Wednesday, 14 August 2013

From Avalon to Muktangan and back again.

A lovely Indian lady said to me 'if you can do Mumbai local trains, you can conquer anything.'

Becky and I are living in Vashi - a district in Navi Mumbai. To get to the center of Mumbai, the cheapest and fastest way to travel is by local trains. Stations are always packed and it's every wo/man for him/her self. We've been building up our confidence to take local trains for the past six weeks and now we're confident enough to do them on our own. With very little chance to sit down, doors that remain constantly open and the train itself speeding along with Mumbaikers hanging out the sides and sometimes riding on's anything but safe - English health and safety professionals would have kittens. Saying that, to carry out our work with Muktangan, a journey on these trains, alone, was inevitable.

On the first day, Duncan and Sam joined us at Sayani Road school in Parel - an area near central Mumbai. We arrived at the school and were immediately shown in to a teacher training class. Here was the first glimpse in to how music teachers are taught in old Mumbai. There were no instruments, the ladies (no men, at all) were being taught different songs and the basics of beat and pulse. This was interesting as it opened our eyes to the methodology used in the Muktangan schools. Before the lesson, we were asked not to comment so we just joined in as and when we judged appropriate.

After, we attended a planning meeting where fully trained teachers were taught new repertoire to deliver to their own classes. A lot of them were nursery rhymes and I've written some of them down to sing with my own children at Avalon. In this session, we were invited to play more of an active role and Ayush, one of the staff at Muktangan, asked us if we had any ideas that we could bring to the table. 'Bongalow' and 'Chickens and Hens' were a hit and the teachers had fun showing us their dance moves!

That afternoon, Sam and I went to a different school - Love Grove Pumping Municipal School (epic name!). This school was very hectic. One of the teachers from Muktangan accompanied us and we started off in 4th Standard (the kids in this class were about 9 years old). They were very...lively. It was rather chaotic and a lot of the children were fighting and throwing things at the ceiling fans as well as shouting at one another and just generally ignoring the teacher. I did the Bongalow which grabbed their attention for all of about five minutes. Sam and I were stunned to say the least. However, it was a fun lesson and never has 'pace' been more important in lessons with large numbers of kids.
The next lesson (5th Standard), was the complete opposite end of the spectrum. The children were attentive, they listened, they did as they were told, they were friendly, they tried really hard, still rather lively but it was like a breath of fresh air. Sam and I did the Bongalow, as well as 'I've been eaten by an Anaconda' (boa constrictors are a bit thin on the ground here) and 'Everywhere we go!' Ayush was in the school that afternoon running choir auditions and asked if we wanted to observe. I asked him to put us where we'd be most useful so we didn't observe and spent our time keeping the kids who weren't being auditioned entertained with fun songs. It was great for the music teacher here to let us get as involved as we did and everyone got a lot out of it.

Day two of Muktangan was spent with GMP school, also in Parel. Becky and I took more of an observing role and we learned so much from the music teacher there. They didn't really need us. A lot of western methods were already being implemented. The younger children (7-8 years) were displaying excellent rhythmic skills already, they were playing drums, shakers and claves all with correct technique so Becky and I joined in and had a relaxing day. Becky played her flute to a couple of the classes and created a game out of that which everyone enjoyed and we also got the chance to observe an art class. With Independence day this week, there were a lot of flags being drawn!

Tomorrow I am going by myself to Prabhadevi School. I'm being picked up from the station by Henrietta, a lovely British student who has also been living in Mumbai this summer. We met her on our first day at Muktangan and she's been very helpful.

As of Monday I'll be back at Avalon for our final full week in India and I'll make sure I squeeze out another blog post before we leave. This weekend we're hopefully going to make it to another Sacred Heart Church Choir rehearsal and do a workshop with them and maybe even do some work with another choir and kids from a children's home.

Today is Independence Day so we're dressed in appropriate Indian attire of white kurtis and flag colours (orange and green). Have a good weekend. Speak soon!


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