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Making a difference by making music

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Essarite Abhijit Jejurkar is helping underprivileged children in Mumbai discover the joy of music

September 27, 2012 Bookmark and Share  

Corporate involvement in social development in India is increasing across the board… and Essarites are at the forefront of such initiatives, both in the activities undertaken by Essar Foundation — which has set a target of one million hours of staff volunteering in the areas of education, healthcare, environment protection and developing small-scale entrepreneurship and livelihood ventures — and in the activities of independent non-profit organizations.

   A visit with Abhijit to Dharavi, where the kids learn to create music from recyclable waste:
Making a difference
through music: Part I
Making a difference
through music: Part II
Making a difference
through music: Part III

Abhijit Jejurkar of Essar Hypermart is one such Essarite who devotes several hours a week to social work, not just because he thinks it is a duty, but because he enjoys it. With a professional postgraduate degree in management, specializing in marketing, Abhijit has been with Essar for six years now. He is also a self-taught musician – an 'inspired' musician, as he says – a keyboardist, vocalist and percussion player who started performing professionally from his college days, playing with various bands in Pune and Mumbai (Maharashtra).

Abhijit has been teaching music to children living in the Dharavi tenements, as part of an initiative undertaken by Acorn Foundation. ‘Dharavi Rocks’, as the initiative is called, aims to help these children discover the joy of music.

Here, Abhijit tells essar.com all about his involvement with the project.

Acorn Foundation India works largely with child rag-pickers and other poor children in Mumbai’s slums and low-income tenements. It focuses on four Rs: reduce, recycle, reuse and respect, and trains the young rag-pickers in scientific methods of handling waste, segregation and recycling.

Its project, Dharavi Rocks, is organized jointly with Blue Frog Music Club and aims to bring some positive energy into the lives of these kids by initiating them into music, and also give them a voice. As an additional benefit, it also helps to create a beneficial bond within the Dharavi communities.

I got involved with the project through Blue Frog Music Club. When I moved to Mumbai with Essar Hypermart, my music activities brought me in touch with Emma Decker of Blue Frog who introduced me to Vinod Shetty, director of Acorn Foundation. He said they were looking for volunteers and I was happy to jump in to teach music to these kids. I met the kids for the first time at St. Xavier’s College. They were talking about themselves and I was speechless listening to their inspiring stories and witnessing their amazing talent. I decided then and there that I would put in my best efforts to help create a platform where these kids could grow and earn the respect they deserve.

Apart from teaching music, we also conduct classes in maths, English, science, arts and sports. There are more than 100 kids who attend the classes, of who about 30-40 come for the music classes. With their ages ranging between eight and 17, some of the kids are enrolled in regular schools. Many of them work during the day and come for our classes in the evenings.

I typically start my music lesson by welcoming the kids and asking about their different classes during the week. Then I begin with vocal exercises, move to teaching different techniques of playing drums with two to three groups playing different rhythms, then we get into composing a song with all the kids contributing ideas and words! After the class, we chat, the kids coming up with various queries, personal problems, stories and so on. I always end with a teaser about the next class so that the excitement remains. I visit Dharavi on Wednesdays but on weekends I spend time with the kids at the Acorn Foundation office.

We create music out of a range of waste material — drum barrels, coffee shakers, paint cans, plastic boxes and other ‘junk’! This also brings home to the kids how many things can be recycled and reused.

The music classes help to improve their concentration, coordination and team work. It inculcates the learning discipline.

Apart from regular music classes I also organize workshops; we’ve had workshops on a range of interests, such as African music, hip-hop, beatboxing, rapping, breakdance, etc. With the help of Blue Frog, we rope in a number of good International bands that volunteer to conduct such workshops. We also organize shows, for which we put in extra hours, practicing.

Overall, this project has impacted all the children in a big way. It gives them a positive perspective, offers them a platform to dream and hope, and gives an opportunity and direction to these dreams.

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