Nidhi, 16, had been struggling to express herself for years. Everyone would tell her that she needs to be more confident. Thanks to the music classes conducted by the Delhi Children’s Choir, Nidhi now has a new-found voice.
Nidhi along with 16 other children from different government schools in Delhi has a stage because of NalandaWay Foundation, an NGO that taps into the transformative powers of music to help children emerge more confident, hopeful and skillful. “We are like a family, we sing together, we stay together and we have a unified voice,’‘ says Nidhi.
A space for expression
Delhi Children’s Choir began in 2018 after hundreds of students from government schools in the south zone auditioned for it. Multiple students have been given a chance to perform so far. “The choir is a space for expression, it is a space where our organisation tries our best to help these disadvantaged students,” says Abhishek Anil from NalandaWay Foundation.
A lot of these students have parents with menial jobs; many of them with financial issues. Being a part of the choir, gives the children a breather.
The students meet once a week at a community centre in Khanpur. They start off the session with vocal exercises which is taught by their teacher, Anubhuti Sharma.
While Ms. Sharma plays the harmonium, the students join her for a sargam practice which is followed by raags, qawwalis or folks songs. “Music for us is not simply an accumulation of songs with the final aim of singing them with technical proficiency for an audience, it is something that relates to our contexts, our everyday experiences, joys and struggles,” says Ms. Sharma, an alumna of Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Ms. Sharma and her students believe that music should be sung as a collective. “This choir is one of the few places where one would see young girl students sing qawwali, in fact, these young ladies have their own solos in between the songs,” she says.
Bridging the gap
Being a part of the choir has not only improved their music skills but has also helped children build bridges with their parents. “My parents were apprehensive when I started attending these classes. My relatives would say that girls should not attend music classes. However, after seeing my performance on stage at a recent show organised at Kiran Nadar Museum of Art at Saket, my parents seem to have accepted me and my love for music, says Tishu, a 17-year-old from Government Girls Senior Secondary School.
For most of these students, who are appearing for their board exams, the classes have also helped them as a coping mechanism. “Music has helped me with my post-board stress and anxiety. The three hours I spend in this class is a way to escape,’’ says Priyanka who recently appeared for the D.EL.ED examination to study to become a teacher.
“Music is my passion but since my father wants me to be a teacher, I sat for the examination. It was quite a competitive exam and I ranked 6,000. Music is helping me deal with my stress,” she adds.
A similar feeling was shared by several students, including Dev Singh, a student who recently won a singing competition in his school. “I was always afraid of participating in these competitions. Earlier, I would become nervous, but now I am confident about participating,” says Dev.
“I do not even care about winning as much as I enjoy music and singing now,” he says. Dev now believes that he can do whatever he puts his heart into. These classes have helped me heal, he adds.
Drawing from the success achieved by this cohort, Delhi Children’s Choir aims to set up more such choir groups across the Capital with each having its own distinct identity.
NalandaWay Foundation says it will conduct similar auditions in government schools across the city in the coming times to identify and give other students an opportunity to hone their skills with a collaborative and empathetic approach to music.