When everything else fails, we turn to art and music for a healing touch, says Jogiraj Sikidar, a Dubai-based musician who started the Malhaar Centre for Performing Arts to teach and promote Indian classical arts in the Middle East.
Touching upon his latest initiative to take classical training online and transcend the boundaries of both India and UAE, he says Indian classical music not only heals but also helps you to de-stress and generate hope.
From Mumbai-based entrepreneurs to Delhi-based media professionals and several homemakers in Indonesia and London, lovers and learners of Indian classical music can be found across the globe. During the Covid-19 lockdown, their love for music brought them together at the Malhaar Centre, UAE's home-grown brand for Indian classical arts.
Through the new learning module, the training hub for Indian classical art forms has introduced live, e-learning sessions for both children and adults. This initiative has been taken to spread positivity and happiness among people when the entire world is going through a difficult time, says the founder.
"There is a huge interest in Indian classical music across the globe. Just like Yoga, Indian classical music has been perceived as meditative music. It is not just for entertainment but for self-upliftment as well. Moreover, practicing Indian classical music or dance helps in the development of the brain," states Sikidar, who has won the NRI (Non-resident Indian) of the Year award for 2018.
Adding, "Malhaar has successfully developed a module whereby training in Indian classical performing arts can be offered virtually without compromising in the quality of 'Taaleem' or education. We have experimented and conducted a lot of research to come up with a standard module and as a result, we have made live e-lessons more effective and intense. We have adopted the latest technologies and integrated them seamlessly with the traditional arts."
As per the musician, the idea is to learn these beautiful Indian art forms in the safety of your own home, as people are mostly confined within their four walls due to the pandemic. There are more than 200 families from all over the world who are taking live e-lessons via Microsoft Teams and Zoom with Malhaar gurus.
The center has students of all ages connecting online from China to India, Bahrain, UK, Germany, Canada, and the US learning traditional art forms and taking lessons in Indian classical vocal (Hindustani and Carnatic). Students are learning Ghazals, devotional music, and popular Bollywood melodies. Beyond voice classes, there is also training in musical instruments such as Tabla, Harmonium, and Piano. In Indian classical dance forms, students are learning Bharatanatyam, Kathak, and Odissi.
What is a session like?
"Our sessions are personalized and customized to meet individual requirements. It is not an assembly-line product and hence one formula doesn't fit all. After the initial assessment, we assign the right Guru for the student and customize each session as per their objective and capability. A typical session starts with breathing exercises for a vocal music session or a few minutes of traditional warm-up exercise for a dance session. We work with goal-oriented lessons,' Sikidar told IANSlife in an interview.
"We have a lesson plan and every Guru follows the lesson plan so that we can achieve the goal that has been set for the student. We also encourage our students to attend lessons of other art forms to have a holistic experience. We believe that art cannot flourish in isolation. A vocalist must understand how his or her music will be interpreted in a particular dance or on instruments. We believe in the art of collaboration and it is extremely important that budding artists learn to perform in tandem with different art forms," Sikidar revealed.
Finally, elaborating how the e-learning module is different from classes-as-usual at Malhaar, he said that both physical and virtual lessons have their own advantages. "In the new module, we have very small groups so that each student receives ample attention. After the lesson, we provide the students with customized audio-visual material to help them practice at home."
"We also monitor the progress on a weekly basis with the help of online assignment submissions and detailed feedback sessions. The recording of each class is also made available to the students so they can refer to the instructions while they do their riyaz (practice) at home," he shared.
The best advantage of going online? "100 percent attendance," Sikidar concludes..