On a day when the skies had opened up in Thiruvanathapuram on the eve of the beginning of the crucial month of Vrischikam, along the outskirts of the urban world, 500 children from different schools were preparing to travel into the city. They were carrying in their minds the tunes and words of 6 songs in different Indian languages that they had learned in the past year from members of the MBS Youth Choir. They were boys and girls of the age 10-14. From the trainers who came from the MBS Youth Choir, the children came to know that the 3 letters stood for a music composer much dear to South India known as M.B.Sreenivasan. From some of the songs they learnt that were composed by him, they also came to know that he had a lot of feeling for freedom, justice, equity, environment and homeland. It seemed strange to some of them that this group has been functioning for the past 30 years without making profit, united by the desire to sing songs that carry messages of hope, love and trust.
The initial classes did not inspire the children who were used to the fast beats of songs that fill their ears. But within a month, the group understood the inner strength of learning these songs. The meanings of the songs in different Indian languages from Malayalam, Hindi, Tamil, Marathi, Kannada and Oriya touched a chord in the minds of these growing children. They imbibed the strength and beauty of the country in which they are living, the most important thing being the adherence to democracy and justice. They understood that all forces of caste, religion, color and creed that are used to divide human beings is evil and wrong. The children were shocked to know more about the ways in which peace,love, harmony and cooperation can be broken in the name of politics and wealth.
The songs gave the groups in 17 schools the courage to identify evil forces and stand strong and straight in the face of wrong deeds and cruel people. The song Odi Vilayadu Pappa by Tamil poet Subrahmania Bharathi inspired the children to spit in the face of evil. The intonations about play and music in between the song excited the students more when they learnt that it is composed by none other than M.B.Sreenivasan. The details of the Malayalam song by Jnanapit award winner O.N.V .Kurup reached the minds of the students as it was in their own mother tongue. The difficult words of the Marathi song Atha Udavu written by Sane Guruji became easy to learn once they understood the meaning of the song that portrays the courage with which peasants and farmers uphold the National flag to win freedom. The Hindi song Hind Desh Ke Nivasi by Vinay Chandra Maudgalya described the need to forget differences and live in harmony. The children enjoyed the fast tune of the song. The Kannada son Oh Cheluvina soon became a much loved one with its reference to children as blooming flowers in every garden. The Oriya Song Ee deso with its peppy tune was an all time favourite from the start because it described the abundance and beauty of hills, valleys, oceans and skies.
The schools, all of them Government schools were located in the suburbs of Thiruvananthapuram, the farthest being 25 kms from the city. Most of them were in the midlands with the parents of the students engaged in agriculture and labour. Some schools were near the coast and backwaters with fishing being major occupation. The Music for Education project soon became a learning process for the children with emphasis on writing, pronunciation and clarity. To know about poets like Subrahmania Bharathi, Sane Guruji, Vinay Chandra Maudgalya, Niranjan Rout, O.N.V.Kurup and R.N.Jayagopal and their special writing styles in their own mother tongues like Tamil, Hindi, Kannada, Oriya, Malayalam and Marathi kindled a deep sense of pride about this country. Through these songs, the students also imbibed the basic foundations of democracy like justice, tolerance, equity and freedom. They learnt words like Secularism and the need to preserve this at any cost so that communities can live in peace and harmony. They heard about the diverse and plural cultures in the country who have co-existed for generations. They also understood the devils lurking in the background in the name of caste, class and religion that would instill hatred and violence. They could sense the relevance of brother hood and sisterhood.
For the MBS Youth Choir also this project was a learning experience as they understood the impact of music with message on young minds. Through the project component Music for Personality Development which was done in 3 centres of the Kerala Mahila Samakhya Society, the Choir touched the essence of how music can heal and transform young and tender hearts wounded by a perverse society. The underprivileged girls isolated from normal life by no fault of theirs forgot their loneliness and trauma by singing together in one voice. Their individual limitations were masked by the strength of togetherness.
If there is one force that can transform, recreate and rebuild then it is Music. If there is one energy that can heal and renew, then it is the joy of singing together. The music we heard on 16th November in Thiruvananthapuram that flowed out of 500 young bodies was one such Music. The best antidote for the poisonous malady of disharmony, divisiveness and intolerance that plagues our country today !
Anitha.S ( Coordinator) MBS Youth Choir in conversation with the students, teachers and members of the Choir. email@example.com