Kiran Seth on new directions for Spic-Macay.

It started with a name that proclaimed its motive: Society for Promotion of Indian Classical Music And Culture Amongst Youth. The unwieldiness of its length was almost as forbidding as the task it set itself. Because this was in the 1970s, when the struggle to educate one's children and ensure them the ‘good things' of life had all but muffled the Indian middle classes' interest in ancient arts that once made the nation glorious. But just as the neat acronym Spic Macay began to trip off tongues, it also wove itself neatly into the busy lives of the country's students — as proven by the number of colleges, and later, schools, wanting to be associated and host Spic Macay's programmes. Today the kids who were first introduced to Spic Macay are decision-makers and parents. As many join the movement as volunteers, Spic Macay's founder Kiran Seth can only feel affirmed in his beliefs. In Kanpur to attend the organisation's 25th National Convention from June 1 to 6, Seth took time out for a telephonic interview.

Excerpts:

On this convention's special features

We have some delegates from outside the country. We have one from Hong Kong, one from the U.S., a whole group from Pakistan…. The second thing is it is coinciding with the golden jubilee year of IIT Kanpur. Other than that, there is an attempt to bring into this convention rare art forms or artistes that have not got so much popularity. We have Margi Madhu for Koodiyattam. And Guru Ghanakanta Bora for Sattriya. I think most people would not have ever seen Sattriya dance. We also have (Dhrupad exponent) Fariduddin Dagar sahib. Every morning at 7 we have a naad yoga session with him. Till now we had only hata yoga. And we are setting up a crafts village with the help of the Handicrafts Commissioner.

Stocktaking and new directions

We never set any goals. It's been very intuitive. Even the first programme we did was very intuitive. Till very recently we didn't have goals. But now we are trying to figure out how we can bring it into mainstream education. In five years we would like to spread the activities 10-fold. We want to take them to Phase II. Phase I was to make people aware of Indian heritage. Now we want to take them through workshops. Starting in August-September we are planning many more workshop modules. Also, we are trying to reach out to foreign students, so they act as ambassadors for us.

On giving priority to old, established rather than young artistes

That is definitely true. There is an emphasis on older, but not necessarily known artistes. We have distributed the booklet of Sangeet Natak Akademi awardees to all our centres. Only a few of them are well known names. We're not trying to teach music and dance, we're trying to inspire. That definitely comes with age. Understanding especially of the mystical element, comes usually with a certain amount of age and maturity.

On some excellent artistes' inability to communicate well with the present generation

That's why we are now concentrating on the guru with shishya module, because the shishya can talk to the young generation. We had Mayadhar Raut with his daughter and disciple Madhumita, also Kavita Dwibedi with her father Harekrishna Bahera.

On new rungs of leadership and funding

There are many young people. At the last meeting I was sitting on the side. The major problem in the future will not be funding but keeping the character of the movement. There are those who want to fund us, frankly. But keeping character is the big challenge now. It shouldn't become one more organisation without the soul…. Lots of people who were touched in their college days are coming back to us. The only difference is, a young person is very different today from how a young person was about 20 years ago. Like the way of communicating respect is different…. The danger lies in people looking at it only as (a forum for) organising programmes.

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