There is power in music and rhythm that unites us all, irrespective of the language we speak, our religious beliefs, economic status, class or other divisions. We all experienced this power when we invited Viveick Rajagopalan, the renowned musician, composer and innovator to visit the village workshop, and to interact with and energize the team at Graminno.
Trained under the Carnatic tradition on the majestic percussive instrument of South India, Mridangam, Viveick uses his classical roots to compose music that moves between many styles.
Viveick was accompanied by his life partner Devyani. Devyani's interests vary from sustainable living to Spanish to Ayurveda. She is equally passionate about all of them, while she manoveurs her corporate life.
One of Viveick's most innovative projects is the Ta Dhom project, that symbolizes the power of music to unite people across different backgrounds. In Ta Dhom, Viveick collaborated with several local Hip Hop artists to create a new, powerful and impactful musical expression.
He describes the Ta Dhom project thus:
The syllables / sounds "Ta" and "Dhom" symbolize the idea of two worlds, two ideas and two cultures. Classical Music and Hip Hop are representative of this very concept of "THE TWO WORLDS", and yet the harmony that lies hidden between their duality. One will almost always find a connection between two different worlds though, by digging slightly deeper, and sometimes, by unlearning a thing or two.
It is this ability of music to bind disparate people together that became evident when Viveick visited the village workshop at Graminno
Uniting the urban and the rural through Music
Viveick requested the village musicians to take the lead and play something. They started singing devotional "bhajans" in full gusto! Viveick joined in with his Mridangam, providing a unique blend of the sounds of the Pakhawaj and the Mridangam, accentuated with the "Manjira" cymbals being played by others in the group.
The Graminno team in the village had invited all the musicians of the village to the workshop that evening, and they brought their musical instruments along.
The participants from the city and the villagers joined in the celebratory music with gusto, forgetting their differences and enjoying the hypnotic spell cast by the music.
Music crosses class and religious boundaries!
Then, another magical act of unification occurred. To our pleasant surprise, a group of musicians from the "Baudh Wadi" - the Buddhist community of the village, joined the group with their harmonium and dholak in tow. They sang "Bhim Buddha Geet" - songs that celebrate the life and teachings of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar.
Dr. Ambedkar is a highly respected leader who participated in India's freedom struggle. He belonged to a Dalit community, traditionally the most oppressed and marginalized group in Indian society. He adopted Buddhism and propogated his beliefs and values throughout the community. His followers still follow and celebrate these beliefs and values through the "Bhim Buddha Geet" form of traditional songs.
Now we had three groups of different musicians collaborating together - the city based musicians, the Bhajan musicians and the Bhim Buddha Geet musicians, all singing and enjoying the music together!
Music bridging the generation gap
The music program also had all the children of the village in the group.
The children naturally gravitated towards Viveick, watching him in rapt attention. Viveick then helped them clap in the right rhythmic patterns with the songs, and they quickly learned and eagerly clapped in unison.
Swayam is normally a shy boy, and does not usually talk to strangers. But the rhythm really got to him! He was clapping with gusto in rhythm, and when Viveick noticed, he invited him to play the Mridangam with him. Swayam jumped to accept the invitation and had a time of his life, playing the Mrindangam with Viveick!
On the next afternoon, the children were back at the Graminno workshop along with their teachers to further interact with Viveick. When Viveick asked them to sing a song they like, we were all surprised that they chose to sing the Sri Lankan song "Manike Mage Hithe" that went viral through social media and the Internet.
The village has no network, and hence no access to social media or the Internet. For accessing the network and Internet, one has to climb up the steep hill to the top. For us city dwellers, this would be easily a short trek! But every evening, children and young adults from the village do this trek up the hill just to access connectivity and the Internet.
Evidently, they are not immune to the impact of social media!Later in the evening, Viveick and the children assembled in the meeting hall of the Gram Sabha (local governing body) of the village. Viveick taught the kids the basics of "Konnakol", the unique language of percussion that is derived from the sounds of the Mridangam. He demonstrated how one can use simple verbal syllables to form patterns and learn to understand music better.
The day ended with delicious but simple dinner made by Sapna and her friends, who had graciously prepared the food for all participants of the workshop.
We all looked back on the musical events that Viveick had catalyzed, and were truly inspired by the power of music to bring together people and bridge all the gaps!