For over a month now, the classroom at Xavier’s school in Mahim after work hours becomes a makeshift centre for aspiring musicians. The amateur artistes in question are anywhere between 10 to 14 years old and belong to the community of waste collectors from the derelict streets of Dharavi. And their music finds its humble notes in recyclable instruments like outsized Dhara oil tins that replace the sound of dholak and an upturned 100-litre bucket that makes up for the absence of a drum kit.
The kids are rehearsing for a concert in August, titled Dharavi Rocks, brought together by Acorn Foundation and Blue Frog. “We’ve been conducting workshops with the kids for over a year. Today, a Colombian music group will show them how a trombone works,” says Emmanuelle de Decker of Blue Frog, who has previously facilitated in bringing acts such as beatboxers Bauchklang and Australian singer-songwriter Aurora Jane to help train these little masters.
Taking inspiration from the hip-hop act, Choc Quib Town, which was started by Colombian slum kids, Decker hopes that the group from Dharavi will follows suit. “Who knows, after the concert, we may even bring out an album.”
Hoping to educate slum children through music, the workshop has now become a regular feature in the kids’ lives. “We wanted to make it more than a one-off event. So we approach Indian indie artiste for regular workshops,” adds Decker. Agnee and artistes like Suneeta Rao, Stuart DaCosta are some of the musicians contributing to the cause, who will perform for free at a concert with the kids next month.
“The idea is to help give slum kids a voice,” says Vinod Shetty of Acorn Foundation India. And surely enough, with a musical and concert lined up, there is little doubt that Shetty’s claim will fall short. “We’ve planned a fundraiser concert in August, where the kids will perform along with popular Indian bands. The proceeds will help to procure instruments for the children.”
Stuart DaCosta from Something Relevant, who conducts weekly classes on percussion at Mahim, says, “We are working on a musical that revolves around their lives. In fact, the kids have written all the songs for it. It should be ready for stage in September,” he adds.