Sunday, 18 August 2013

Maria in rainy Gurgaon. Post 5.

It’s been raining golf-ball sized raindrops over here in Gurgaon. I think the crazy weather brings out the best in people though, as the Indians don’t let this get in the way of working, studying and having fun! I’ve been busier than ever especially at Shri Ram school where I’ve been continuing my genre based classes with Opera and also started music history classes beginning with the Renaissance. Sadly, I’ve finished with my choir who were preparing for ‘Oliver’ because they have exams soon so they will resume with another teacher after I leave. I didn’t realise how attached to these children I had become! Before I arrived they had never had a choir in the school and so weren’t at all trained in singing. After just a month and a half they had learnt 5 songs from the musical very well and with enthusiasm. I am so proud!
Me teaching the choir at Shri Ram
Much of the time my classroom music lessons at Shri Ram are challenging because of discipline issues such as the children talking and not listening in class. It was such a joy then when I went to Shiv Nadar school last week to take a few workshops. This is a primary school in the heart of Gurgaon and the young children were so well behaved! I taught them some action songs such as ‘Oliver Twist’, ‘The Hokey Pokey’ and the round ‘Guten Morgen’. With the older students I taught them about polyrhythm and managed to create an effective class composition using four different rhythms simultaneously. We even incorporated a dramatic crescendo and diminuendo!

Due to the rain, I still have not been able to carry out the vocal teacher workshops and choir that I wanted to set up at IMD. But the positive news is that the singing books that I suggested have arrived. This will be great for the school as previously students were learning mainly pop songs from lyric sheets. My vocal students have already been reaping the benefits of learning from sheet music.

I’ve been making an effort to learn about Indian music whilst I am here, so that the experience is more reciprocal. Aine and I watched a concert of Hindi songs by the singer Simrat Chhabra at the epicentre in Gurgaon. The music was of the Bollywood style and I was interested to hear how much of it blended Western harmonies with Indian instruments and vocal technique. On Independence day I saw an Indian Classical music recital in Delhi which was fantastic. I loved seeing the traditional music being celebrated and performed with such verve. Yesterday Aine and I met up with the sitar player Parimal Sadaphal. After having lunch we were privileged to hear him play and explain about Indian classical music. He shared many inspiring stories about his time touring the world with his guru Ravi Shankar.
Recital of Bollywood songs in Gurgaon

Indian Classical Music concert in Delhi
In Delhi, a place where personal safety is often mentioned as being an issue in the news, the most striking feature of the region for me has been the welcoming nature of the people. Indians are famous for their hospitality and I can see why. At school and where I live, my new Indian friends cannot have been kinder. It is perhaps because of this hospitality and constant feeding that I’ve been doing so much yoga! I also went for a run yesterday in Delhi but it’s tough running in the heat!

My thought for this week has been inspired by the patriotism I saw from the Indian people on Independence day. The day before, I saw an assembly at school where the Shri Ram children sung the national anthem and were told about the journey to freedom. On the day itself I went to a friend’s house in Delhi and flew some kites, this being a celebration of their freedom from colonial rule. I couldn’t help but see a parallel between then and now in the way that Western music threatens to take over traditional Hindustani music. Although concerts of Indian music are going on, many of the children prefer Western pop. I was convinced that the Institute of Music Dynamics should do more to promote Indian music to safeguard part of what makes Indian culture so special.

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