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In Shillong, music to heal youth

Afroreggae, a Brazilian band is conducting a workshop in the hill state to wean away youth from anti-social activities.

art and culture Updated: Oct 29, 2007 12:26 IST

Plagued by neglect, insurgency and disillusionment, the young people in North-Eastern states are all set to get a 'healing touch' from music and dance, as a Brazilian band has taken upon itself the task of reform.

<b1>'Afroreggae', a Brazilian band, that itself exemplifies a reformed lot thanks to music, is conducting a workshop in Shillong to wean youths away from destruction and anti-social activities by developing interest in aesthetics.

The band, whose music now warms the cockles of people's hearts, has members who once led a disillusioned life on the mean streets of Rio De Janeiro until they discovered the magic of music. Edson, a member of the group, who was once a criminal now "channelises my destructive urge towards a constructive goal."

"I had the worst part of life when I was a criminal but after joining the group, I am a different person. I can now lead a life of dignity," Edson, who regrets his past, said.

A brainchild of singer Anderson Sa and the group's director Jose Junior, Afroreggae came up after 21 people, mostly criminals, were killed by the security forces in an uprising at Vigario Geral in Brazil in 1993.

During its 14-year musical journey, the troupe has "transformed thousands of youths in the slums of Brazil that are controlled by druggists, criminals and gangsters."

The group is now holding a workshop for the first time in India under the aegis of the State Resource Centre of North Eastern Hill University (NEHU), the Ford Foundation and the Khasi Students Union in Shillong. The workshop is a part of the Conflict and Personal Resolution Project, which focuses on unemployed youth from low-income groups.

Altogether, 30 youth have been selected to participate in the workshop. They are being trained in graffiti, dance, percussion and capoeira (a martial art form).

"What we have observed is that in the North East, youths have excessive leisure. Unemployment is a major problem. And eventually the youths tend to go astray, say to drug business, crime and even militancy," said Dr Eugene D Thomas, director of the State Resource Centre here.

He said the workshop aims to instill in the youth a taste for music, culture and art and eventually help them take recourse to healthy alternatives. Johayne Hildefonso, another member of the 15-member group, said: "We interact with people who come from a hard past.

We help them to forget their past and reassure them that they can do something else and lead a life of dignity." From the 30-odd participants of the workshop, eight will be selected to interact and have a hand-on experience in working with Kolkata sex-workers' children and in Delhi's Nizamuddin slums from November two.

Dr Thomas said the programme basically aims at help today's youth to overcome various challenges and get rid of the conflict simmering within them.

"The workshop will help the youths to set up their own culture centres where they earn and also serve the community," he said, mentioning the long-term objective of the Resource Centre.