Like Nelson Mandela said, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children”, a great service to India would be to nurture its gifted child musicians. Bengaluru-based Bhoomija’s famous Jackfruit music festival for children is back, with concerts taking place this month. There are two veteran musicians at the helm — celebrated classical vocalist and composer Shubha Mudgal and her husband, tabla virtuoso Aneesh Pradhan.
While the focus will be on the rhythmic aspect, I have included melody through vocal compositions from art and folk traditions; some have been composed specifically for this programme.
“As the Festival Director, I feel fortunate to have this opportunity to work with some of India’s many talented child artistes and to receive the fullest cooperation from their guardians, heads of educational institutions and their gurus,” says Mudgal.
Jackfruit 2023 would witness child artistes from varied genres performing on one platform. “Our young artistes are from various parts of the country, studying different traditional art forms, but when they rehearse together and perform on stage, they form a synergetic and talented team. They represent varied musical vocabularies, sing in different languages, retain their respective identities, and yet there is harmony both on and off stage. What could better illustrate India’s musical diversity,” Mudgal smiles.
Jackfruit 2023 would also include workshops on contemporary fields like Sugam Sangeet, DJ’ing and Beatboxing.
This year’s line-up includes two unique showcase concerts conceptualised and directed by Mudgal and Pradhan. These would present young performers, all below the age of 17. The child artistes — Chotu Khan (Manganiyar, Rajasthan), Rohan Das (Bengali folk), Dnyaneshwari Ghadge (Hindustani classical) and Rahul Vellal (Carnatic classical) — are immaculately trained performers who have already made a mark on various platforms. They would be a part of Mudgal’s concert ‘Singing into the Future’ on September 17.
Along with the melodic element, percussion too would be an integral part of the festival. Pradhan is an award-winning performer, composer and author. A disciple of the legendary Pt Nikhil Ghosh, he has inherited the rich repertoire of five different tabla traditions — Delhi, Ajrada, Farrukhabad, Lucknow and Punjab. At Jackfruit 2023, he is all set to present ‘Kamaal Dhamaal’, a pulsating percussion extravaganza.
The ensemble would feature 38 artistes from different regions of India. “‘Kamaal Dhamaal’ has a strong percussion element since it includes a variety of drumming traditions from across India. The drums will include those played with sticks and with hands. Some of them are part of the Hindustani, Carnatic and Manipuri systems, while others are integral to folk music from different regions,” Pradhan explains.
The concept includes instruments like drums from Manipur; dhols, khartals, dholkis from Rajasthan; ghumat and kansalem from Goa; halgi from Kolhapur; sambal, tuntuna and manjira from Ahmednagar; and dhol and tasha from Pune. “While the focus will be on the rhythmic aspect, I have included melody through vocal compositions from art and folk traditions,” he adds.
Mudgal feels that although Indian parents are often enthused about their children studying classical music as a hobby, taking it up professionally poses a challenge. “If the increasing number of students attending courses offered by music schools are to be considered, it would seem that a larger number of children are studying classical music today. But at the college and university levels, the scenario changes, possibly because the prospect of making music a livelihood entails too many struggles,” she opines.
In a world where children with musical lineages often get the stage, one wonders what the struggles of those not born into famous musical families entail. Mudgal is optimistic. “Both Aneesh and I do not belong to musical families. However, not only did our parents provide us with the best opportunities to study music, we were also blessed to convert our passion into a profession,” she shares. The former, she explains, are challenged with constant comparisons with their seniors and struggle to live up to their lineages.
While she believes that the right age for a child to commence classical taleem is five years, Mudgal says it is imperative to have a child soak in the joy of listening to it before formal training begins. Although there are platforms honing talents at a young age, she feels there should be more music festivals for children. “We want our children to evolve into sensitive, thinking artistes, not just stars with some sort of glamour and ephemeral razzmatazz,” she says as a parting shot.
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