We continue the tour blog of KAN (Brian Finnegan, Aidan O’Rourke, James Goodwin and Ian Stephenson) from their recent trip to India, read Day one here in case you missed it. AS Aidan explained “So we attempted a paragraph or so each day without reading what we each committed to paper.”
This trip involves workshops and masterclasses as well as concerts and Monday was a workshop day. It was only 9am when we left the hotel but the morning heat was a shock as we left the air-conditioned hotel. We were warned that temperatures were to reach around 38ºc and the humidity about 85% and we were teaching 30 – 40 kids between the ages of 8 and 14 in a technical college. With no air-conditioning! It was hot and sweaty to put it mildly. The kids arrive and I’m immediately struck by their confidence and positivity. They meet as a choir and were interested to learn more about where we were from; the climate, culture, food etc. On the way there in the taxi Ian cleverly wrote a wee song about the clothes we wear to keep warm; something quite alien to these kids. But they loved it. It became quite trippy as they sang ‘Don’t forget your coat’, ‘Don’t forget your gloves’, and on and on as we melted in the afternoon heat. We just about survived and headed out for a fantastic Punjabi meal that evening. We met up with Tas from the British Council (who was the catalyst for this trip after hearing us at Celtic Connections) and also Sanket Naik who turned out to be A.R. Rahman’s percussionist. He’d played to 100,000 people the night before! We spoke about a possible future collaboration. Exciting. That night in my air-conditioned hotel room I had weird dreams about being far too warm because I had a big winter coat on in the sun…
Day two and it was a baptism of fire for us four. I dived in to a breakfast of curry, bananas and chai masala (spiced milky Indian tea which we would soon all be completely obsessed with). We had been told we’d be leading a music workshop for underprivileged school children and despite us being markedly NOT singers we followed suggestions and decided to write a song with the children, based on weather differences between India and UK. A quick hum in the car and I had the basis of our first vocal number “Don’t forget your coat” – a call and response affair with actions and shouting sections. The children were just incredible and loved the song, and after a whole day of workshops in 30-something degree heat we collapsed into bed for a well deserved sleep.
We arrive at the venue for our first workshop of the tour, a basic four-story concrete building in a leafy district of Mumbai that houses a learning institute for under-privileged children. After some strong chai we are introduced to our charges for the day, a 34-strong group of eight to twelve year-olds who bring with them a mixture of humour, wonder and expectancy. The next six hours are crammed with toothy-grinned song and dance, interspersed with chai breaks. It’s a lot of fun. There’s a performance at 5pm for parents. We’re disappointed that it seems only a few have turned up. Perhaps some can’t afford the time or journey, but we won’t have the time to get to know everyone’s story.
We were pushed to our limits today in a pretty miraculous way.
Seven hours in 36 degree heat with a choir of school children, all from under privileged neighbourhoods of Mumbai. They sang , danced and smiled their way into our hearts, and although we were dead on our feet by evening time we were all really moved by the experience. Read an interview recently with Indian flute maestro Shashank in which he said that music was his ‘mother tongue.’ That mother tongue was at work today, hungry wee souls, burning bright, making sense of it all with their songs.
KAN on BBC ALBA (Celtic Connections 2010)
10/12/13 Tewkesbury at Roses Theatre
12/12/13 Driffield at Moonbeams
13/12/13 London at Kings Place
14/12/13 Gateshead at Old Town Hall