Delhi Children’s Choir: A life through music

- February 28, 2024
| By : Idrees Bukhtiyar |

The initiative by NalandaWay Foundation is transforming the lives of marginalised students in government schools through music training, offering them hope and opportunities for a brighter future

Organisers said that the choir drew inspiration from the rich traditions of Sufi music and qawwali

Shafiya Falaq, an 11th-class student at Government Girls Senior Secondary School, Tigri, never thought she would learn music. But that is exactly what she is doing thanks to Delhi Children’s Choir (DCC), an initiative by the NalandaWay Foundation that offers music training to talented children from marginalised backgrounds in government schools.

“I have been learning music for the last six years. I have learnt a lot and this has changed my life completely,” she said.

Falaq, who hails from Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh, says it was very tough for her to choose music. “The people of my village don’t accept music, more so if the person choosing to pursue this hobby is a girl. They were reluctant. But I was able to do it thanks to my parents, who took a stand for me,” she said.

A lot has changed in her life. She says that till a few years back, she struggled to express herself. “But these music classes have taught me a lot. I have learnt to speak, become more confident and develop a voice that seems to mesmerise the people,” she said.

Noor Sabah, a first-semester student of Delhi University’s music department, says she got admitted to the university because of these training classes. “During my interview, I was told to sing classical, and I did it so well that my interviewers were happy and selected me. Credit for this goes to our trainers,” she said.

“I am happy that I will get to learn music as a theory with top musicians,” she said.

Before joining the choir, Sabah says three auditions were held to select the students. “Finally, we were selected by the foundation that trained us in raags, qawwalis and folk songs,” she said.

Komal, another student of Government Girls Senior Secondary School, Tigri, said the music classes have worked as a stressbuster.

“Music has helped reduce stress and anxiety. It gives one inner peace whether one listens to it or sings. Since I took up music learning, I have been enjoying my studies too,” she says.

Komal now hopes to go into Bollywood. “People are praising my voice. Now I have dreams of singing in films if I get a chance,” she asserted.

The parents of these students either have menial jobs or are very poor, but these music classes are giving them some relief and smiles on their faces.

The DCC recently organised a musical concert of 16 students from marginalised families, who are studying at government schools at Triveni Kala Sangam, Mandi House, New Delhi, which witnessed a symphony of joy and excitement from the audience.

As the young singers played their hearts out on the stage recently, the hall responded with a resounding applause, proving that age is no barrier to musical brilliance. They sang qawwali – Dama Dam Mast Kalandar, Bollywood numbers Rangi Saari, Coke Studio’s Tu Jhoom by Naseebo Lal and songs by Abida Parveen.

The performance was held under the theme titled ‘Shades of Kalyan’, a captivating musical performance that delves deep into the cultural tapestry of Delhi.

Organisers said that the choir drew inspiration from the rich traditions of Sufi music and qawwali, and celebrated the city’s vibrant history and heritage.

Subodh Pandey, who has been training students for many years, also spoke about his musical journey as a music teacher. “We had to start with the basics. There were many students with different tastes of music, so shaping and grooming them was an uphill task,” he said.

“Music is all about discipline. I have been teaching them a discipline of handling this profession,” says Pandey, who also teaches music at Delhi University.

“I believe that these children are very talented, but all they need is a platform and the right trainers to hone their talent,” he says.

Mohd Zubair, a student of Yogi Arvind Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya Sector 4, Ambedkar Nagar, said, “I had a wish to learn music, but I was confused about where to go and whom to learn from. But the choir has become a family now. We are being taught very well by the professionals. I see a bright future under their guidance.”

Gaurav, another student, said that live performances have helped them face the audience. “Now, I am sure that I can do a concert as well,” he said with a smile.

“More importantly, we are taught about gender equality and how music can contribute to it,” he added.

Patriot spoke to the founder and CEO of NalandaWay Foundation, Sriram Iiyer, who said their motive is to improve the lives of the marginalised children of the city. “They are very talented and don’t get any chance to showcase their talent. We help them through music, wherein we train them. These children used to be very shy, but we are making every effort to make them confident and bold enough to face the audience,” Sriram said.

He added that their music classes are giving the students a new lease of life. “The parents of many of our students are very poor, but we are trying to bring smiles to their faces through music. Our initiative is giving them a breather,” he said.

Sriram said that they have been auditioning in various schools in Delhi to find talented students. “Every year, we audition at least 10,000 children in the age group of 8-15 years. We finalise only 25 who are then trained by versatile musicians. We want to take them to a level where they can choose their careers and move forward easily,” he said.