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Published: October 31st 2015
IMG_6784October Part 2
Playing harmonium with Karam Chand and the landlord of his music room - photo by Alex Gaylon, Karmalize Productions
During my entire time in India I’ve had some amazing musical experiences. I knew that I’d be coming to India to use music in the school by setting up the music classroom, but I never realised the other opportunities that I’d have given to me to create and explore music. My housemate Alex captured three of my musical highlights that happened in October and I’d like to share why they are so special to me.
Firstly, at the beginning of October Alex and I met a wonderful man called Karam Chand who is a music guru in Palampur. He invited us to his small but perfectly sized teaching room one evening and we had such a great time listening to him play, talking and having a jam altogether. He is an incredibly spiritual man and really connects music to God and always comes back to the point that everything and everyone is one. He has taught me a lot in just my few meetings with him. He even taught me how to play the harmonium and I feel that I could use the things I learnt about Indian classical music in my performances when I get
Teaching students of Neel Kamal Public High School The Beatles - photo by Alex Gaylon, Karmalize Productions
back home. The second time that Alex and I went over to Karam Chand’s music room Alex was filming. But when the landlord of the building came down and started playing the tabla with Karam Chand, they both invited us to dance. I completely let loose and felt no inhibitions at all, I really felt that I was part of the music and it was a part of me – that was a very memorable evening!
On the 19th
October I spent one day with Neel Kamal Public High School in Gharjamula.
This is one of the other schools that the charity I volunteer for supports, and since I’d been so busy at DCS setting up the music classroom I hadn’t had a chance to visit them in the five months. But I got the opportunity to do a one day music workshop at the school. It is such a wonderful school; everybody is super welcoming and made me feel at home instantly. The students are so lovely, well behaved and really interested in music. I had a fab day teaching some classes how to sing the songs ‘Lean on me’ and ‘Here comes the sun’ and we spent a
The most surreal experience of my life yet - photo by Alex Gaylon, Karmalize Productions
lot of time doing fun singing warm ups also. At the end of the day I was presented with a plaque from the school for volunteering, flowers and cards. These were very touching gifts considering I’d only volunteered for one day there, but I hope that they’d all enjoyed themselves and learnt something new from the day - I certainly had!
The last photo is of quite possibly one of the most surreal performance experiences I’ve ever had! On the 21st
October Alex and I were invited to watch an Indian classical music concert with the principal and his family from Neel Kamal School at Chamunda Temple (about forty minutes from Palampur). The temple was packed and absolutely buzzing with people, lights, colour and sound. That evening was the end of the nine day Navrati festival and so many people come to the temple all night to pray, worship, sing and eat in order to celebrate the nine incarnations of the Goddess Durga. Chamunda Temple is a really huge temple with lots going on; many pilgrims visit this temple and so there are rooms that you can stay overnight and they also serve breakfast and dinner every day. There
Feeling on top of the world paragliding in Bir, Billing
are many different small temples to pray and worship within the whole temple, one of which was the tiniest claustrophobic temple right underneath a rock – you had to crawl in and crawl out backwards to get out! At Chamunda temple there is also a massive statue of Hanuman (the Hindu monkey God) outside and there is a small lake with a statue Shiva in it, you can also take a boat ride there. In the temple there is also a music hall which is where the concert took place, but in typical Indian style it started at 10pm! The concert programme was mainly older music gurus performing raags by singing and playing harmonium, usually with somebody accompanying on the tabla. There were some younger students of these music gurus performing and the youngest performer was the principal’s daughter, Urmi, from 8th
class, who we had come to watch. First of all she sang a beautiful raag and had the sweetest and most captivating voice I’ve heard in a long time. Her next performance was a dance, but she didn’t actually perform that until around 12.30am but she did so well considering the lateness, she definitely has a lot of
Students from classes 4 and 6 perform 'Here comes the sun' in my final concert at DCS
the Principal’s wife must have been very sneeky at some point during the course of the evening because a one point the man who was organising the event came up to me and said ‘I hear you’re going to perform for us tonight’, next thing I knew I was agreeing to perform a song in the concert acapella because they didn’t have a casio or guitar available. So at around 1am I was presented with a red and gold robe which is blessed by Durga and then I set up on the stage ready to perform. After being introduced I then took the mic and began to sing ‘Oh had a golden thread’ by Eva Cassidy acapella, in a freezing cold Hindu temple, in front of a full audience of Indian people who didn’t have a clue what I was singing about – but I think they enjoyed it anyway. It was definitely one of the strangest but most special performances I’ve ever done, it was definitely the first time I’ve sang on stage with three Hindu Goddesses Lakshmi, Durga and Kali all behind me!
So October has been an awesome month for me and to top
One of my favourite people in the world, Anti Binta, who looked after me from day one whilst I was living in Palampur - photo by Alex Gaylon, Karmalize Productions
it all off I got the opportunity to go paragliding in Bir, Billing which is where the paragliding world cup was hosted this year. Paragliding was such an amazing experience, I love adrenaline pumping activities anyway, but this was something else! To strap myself to a man, literally run off a mountain and then just soar in the air like a bird was out of this world! I felt all emotions whilst up in the air; but mainly just pure happiness. Even though I upset my Mum by doing it – sorry Mum, I would recommend paragliding to everyone, especially from Bir, Billing.
The end of October has also sadly brought around the end of my time volunteering at DCS, I can’t believe how fast five months has gone by. I had a super lovely last day at school and received so many sweet gifts, cards and flowers from the children. At the end of the day I put on a concert for the whole school and got most of the classes to perform songs that I’d taught them. The recorder club performed also and three boys from classes 9 and 10 sang ‘Hotel California’ with me, as one of the boys had amazingly learnt all of the words. It was a really special concert and I even gave out some music awards for each class which was really fun to do! The final song that I got the whole school to sing was ‘The Climb’ by Miley Cyrus which was the first ever song I taught the students from DCS. I struggled to hold back the tears during this song and felt the words really speaking to me about the personal journey that I’ve been on since arriving in India!
So today was the hardest day yet; having to leave my home of the last five months and say my goodbyes to my big Palampur family that I love and will miss so much. I know that I’ll stay in touch with people and will return at some point in the future. I feel very lucky to have been able to live in such a special place and to have met some of the most incredible people. This chapter of my journey has ended but another chapter is just beginning. I’m currently writing from Mcleod Ganj where Alex and I are spending our last weekend together before he goes down to Tamil Nadu to live for the duration of his stay in India. On Sunday I will take an overnight bus from Mcleod to Dehradun where my one month solo adventures around India will begin.
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