The Optimist Citizen
The Baithak Foundation

A Pune-based couple’s attempt to revive and rejuvenate the perception of Hindustani classical music for the masses

Picture a group of children in your next door urban setup. These children are extremely hardworking and are already conscious about their career and further education. They see scientists like Einstein to entrepreneurs like Bill Gates as their inspiration and rightly so, want to be successful like them. Somehow their dreams circle around the path of ambition that the society has subconsciously set for them. Now picture a group of children, sitting in a circle, listening ardently with undivided attention to Hindustani classical music for almost an hour. Seems like a dissonance? It is not. This is a regular scene from one of the music sessions of The Baithak Foundation.

The Baithak foundation, is a not for profit initiative by Dakshayani Athalye and Mandar Karanjkar, a couple from Pune who are passionate about classical music as an art form and have been thoroughly trained in it since they were kids. The couple were shocked to face the reality that a child today is unaware of the musical heritage that our culture holds. They have been shrouded away from the works of luminaries like Pt. Bhimsen Joshi and Ustad Amjad Ali Khan. Thus, the couple chose to revive and present Hindustani classical music in a way that it becomes more accessible and enjoyable to those who have never even grazed its beauty.

As Mandar says, “The right music allows you to connect with yourself on the deepest levels. It has the potential to change the way in which we interact with the world.” Baithak Foundation is founded on the vision to take classical music to the masses in a meaningful way. The programs enable the students to enjoy and connect their self to the art form. It aims to break the myths around classical music shaped by blind cultural conditioning which makes the art exclusive and isolated from the majority. Baithak school music-program is being implemented in two schools in Pune as a pilot and focuses on music appreciation and teaching the basics of Indian Classical Music for children in the age group 10-14. The couple, who loves teaching music, innovate on their teaching methods to make the classes interesting and meaningful. The program is modified based on feedback from the current run to benefit the younger children. One of the integral elements of the sessions is listening.

According to the couple, students for 30-45 minutes listen to a piece of music that forges a deep bond with the student and the music. Baithak has also published books on music with meaningful illustrations to appeal to the younger generation. Dakshayani says, “When we started teaching, we felt the need for good quality books on music or teaching aids to effectively deliver the session. This triggered the spark to publish illustrated books on music.” As a first step, they are releasing an illustrated series on numerous legends of music from India. The concerts of the Baithak Foudnation are yet another innovative approach to promulgate classical music. Baithak organizes a classical music concert for the students, teachers and parents at the school premises, with the aim to allow the community to experience a live performance. The school concert features young artists who are classical vocalists, instrumentalists and performers of various other arts. The concert is followed with an interactive Q&A session to help the audience engage with the performer. Musical Musings are an hour long musical performance conducted at unconventional venues where the audience engages with the artists to co-create music. Through musical musings Baithak aims to garner the common man’s interest in classical music.

The foundation is currently getting monetary support from the founders’ personal savings and from individual donors. They are inviting sponsors who believe and would want to contribute in paving the way for an alternative pedagogy in Hindustani Classical Music. The young organization is experimenting and constantly innovating on ideas and avenues to chart out its road map for the coming years. The couple who chose the classroom as their stage aims to weave the magic of Classical Music and to make it enjoyable and accessible for every individual. And by the looks of it, it seems that they are hitting all the right notes!

Niveditha Purushothaman | TOC

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