Peace Festival 2008—Music Workshop

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Music Workshop

The ‘Thoda Pyaar Thoda Peace’ music workshop was conducted by two well-known names in the Kolkata music scene, tabla player Bikram Ghosh and blues singer Anjum Katyal. This interesting coupling was reflected in the music, with instruments from the tabla to the violin contributing to the creation of the final piece. At the beginning of the workshop, it was evident that Bikram Ghosh was taking this project very seriously. He was involved, and emphasized to his young wards that in the next three days he wants to create a song that could become a peace ‘anthem’. The participants however, seemed excited, but also a little anxious. Understandably, they didn’t quite know what to do and waited for a cue. The cue came soon after from Bikram Ghosh, who instructed the sarod player, one of his protégés and slightly older than most of the other participants, to play a particular tune. He then assigned the beat to the tabla players, one of whom was also more experienced and older than the other school students. The bit of music that the two instruments created was conventional, but sounded very pleasing to the ears. The students liked the sound of it too, and now that there was a starting point, they seemed more comfortable.

Personally, though, I felt that the participants should have been encouraged to come up with their own tune. The sarod led on to the tabla, which led on to the geet and then subsequently to the keyboard tune to which the lyrics were to be set. For someone who has never seen live music composition, to see music falling into place like this, to see something coming out of nothing, was fascinating, and made it clear that the creation of music is like the creation of all the other art forms that I have seen before. Bikram Ghosh promised that the music will get more ‘exciting’. Till now though, there had been no sign of any ‘opposition’ within the music. When it came to the setting of the lyrics, the students were asked to come up with ideas. Anjum told them to be honest and personal, not ‘preachy’. What they came up with was very traditional, but still authentic and borne out of thought. The words went well with the music, and the first verse (in English) was neat and compact. The next verse was in Hindi, which actually sounded a little better than the English, perhaps because it was more in tune with the music. The vocalists were made to rehearse over and over again. They did so willingly, and showed improvement after every round. Bikram Ghosh showed some of the girls how to maximize a mike’s potential. By lunch time it seemed that about a-fourth of the song was ready. By the third day, the full song had been created. The singing sounded much more coordinated. The three verses were in English, Hindi and Bengali respectively. Each verse was a plea for peace. The first run-through sounded well put together.

There was now a new drummer who had joined the party. He followed the music and added his own inputs as they went along. These inputs were, however, in sync with the music being played, and Bikram Ghosh told him to go ahead and do something different. After the first round, he credited a good performance, and told the male vocalists to check their volume. He also told the sarod player to show more expression as he’s playing i.e. to look at his fellow musicians, smile a little, and interact and not to make it seem like it’s only about himself. His instructions to the others were along the same lines. He told them that now that they had perfected the song itself, they needed to focus on the community feeling since it was a song on peace. He suggested holding hands, showing appreciation for the music, and to ‘feel’ the words, or else this project would be pointless.This would lead one to ask if music is a personal or community activity. Does this in any way change the music? Does an artist play for himself, or for others? Or does it depend on the sit- uation? I chatted with Anjum Katyal during lunch, and I asked her if she was happy with how things had gone. She too made the point that the music was traditional and predictable, but that then again, this was perhaps what was needed for a project like this. I left the workshop with an overall good feeling.

The participants had learnt and enjoyed themselves, so had Bikram Ghosh and Anjum Katyal. As for me, I felt like an omniscient participant myself, which was a good sign, since this whole endeavour was about building community. Whether or not the participants ‘felt’ the music whether they were playing for themselves or whether the music was too conventional were simple, maybe sometimes necessary criticisms, but when summing up the entire experience, these found no space at all. For three days, it was a job well done.

— A report by Shamoni Sarkar
PeaceWorks intern

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