Last week, I took music classes at a school in Pitampura in New Delhi, from class 1st to 10th. On my first day there, I thought I’d begin by getting a lay of the land. So I asked the students about their favourite song and musician. Here’re the results of my informal survey:
Favourite Songs: Chhittiyaan kalaiyaan, Baby Doll, Chaar Botal Vodka, and worst of all, Dheere Dheere Se – Honey Singh Version; Some older students mentioned songs from Aashiqui 2 as well
Favourite Musicians: Honey Singh, and Arijit Singh (some sexism there?)
And the most shameful of all, when I asked them what their favourite musical instrument was, most said “Casio”, the instrument that they owned or knew how to play.
This was the first time that one of the big schools in the NCR was offering me a job as a music teacher. They asked me to give a week’s classes as a demo, unpaid, which could serve as a substitute for something that a music degree stands for. I couldn’t be happier. I agreed immediately. During my first three days, I learned that there’ve been 7 music teachers for the school, but none of them stayed there for more than a week. As a rowdy student from class 10th said, “Yaha music teachers sirf apna trial dene ate hain sir!” I refused to give any more free classes after three days, and haven’t heard from the school since then.
Sometimes when any character from a Hollywood movie or series plays any musical instrument in a scene, I notice that they’re playing mostly the right notes, or chords. They hit the right notes while singing, and can even harmonize on different notes. I can’t help but wonder if they actually learn the instrument, or singing, just to shoot that one scene. That’s not the case though. Music is respectfully treated as a part of their primary education, and they mostly pick up at-least one instrument to learn. Here, in almost all schools, Music is considered as an activity subject and Music period, for half of the times, is taken as a substitute by Maths and Science teachers, to make them more competent in the ‘real’ world. And 9th class onwards, students in most of the schools aren’t allowed to attend activity periods due to academics pressure. There are a lot of education start-ups in Delhi NCR, and almost all of them are making some brilliant content for Maths and Science. Even I have worked for one, where we used to target all big schools and sell our content. We’d make online tests for students of classes 1st to 12th, and then with our tools we could analyze their performance to an amazingly microscopic level, and once a week we’d call their parents and tell them: “Your child is not able to perform in quadratic equations, if the question is based on solving by factorization.” Parents, not knowing shit about things, would get scared and ask for more content, or a video session on Skype, and that’s how we’d make our business. Our education system is so fucked up that there is no point in talking about matching students with their respective areas of talent/interest. But we’re not even able to give them a balanced learning. As the veteran actor Paresh Rawal sums it up in the movie ‘Oh My God’, “People are just scared of God. That’s why religion has become a business in our country.” Education is also big business in India, and for a major part, that is because people are just scared of Maths and Science. They just are.
Ilaiaraja, a great music director from Southern India once said: “If we want to kill the religious differences in the country, add more and more Music to our students’ curriculum.” It’s been two years now that I left my secure (and boring) job and started trying to make it as an independent music composer and producer. During these years, I’ve come across a lot of clues as to how pursuing arts is a big problem. I know they can be fixed, I want to fix them. I want to bring a revolution. I want to start a company that arranges one to one sessions with all school students of all age groups, making them aware of the rich musical heritage that we have, about how they should at least learn one musical instrument in their primary education, about various careers that people can have in music, about how big musicians started off by playing for a handful of people in bars, and coffee houses, how the biggest music director in India started by making radio jingles for local telecom and dairy companies. I want children in our country to know what music is about, so that in our next generation, an absolute ass who puts the sound of a clap and a kick in a loop, and raps with some absurdly stupid lyrics, who reuses the melodies of 1990’s Bollywood, and puts the “Auto-tune plug-in” to his voice layer, doesn’t become the best music composer of this country. Our people should know what’s actually going on in the song that they say is their favourite. Because not everything that sounds catchy to an ear is good music. Just like sometimes petroleum, or burning crackers smell good, but they’re definitely harmful for the throat.
Making good music is one thing, and making it reach to the masses is another, if only I could do both. If only I was more than just an artist, if only I had the skills of an entrepreneur to figure out the way to reach out to people and do everything I wrote.