Hindustani Vocal Workshop by Mandar Karanjkar at Ahilya Devi Holkar School

“Providing an exposure to the classical arts is one of our main objectives. But we don’t want to stop at that. The more challenging part is to provide relevant learning to the interested student. Without the learning, interest we have generated will be of very little value” Dakshayani’s vision and reasoning is ample explanation for Baithak Foundation’s efforts in following up concerts at schools with workshops and listening sessions.  

Mandar Karanjkar’s workshop too, flows in a stream of continuity from the concert by Ankita Deole, which students at iTeach Ahilya Devi Holkar School had witnessed a few weeks ago. He is accompanied on the tabla today by Rohan Chinchore.

The workshop starts off with questions to the students on the concert, encouraging them to recollect everything they had assimilated. Where details have been lost, more clarification is provided by Mandar and Dakshyani. This small exercise serves an immediate reminder to students to be observant, retain details and be able to recollect them in time.

“Music is like a painting. You as painters will need a canvas” – Mandar explains simply as he introduces the sound of the Tanpura. Children are asked to close their eyes and listen to the Tanpura for a minute. A meditative silence settles in quickly. In the ensuing quietness, Mandar talks to the students about the importance of the right sitting posture for all singers and musicians. He also encourages children to drop their inhibitions as first time singers. “We’ve all made mistakes and taken a lot of time to learn. It’s important to keep practicing”, he explains putting the learners at ease.

Only then does he move on to introducing the Saptak. “Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni Sa” is sung in unison after Mandar. Details and corrections are added with every repetition. Children are made to sing one by one in smaller groups as well. The kids concentrate intently as Madar sings the Aroha&Avroha of the Saptak and then introduces an Alankar.

Mandar breaks away from the singing to discuss and introduce an important aspect of Vocal Rendition. “Why do we sing?” he asks. 

“To express our feelings”

“To relax”

“To enjoy”

The answers come swiftly.

Mandar speaks about ‘Bhav’ and demonstrates how the same piece sung with and without emotion can sound very different. The point is driven home and there is a discernable shift in the singing.

Mandar then introduces the concept of Raags and sings Raag Vrindavani Sarang. Notes of “Ni Sa Re Ma Pa Ni Sa” slowly fill up the room as the children repeat after Mandar several times. A Bandish in Raag Vrindavani Sarang is presented – 

Barkha ki ritu aayi

Chahu aur meghaa chaye

Pakshi madhur madhur gaat, barakha ki …

Rohan joins in on the tabla as the artists first perform the Bandish for the audience.

The composition is then broken down. Ektaal – a taal of 12 maatra-s is introduced and the children as taught to identify every maatra and clap for each. After sufficient listening the students are able to identify the Sam and loop in the next repetition. They are then led through the Bandish slowly word by word, building up to the entire stanza.

The workshop concludes with a round of questions from the students. They want to know if their voices can in time sound like Mandar’s. They want to understand if artists sing from the pit of the stomach or through their vocal chords alone. They would like to know how much practice is needed for them to perfect their singing. Most importantly they want to know how / where they can learn more. These questions in themselves tie back to Dakshayani’s vision for immersive learning – and the need to generate enough support to help realize that vision. 

As I sit through the session there are more subtle things that I observe about how Baithak organizers run the workshop. Firstly, an open and free atmosphere is established outright, encouraging students to self-evaluate at every point. For those who feel disconnected with the content, there is no judgement / consequence if they choose to walk out. Secondly, there is a lot of effort invested in coming up with reading material for students before they come to class. The importance of coming prepared is reinforced over and over again. Questions are asked to and sought from the students on the material provided. Finally, the attitude towards learning is absolutely un-compromised despite this being only a short workshop. Dakshayani does a splendid job of conducting the class with a sense of discipline and purpose, observing every student closely and suggesting teaching methods that will maximize the learning experience.

As an observer today, I come closer to understanding Baithak Foundation’s vision and objectives. I witness first-hand the impact that they are poised to have on society. I see a long and arduous journey with many challenges. But then I also see the people behind the effort – who bring together a perfect mix of passion, understanding of the environment they function in and the ability to pull off what they have set out to do. The least we can do is to join the movement!

by Bidisha Ghosh, Baithak volunteer.



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