unprofessional to say the least. Nevertheless, Mewsic are keen for me to work with the teachers, and I am looking forward to working with the children in Govandi, most of whom, unusually, are female.

The journey to Govandi was also eye opening. I thought I had experienced tightly packed Indian trains already, but this was on a completely different level. The platforms were vibrating with people, and it seemed that people valued a place on the train more than they did their own limbs, and given the amount of pushing and shouting, I’m surprised there wasn’t some sort of crush. Govandi itself is also a bit strange. It seems as if it’s in the middle of nowhere, countryside almost, as it is surrounded by rolling hills and wide-open space. It took me a while to realise that these hills were actually a huge rubbish dump. It’s mind boggling the amount of rubbish a city the size of Mumbai produces, and I just couldn’t imagine ever living next to acres and acres of rotting rubbish.

The biggest part of my work with Mewsic is the development of a music curriculum for use in all of their centres. It’s a huge task (especially given that I have the equivalent of 10 working days in which to do it), but I think it’s quite important for that to be in place (indeed I’m surprised that nothing already does). I just hope that there is enough will among the existing tutors to learn a new way of doing things that isn’t just learning long, dull songs by rote, and leaving the children to do their own thing.

I have also got really stuck into my work with Muktangen. I’m working with trainee teachers one morning a week, and spending a day in a school doing music sessions with Ayush – a Nepalese singer/songwriter and teacher. Music and creativity is quite central to the Muktangen teaching philosophy, and it’s interesting to see the difference between the government schools and the Muktangen ones – often in the same building. From the outset, there is much more life, colour on the walls and paintings by the children everywhere. The trainee teachers aren’t music specialists, but the sessions are designed to give them more confidence in using music in the classroom, and allow them enough knowledge to devise their own activities as well as using the repertoire they are provided with. They are all so keen, and we did some very rigorous Body Percussion and singing in canon (in ‘The Breakfast Song’, which some of you may know and love/hate, though we had to replace bacon with the more Indian bhaji).

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Working with the children (three class groups and the mixed-age choir) was great fun. It was interesting to see the differences between those who have had music lessons for a couple of years as opposed to the classes that haven’t; far more discipline, confidence and a longer attention span in the former. Ayush had taught the classes the ‘NYCoS’ Selkirk Grace, which was the last thing I expected them to sing for me as their introduction. One of the older classes is doing a project on Scotland, and was asking hundreds of questions – I can only hope that I gave them some semi-correct answers (our national bird is the osprey, right…?). The younger children were hilariously keen, and belting out canons and songs aplenty. At the end of the session they mobbed me with high-fives, ‘special’ handshakes and grabbed onto various limbs all the while shouting ‘Jamie Sir’ at 50 decibels; I think they will be my favourite class.

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I also went to Aashansh’s Worli centre to begin some work with the children there. Aged between 4 and 15, they come from street families, and Ramesh, the foundation’s director, took me round some of the families, sleeping under makeshift shelters of tarpaulin and living their lives out on the pavements, before the session. A few of the families had had their shelter demolished, so even what little they had is gone and they have to start over again. In the middle of that, it’s remarkable that the children not only turn up to the Aashansh lessons, but clean, well turned out and ready to learn. They are certainly lively, and the teacher had his hands full with them. They were mostly revising for exams, and going over times-tables, with the four-year olds being expected to know the 8-times-tables just as well as the teenagers – and in actual fact the younger kids were generally far more attentive and knew more than their older classmates. I’ll be returning every week to do some music with the children, and running sessions with Ramesh to train interested volunteers to take classes on a more permanent basis.

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Last, but not least, we had our miniFROG session at blueFROG. We held it in the club itself, rather than the uninviting, strip-lit room round the corner, and it was far more successful than last week. More children came, and they stayed for longer, returning after lunch to do more activities. The only downside is that we can’t really do any proper musical activities given the public nature of the club, but it’s a start at least.

It hasn’t, of course, been all work, and I’ve continued to explore the city. Colaba, the area I’m staying in, has such a permanent ‘lived-in’ beauty, with large ‘shabby-chic’ townhouses, and so much greenery and so many trees. It’s as if Mother Nature has been steadily reclaiming this corner of the city for the past 100 years, and at some points it really seems as if you are in the middle of a forest with houses planted in the middle of it.

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I now have my set newspaper, and morning coffee shop (both essentials), have found the frozen yoghurt shop round the corner indispensable (and so, so cheap), and have ‘my’ bookshop. I find amazing just how cheap books are here – roughly a third of the UK price, with further discounts at the till for some reason. I’ve also begun to – slowly – learn some Hindi, and I think that incorporating some Hindi into the songs will not only go down well with the kids, but also make them more tangible – especially in Govandi and Worli.

I managed to get the last ticket for a cello and piano recital at the National Centre for Performing Arts, which was great, but bizarre, partly because everyone looked like they came from Tel Aviv rather than Mumbai; the cellist was a relentless name-dropper, and a women in the front row of this small recital room was using opera glasses, not only to look at the cellist’s skin cells, but to visibility turn round and have a nosy at everyone else too.

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I also went to the Phoenix Mall – just round the corner from blueFROG. It’s basically three malls rolled into one, and to be honest I found it a bit overwhelming, especially having just come from the street-families in Worli, and having ridden on a train seeing people squatting at the side of the tracks because they don’t have any access to toilet facilities. The mall makes Regent Street look like a street market, and is made up of outlets of Gucci, Armani, Chanel, Burberry etc. – as well as Hamely’s and good old M&S). I know that there is inequality is most cities around the world, but the gulf here in just so vast and the people live so cheek-by-jowl, that I’m surprised there hasn’t been some sort of French-style ‘let them eat cake’, revolution.

Next week, I shall be working with the same groups and organisations, as well as another school in Govandi. It’s a school for children with special needs and modelled on the Gateway School of New York. They have a dedicated music teacher, who is interested to see how music therapies, and especially the singing voice, can help development, so it will be interesting to see how we can collaborate.

A few stories from the news here this week. This big story is that of the Delhi rape case, that is preparing to go to trail. It seems to have sparked of something in many Indians, and the culture of keeping quiet about rape and sexual abuse is being chipped away, with more and more horrific stories being reported every day. Residents in one slum in the north of the city are feeling very restless after six people in the past few months have been killed by leopards. With the city encroaching further and further on the forests, and people dumping rubbish that attracts rats, pigs and goats (leopard food…), it seems it become more regular.

Finally, look at the two photos below: notice any similarities? Yes, the architect of the university buildings in Glasgow and Mumbai was one and the same. Same plans for both perhaps…?

(Eunuch cursing count – 5)

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Written by Jamie Munn

It has been just over a week since I arrived here in Mumbai and I will be working here – a city of over 20 million people – for the next three months as part of a Live Music Now/Creative Scotland residency project. The project ran for the first time last year with Laura Grime, also a Live Music Now musician, and my job here is to continue the work that Laura began with various organisations, and help with the long-term sustainability of their music projects.

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I am staying with the Kripalani family (Honorary Consul to Mumbai of Iceland of all places), right on the seafront, just down from the Taj Mahal Hotel and the iconic Gateway of India, where scores of hawkers both work and live, trying to ply the most random of wares; from oversized balloons to tiny cups of tea. The Gateway was built to commemorate the arrival of King George V and Queen Mary when Mumbai (then Bombay) was part of the British Empire. It is still a bustling port, and hundreds of tiny fishing boats and larger tourist vessels bob around in the not-so-clean water of the harbour.

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I spent my first few days in the city trying not to be overwhelmed by the size of everything, and the sheer amount of traffic and people. This is especially evident in any train station, and anyone with an image in their mind of an Indian train bulging with people hanging off the sides wouldn’t be far wrong. Trains heave with thousands of people who disembark at the main station – Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus), swap places with another few thousand people, and the train leaves again a minute or so later. In my few days of using the trains I’ve had a fair few incidents including being cursed three times by hijras – Indian eunuchs (yes, you read correctly), almost starting a brawl, and being fined twice the price of my season ticket for going a stop too far, though bearing in mind that my monthly season ticket cost the equivalent of £1.50, it wasn’t such a huge cross to bear.

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I visited a few museums; the long-windedly named Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, originally called the Prince of Wales Museum, which is an amazing building holding a vast array of Indian artefacts including Hindu statues that are over 1500 years old; the National Gallery of Modern Art, the Jehangir Art Gallery and the Bhau Gaji Lad Museum (opened as the Victoria and Albert Museum). Until a few years ago it was almost derelict, and has undergone a huge transformation taking the building back to what it was like 140 years ago, showcasing the city’s trade, skills and craftsmanship. It is in the grounds of the Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan (Byculla Zoo), which is not a nice place indeed. Many of the larger animals (lions, leopards, bears and hippos) have either been shipped out or died, and their small Victorian enclosures lie empty, overgrown and falling apart. There were a few sorry-looking antelopes and waterbuck (worryingly sharing an enclosure with the crocodiles…), a couple of Asian elephants swaying themselves crazy in their stalls, and whilst the tropical birds seemed to have escaped out from the aviary into the trees above, they had been replaced inside by pigeons and crows seeing the benefit of a daily feed; ironically, the lion enclosure held nothing apart from a mangy stray kitten.

Spending some time in St Thomas’ Cathedral was like stepping back in time. It was the first Anglican church in Mumbai, and after extensive restoration won, like the Bhau Gaji Lad Museum, a UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Award. There are dozens of elaborately inlaid memorials to British colonists and a whole host of Lieutenants and Captains who ‘fell to a sacrifice of the climate of Surat’, or were ‘barbarously put to death’, ‘mortally wounded’, or ‘died in the sortie from Kandahar’, although the majority seemed to have succumbed to cholera. Many of them seemed to have died in their 20s and 30s, and included an explorer on the Scott Antarctic Expedition, and a man from the County of Ayr in North Britain (I have never seen Scotland described as North Britain anywhere in my life).

I have also been meeting with people from the organisations I will be working with, and it seems like I will have a very busy few months ahead. Dharavi Rocks is an outreach programme of blueFROG (a high end music venue), and takes kids, many of whom are waste collectors, who live in the Dharavi slum (the biggest in India), and gives them music lessons and workshops with a view to putting on performances and concerts, as well as the benefits that participation in music bring. Also with blueFROG I will be working with their miniFROG Sunday kids’ classes, and seeing how to develop it and incorporate some music into the sessions. With Mewsic, part of the Brett-Lee Foundation (a famous Australian cricketer, but being a Scot I wouldn’t know anything about that), I will be working to help train some of their tutors in their music centres in how to deliver singing in lessons, and helping to design an overall curriculum that incorporates music into early-years learning.

Muktangan is a charity that runs schools for disadvantaged children, and trains women to teach them. Most of these women come from marginalised communities, and the one-year course allows them to see the benefits that a good education can give their children and the community as a whole, giving a sense of ownership and increased participation. Again, I will be working with the tutors there to develop music’s role in the classroom and give the trainee teachers a ‘repertoire’ of things they can use themselves. Lastly, for now(!), I’ll be working with the Aashansh Foundation, which was set up by a hugely talented young man from Mumbai to address some of the issues facing some of the city’s neediest children, with a view to housing as well as educating these children.

A lot of this work, will be collated and used as a case study for a large project that the British Council is planning; I’ll have to present my ‘findings’ in New Delhi in a couple of months – all a bit daunting, but apart from anything else, it’s clear that I’ll be kept busy whilst I’m here!

Written by Jamie Munn

Vicky Cave and myself have been in Delhi since Friday making contact for possible partnerships for a residency in Delhi in 2014 with Live Music Now. We have met with Music Basti and visited one of the sites for the workshops (Rainbow Home for children);Deepak Castelino; Global Music Institute; The Bridge Music Institute; Avinash Kumar from BLOT/UnBox Festival; Khoj International Artists; Hard Rock Café. Next on the list are fellows from the Create To Inspire programme run by Music Basti, a workshop by the Music Therapy Trust and a Homelands event at the British Council.

More to follow…!

Laura with Suhail, Tarun and Aditya from Global Music Institute

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Written by Laura Grime

Laura Grime and Vicky Cave arrived in Delhi at the weekend and have been meeting contacts for possible partnerships for a residency in Delhi in 2014 with Live Music Now. So far, they have met with Music Basti and visited one of the sites for the workshops (Rainbow Home for children); Deepak Castelino; Global Music Institute; The Bridge Music Institute; Avinash Kumar from BLOT/UnBox Festival; Khoj International Artists; Hard Rock Café. Next on the list are fellows from the Create To Inspire programme run by Music Basti, a workshop by the Music Therapy Trust and a Homelands event at the British Council.

And then they are off to Mumbai to see how Jamie Munn is settling into the second Live Music Now Mumbai Music Residency. Jamie arrived safe and sound today and is getting his bearings around the Colaba/Fort area, near to Gateway of India, where he is staying with the same family who put up Laura last year.

Singer Jamie Munn heads to Mumbai today for a 12 week residency working with the waste collector children of Dharavi Rocks, as part of the education and outreach programme of music club Bluefrog.  Let’s hope that a little bit of snow at Glasgow and Heathrow didn’t stop him getting on his way!

After the great success of the first Live Music Now Scotland mentored music residency in Mumbai in Jan to March of last year with traditional fiddle player Laura Grime, we are all set for the next one.  Singer Jamie Munn heads out to Mumbai later this month to work with the waste collector children of Dharavi Rocks as well as other children who make their living on the streets.  Apart from being a fabulous musician, Jamie is a brilliant blog writer as anyone who followed his African musical adventures will know.  Look out for his blogs at Creative Futures HQ!

If anyone had told me in March last year that in a year’s time I would have been to Mumbai on a Live Music Now and Creative Scotland solo residency, I would have laughed in disbelief! The past 3 months been such an enriching and fulfilling experience, I know I am really going to have a hard time explaining to people at home just how amazing it has been, so if you see me over the next few weeks/months, you’ll just have to bare with me!

My last week kicked off in true style with a me leading a workshop in music for personal and professional for 40 social workers, NGO based practitioners, and people from a wide variety of settings at Tata Institute of Social Sciences. I set this up right at the start of my time in Mumbai, through my arty auntie, Liz Kemp, who has worked with TISS for several years. When I heard there were 40 participants (the day before the workshop) I had a small scream and ate a lot of chocolate, but when it came to it, the day went really well! I got some fantastic feedback, so by the end of the day I was sitting on the train back from Chembur, lolling off, grinning!

I am delighted that I have made a real impact on some childrens’ music education in school with Ayush. On Tuesday when Ayush said “this is Laura’s last session with you, because on Saturday she’s going back to Scotland”, there were some hilarious responses from the classes including:

“Why?…Why?!….WHY?!”

and

“DON’T go, please stay!”

I still have ringing in my ears from all the children saying at the end of the day: “BYE LAURA TEACHER!!!!”

I am really going to miss seeing so many kids getting involved with no inhibitions and enjoying themselves with music.

So tonight is the very last Dharavi Rocks workshop…I’ll do a final update before I’m off on the journey home…LOTS STILL TO PACK IN!

Written by Laura Grime

One thing is sure – a week isn’t long enough in Mumbai. It is such a vast city that there is so much going on, so much to see, so much to do. However, it was long enough to experience two remarkable sessions with children from the Dharavi slums. Last night’s was part of Dharavi Rocks, the initiative between the really cool upmarket music venue/club Bluefrog and the Acorn Foundation.

Acorn is an NGO working for the welfare of slum children and waste collectors/ragpickers.The idea came to reality when, wanting to get involved in environmental and social issues and give less privileged communities access to music, blueFROG tied up with ACORN Foundation which understands the value in combining arts and education.

About 20 children appeared in dribs and drabs last night for a special session led by an actor, invited by Acorn, and supported by Laura Grime, the Live Music Now Mumbai musician-in-residence in association with Bluefrog, along with Ayush, a guitarist from Nepal who also works with Bluefrog. The children were so incredibly polite, positive, responsive and seemed to have a lot of fun, as well as learning skills along the way like how to trust and deal with relationships and emotions, to work as part of a team, be disclipined, have confidence – really important for the girls – and self-belief, and showed different ways of communication through artistic expression.

They, of course, weren’t quiet throughout the session,but silence fell as it came to an end and some mourishing food was given to all of the children present. The director of Acorn explained that by coming to the session, which may mean up to 2 hours travel each way for some of the children, they were giving up their time on the streets, time which would otherwise have been spent working on getting a meal, possibly not only for themselves but for their families too. Some children may be the main breadwinner of their family.

Laura has just one week left now of her residency which started at the beginning of January. And that’s not really long enough to be here either!

This week I was joined by the director of Live Music Now Scotland, Carol Main. It was good to show her around the city and take her to see some of the places I have been working and meet some of the people who have been influential on my residency. She particularly enjoyed our crazy trip to Dadar to capture some of the sounds of Mumbai! I did a bit of dodgey recording on a mixture of my mobile phone and my laptop, but hopefully I will be able to compile something interesting out the results – watch this space…
Dadar flower market was looking particularly stunning this week so I took some pictures!

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I seem to have a really low attention span this week! Perhaps it’s because I feel the end of my residency is coming really quickly, and I still have lots that I could do here -there’s just so little time! New opportunities are being presented all the time and India is so open to what I can bring.
It’s not just me with a short attention span, I have to say. Every child this week seemed to have something on their mind, most probably because there were holidays. This wednesday and thursday brought the huge celebration of Holi! An annual Hindu festival of colour celebrating the arrival of Summer and equality of human life – everyone covers everyone else in lurid coloured powder, saying “happy holi”, usually followed by a great water party! It was fantastic to celebrate this with a wild bunch of people on a lovely sunny day in Andheri (north Mumbai)! Unfortunately, there was too much water around to take any photos…one of my still pink feet coming soon!
On Wednesday, I went back to work with Aashansh’s early morning children in Worli. Last time I visited the children were excitable but were very responsive and interested. This week, however, there was a completely different atmosphere, with the kids on the verge of running wild! There was not much sharing going on and clearly tensions amongst the group were coming to the fore. Many of the children seemed pretty unhappy. I really struggle to say why this was but I think these children seem like they haven’t had enough to eat – they are really malnourished looking and small for their ages. Most likely a lack of sleep, and food combined with the excitement of Holi was taking its toll. It will be really interesting to see if this is the case next week, when things perhaps will be more normal.

Here’s some photos from my first visit to Aashansh in Worli

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Last Friday night, Ayush and I did an hour long performance at the blueFROG’s early set- it was great fun and we had a fab time! Here’s some pics from the special evening…photos courtesey of Sukrit Nagaraj.

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Written by Laura Grime

What a week it has been in Mumbai, visiting Laura Grime on her Creative Futures Residency.  It is so vibrant and busy here!  It is especially colourful today, as it is Holi, the festival of colour.  Music is spilling out on the streets and everyone is in happy holiday mood, to say the least!

Apart from productive meetings with varous agencies in Mumbai to try to work out where we go from here with the residency project – the potential is so enormous it’s hard to grasp – it has been a privilege to meet some of the children from the Dharavi slums, as well as the people working with them to help better their lives, and especially to see Laura working with them and how positively and enthusiastically the children respond to music.  They absolutely love the sound, feel and touch of the violin.  Laura doesn’t just have their rapt attention as they listen, sometimes clapping and singing along too, but she also lets them feel the vibrations and have a go themselves.  The sound that some of the children – age between 5 and 12 – can make is quite impressive!

Laura is also, very importantly, working to build up the skills of outreach music leaders/music teachers here in Mumbai, so that they have more at their disposal to help them in their ongoing work when she has to leave.

More tomorrow after seeing something of Dharavi Rocks, the music outreach project run as part of high-end music venue Bluefrog’s portfolio of activity.

Carol Main, Colaba, Holi – Thursday 8 March 2012

Dharavi Rocks is stepping up its teaching program, looking at the basics of music – rhythm, pulse, pitch etc. So with this in mind Ayush and I spent the week before last identifying everyone’s vocal range. We ended up with 2 groups and since then the singing has been far better.

It’s really interesting hearing the kids try to pitch a note and sing a scale – it seems such a struggle for an untrained voice, and there really are only one or two kids who find it easy to sing back in tune. One thing that really helped however, was introducing the boomwhackers. Using these to help the kids understand the scale helped no end and the concept of getting higher by step started sinking in. Perhaps more tuneful times are on their way!

Teamwork is also really developing further with the kids taking turns to lead the boomwhackers or lead a group of singers. It’s fantastic to see the way the respond to each other and follow a leader with concentration!

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The future for Dharavi Rocks holds exciting times with the prospect of recording an album with Indian and International artists in order to fund further work. Ayush started working on a song that he wrote, inspired by the group, with the kids. He’s going to work on some Hindi lyrics with the kids to incorporate into “Yellow Moon” over the next few weeks.

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Other future plans include getting a junk percussion maker to come and work with the group to improve their unusual instruments and develop Dharavi Rocks’ sound! This will add to the unique dynamic of the band.

Written by Laura Grime

I’ve now been in Mumbai for nearly two weeks and so much has happened in such a short space of time. I’ve seen cows on street corners, monkeys on leads, bananas the size of my pinky finger and such a whirlwind of traffic, it’s a wonder I am still alive!
So to put things into context and help you understand why I’m here, this post is going to be an overview of the projects that I’m going to be involved with other the next 8 weeks.

DHARAVI ROCKS with BlueFROG and the ACORN FOUNDATION
DHARAVI ROCKS is a joint educational project between blueFROG and Acorn Foundation, an NGO working for the welfare of slum children and waste collectors/ragpickers. The idea came to reality when, wanting to get involved in environmental and social issues and give less privileged communities access to music, blueFROG tied up with ACORN Foundation which understands the value in combining arts and education.

Dharavi Rocks educates, improves learning skills, self-discipline, self-confidence, encourages teamwork, improves social skills, temperament and community life. This partnership with ACORN Foundation’s Dharavi Project aims to raise awareness about the rag picker / waste collector community and their key role in society as recycling agents. We aim to legitimise them as members of a paid work force “green collar workers” and not unpaid slum dwellers and highlight Dharavi’s contribution to Mumbai as a key place for recycling. (From BlueFROG’S website)

The project has immense energy and the thing that strikes me about it is how much the kids value it in their lives. Some spend up to 2 and a half hours each way traveling to Dharavi Rocks in st Xavier’s College, after having spent a whole day working to earn money for their families. The commitment and dedication to the music and dancing that the kids display is something rare, raw and completely inspiring.

I’ll be working with Dharavi Rocks and BlueFROG to try and help them figure out where they want the project to go next, how they develop the program of work to make sure it achieves its potential in the future. I will be finding about how an organisation like BlueFROG connects and interacts with an impoverished community like Dharavi.

MiniFROG at BlueFROG CIROC SUNDAY BRUNCH
Three years ago my current mentor, Vicky Cave, set up MiniFROG to involve more children in BlueFROG’s activity. During the Sunday Brunch children have the opportunity to take part in art activities but this has somewhat dwindled a bit and needs a bit of input. I will be working with Priya (who currently runs miniFROG) to develop a new program of ideas including music, to attract more children and help it to fit in with BlueFROG’s ethos.

FINDING YOUNG MUSICIANS
Whilst I’m here, I am going to be spending some time meeting young musicians at the start of their music careers. I will be finding out how they’ve developed their skills and where they see their careers going. I want to know what training needs they have and whether they have an interest in getting involved with doing workshops, and playing music for those who don’t usually have access to it, as Live Music Now does in the UK. So this leads me to the focus of my blog for the future – HOW DOES A YOUNG MUSICIAN DEVELOP IN INDIA? more to come….

Written by Laura Grime

This week has been full of activity. Throughout the week I met around 270 children! I visited two mewsic centres in the slums of Govandi and Dharavi, two Muktangan schools with Ayush Shrestha, as well as attending Dharavi Rocks, staying late in the office to work and generally enjoying Mumbai life! Time is constantly getting eaten up but it makes life all the more exciting.

MEWSIC: So after a short and sweet meeting with Darshan and Emily from Innovaid who run Mewsic, it was agreed that I will help to give their music teachers some training in how to set up the classroom, give appropriate praise to the children, and some ideas to make the classes a bit more fun and keep the children coming back for more.

On Tuesday I was joined by Hanifa (who has kindly agreed to be my translator) and Darshan in Govandi slum – I have never been to a more dusty place in all my life. The mewsic centre is located on the edge of theGovandi dumping ground, a huge mountain of rotting waste, where rag pickers including around 1300 children work, collecting recyclable rubbish in exchange for less than 100 rupees a day (about £1). Here’s some pictures of the surroundings – it’s quite a challenge to take photographs around this area for obvious reasons.

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The Mewsic centre has been open for 2 months and is still experiencing some teething problems, which I going to try and help them address over the next few weeks. There’s little consistency in who turns up for the music classes, and the children are largely illiterate which the teacher is really struggling with, as his method is very focused on letters and numbers.

Wednesday was spent with Hanifa again, this time in DharaviMewsic centre. This couldn’t have been much more different from the previous day. The surrounding area was clean, not at all dusty and the centre was neat, tidy and fairly well equipped with 2 additional staff to help the children with their practice. It was really touching to meet such polite, sharing and motivated children. The atmosphere was one of concentration, pleasure, and the kids definitely knew why they were there, and were making the most of the opportunity. I’m really looking forward to going back and doing more work with the teachers to see what we can achieve.

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Dharavi River

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egg transport!

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Woman drying chillies in Dharavi street

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The entrance to the trapdoor of the Mewsic Centre in Dharavi
In the evening I went off to Dharavi Rocks with Ayush and Abhijit, who spent the session working on a couple of new songs. Despite a really noisy disco going on outside, the group managed to focus and learn the songs as best they could. Singing certainly isn’t a strong point of the group, so I’m going to be encouraging them to do more rhythm work in the coming weeks, including body percussion, junk percussion, and some cup music…more to come!
My favourite day of the week, however, had to be Thursday. Ayushinvited me to come to 2 of the Muktangan schools he teaches at. Muktangan is an integrated community school set up by the Paragon Charitable Trust, training local women to teach in a forward thinking method for children from the local poor community. Music is included in the curriculum, which is unusual in your average Indian government school. We played music with and for 8 classes over the day and the response was truly fantastic. The children were really happy to be singing and were fascinated by the violin, truly relishing seeing one in the flesh! Ayush is a really great person to be working with young children. His gentle, caring approach really suits the job and I am really looking forward to seeing him develop his style as he becomes more confident and develops some more diverse material for the children.
More to come….!

Written by Laura Grime

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I was very honoured to be asked by Nepali singer songwriter Ayush Shrestra to perform with him at Sulafest – a weekend music festival at a stunning vineyard near Nashik, about 120km from Mumbai! So we did a short set on the Saturday for a select crowd and then it was on with the big show on Sunday, playing on the main stage – warming up for Nitin Sawnhey. Great crowd and a fantastic atmosphere!

Written by Laura Grime

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Images copyright of Ayush Das Stills & Motion Picture Photography

So, very neglectfully of me – I completely forgot to mention my exciting performance of last wednesday (25th Jan) with West African Rhythm Ensemble, Taal Inc. at the BlueFROG Sula Fest Pre Party. It was a great night with a spellbinding performance from Bangalore singer songwriter Gowri and finished off by psytrance DJ Mad Maxx. Taal Inc. really got the party started in the middle, and it was great to be invited to finish off the set with them on a high energy solo in their epic medley of tunes and djembe solos! Thanks to Abhijit Jejurikar and the Taal Inc. guys for having me! x

Written by Laura Grime

Monday was a really satisfying day. I was invited by Mewsic to visit one of their NGO based music centres for underpriviledged children in Mumbai. I travelled up to Mankhurd on the train, passing through some of the poorest areas of Mumbai. Then it was a speedy autorickshaw drive to the orphanage where the children live and study. Bal Kalyan Nagari is a peaceful location, with trees and some open green space around (not often seen in the 4th most populated city in the world with 20.5 million people).

The venue for the music class is a bare room with mats on the floor and the limited resources include 5 guitars, 2 keyboards, and a set of bongos, spread amongst 30 children, some of whom have notebooks with notes of how to play happy birthday and other similar melodies. I met mr Patil and his colleague who teaches guitar and then I started the class. Boys and girls aged 7 to 17, sitting in rows very neatly with wide eyes – having never seen a violin before, let alone heard one. These were amongst the broadest smiles I have ever seen – and the opportunity to just sit, and listen was clearly cherished by the group. I was treated to some lovely performances of dance and singing and a small amount of very basic guitar. The teachers are incredibly strict with the children and one step out of line really isn’t tolerated. However, this is coupled with teachers leaving the room unattended to have a cup of tea or oversee another group and so there is little consistency for these children. Whilst I don’t speak Hindi and the children understand very little English, I communicated fairly easily with them through actions and demonstrations, and the children trusted me very quickly. My session introduced them to the violin, a Scottish song, some body percussion and some Scottish dancing, but the highlight was definitely inviting the children to have a try of my violin.

The sense of individual achievement that some of them got from having a go was clearly evident on their faces and they were desperate to be next in line!

I will be returning soon to do more work with the children and have scheduled a meeting with the organisers of Mewsic to discuss my future involvement.

Unfortunately I can’t post pictures of the children from the sessions but here are some of the journey to the centre, and the teachers trying out my violin! (cover your ears)

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screeech!

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view from the train: goat, shanty houses, burning rubbish, children playing

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people crossing the railway tracks – good timing

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children playing right between the train and a sewer of filthy water

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back in Mumbai central area they have dug up the pavement since I walked here in the morning

Written by Laura Grime

 

So it’s been a good start to my fourth week in Mumbai. MiniFROG (sunday activities with children while their parents are brunching) was well attended this week. We had a 6 children and four of them really enjoyed the music activities we had prepared. The children made some groovy guitars and then we did some music activities together – singing songs, playing some tunes with my percussion instruments and listening to and learning about the violin. The children had a ball and were very proud of their instruments – and a couple didn’t want the music to stop!

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Written by Laura Grime

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