Groove Gully: a travelling music museum for children
Groove Gully, a travelling museum of music for children, combines history, geography and music into experiential learning sessions
In a regular school trip to the museum, students observe exhibits from a distance, take a long-winded tour that they often find tedious and return with fragments of information that they may find difficult to assimilate into their lives. Here is a museum with a difference that travels to the students, inviting them to explore and experience music in a unique way. The Groove Gully travelling museum of music houses a collection of musical instruments from all over the world. Visiting different schools in Delhi-NCR, the curators ask the children to pick up the instruments, play them under the guidance of musicians and learn about the music that the instruments make. A storyteller weaves a musical tale around the instruments, sharing their cultural significance, the materials and workmanship that make each one unique. They often wrap up the sessions with a music quiz. This turns the ‘museum visit’ into a ‘visiting museum’ with engaging ways of combining history, geography and music into experiential learning sessions.
For Jay Chauhan and Bobby Chauhan, founders of Groove Gully, this is a passion project. “Groove Gully is a family bonding platform that weaves music back into family lives.” At one of their music festivals, they created a ‘percussion zone’ where children could touch the musical instruments and try playing them. It generated a great amount of curiosity, wonder and excitement in the children, giving the duo the idea to extend it into a travelling museum. With a collection of about 80 instruments presently, the museum has travelled to schools across the Capital, educating and inspiring over 1500 children per school over three days. Vocalist Shubha Mudgal is part of the advisory board, while Nandini Chatterjee, UNESCO, brings her expertise on Neuroscience and Socio-Emotional Learning that has been integrated into the museum approach. Meanwhile, core team members Vrishali Puranik and Deepak Joshi quit their cushy jobs to be part of the music mission.
“We wanted to question and break the ‘don’t touch’ approach of museums. By allowing and encouraging students to pick up and play instruments, we want them to experience these instruments and take the music back into their lives,” says Jay. “There is always a risk of the instruments getting damaged,” he points out, “but we are ready for that, it is still worth it.”
The museum recently travelled to a school in Gurugram, featuring a wide assortment like Daman drums from Ladakh, a Chenda from Kerala, Maracas from Peru, Temir Komuz from Kyrgyzstan, Thavil and Kanjiras from Tamil Nadu, Pakhawaj, Tablas, Chimta and Dhol from North India, Bom, Ksing and Padiah from Meghalaya besides Rainsticks, Ocean Drums, Boomwhackers, Ghatam, Manjeera and Djembes.
Professional musicians performed in every morning assembly using instruments from the museum so students could experience a concert setting. The first day featured a Chendamelam performance using Chendas from Kerala. This was followed by a sharing session where musicians interacted with the students, talking to them about the wood used, ceremonies they were played in as well as their role as accompanying rhythm givers in Kathakali. Students were given blocks of wood and initiated the way Chenda is taught to beginners.
Another day had a percussionist from Panama , Fidel Dely Murillo, playing the rhythms of Latin America with a map of all the South American countries as a background. Through a musical narrative he made his way from Argentina, Peru to Brazil, Panama, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Mexico and finally the US. This was a geography primer woven into the music for all the students gathered.
“We want to change the way children experience music today,” emphasises Jay, recalling that there were hardly any such opportunities to learn about instruments from around the world when he was a child. Bringing in an approach of tactile exploration, wonder, storytelling and experiential education, this unique museum of music promises to transform the idea of music-making, museum-visits and learning.