Metroplus

The fire within

Members of Agnii-Art For All, conducting a drumming session. Photo: Sangeetha Devi Dundoo   | Photo Credit: Sangeetha Devi Dundoo

Their team is called Agnii with good reason. The initial members were adept at fire dancing before new members brought with them other forms of art. Today, among the 35-member strong Agnii, you will find musicians, performers, painters and sculptors. But it's music that binds them together. Members of Agnii travel in small groups to perform for corporate events, private institutions or cafes and conducts workshops. The group ‘Agnii – Art For All' was set up in Bangalore in 2000 by Saravana Dhanpal.

When we met the five-member group that visited Hyderabad to conduct drumming sessions at Truffles Café, we learn that each member has a story to share; stories that prove how art can educate and provide better livelihood.

Ramachandran, who has been with the group since he turned 14, says, “We used to practice fire dancing in public spaces — parks and open grounds. You need to be focussed and spend hours practicing the art.” He joined the group to be able to earn enough to fund his education.

His team members Raja Krishnamoorthy, Jairam Perumal, Sujit Kumar and Munia Dasarajan exude positivity. Raja used to take up painting jobs in houses before he joined Agnii. “I wanted to use my art to teach children. When we are not performing, I conduct painting classes. Through paintings, I comment on social issues — gender issues, child labour, right to education and environment,” he says with a smile.

The Agnii team works with street children, helps them discover their hidden talent and encourages them to pursue art, be it theatre, sculpture, wood craft or painting. Jairam, who is good at clay modelling and puppetry, has travelled to Poland to conduct workshops. Mind you, he hasn't received any formal education.

“It's fun to impart education by way of entertainment,” says Sudhir Kumar. He joined the team three years ago and confesses, “Music has made my life peaceful.” Munia seconds that and adds, “People respect me wherever I go.” Munia was a coconut vendor earlier. “We haven't forgotten where we came from,” he says.

We watch the five-member team conduct a drumming session. Ramachandran leads the way, guiding the participants through a warm-up session. In a few minutes, the group blends in, uses African drums to belt out music that's a mix of Indian, Middle Eastern and African folk. Agnii's music has no boundaries and its members dare to dream big. Ramachandran, for instance, has applied for masters in Social Work and intends to pursue it in Hamburg, Germany.

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2021 5:51:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/the-fire-within/article3493223.ece

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