As children, the Mumbai-based siblings Kamakshi and Vishala Khurana recall tapping out rhythms with a spoon and cup as they waited for meals. “The only way I could remember multiplication tables was when I would sing them like a song,” recalls Vishala, 34, with a laugh, adding that this made them connect music to every aspect of their lives.
Today, the sisters, trained in music, are set to take it to children who cannot attend school or online classes, in south Mumbai settlements such as Asha Nagar, Machhimaar Nagar and Simla Nagar. It’s an extension of what they have been doing for almost a decade: running The Sound Space, which trains children in Indian classical music in a way that helps them relate to it.
So far, their team of 18 teachers has worked with 8-10 schools in Mumbai and some in Ahmedabad and Pune, creating and executing a specialised curriculum, training teachers so they can enhance the classroom experience and introducing children to intensive training that culminates in concerts where children perform with artists such as Shubha Mudgal and Aneesh Pradhan.They have also been conducting specialised programmes for children with disabilities and ailments. They initially funded the project themselves, only setting up a trust fund two years ago.
It was during the pandemic-induced lockdown that the sisters first realised they had a big problem at hand. “Classes stopped and while the kids studying at various schools across the city were still getting their music education online, many of our less privileged children had little or no access to devices such as laptops or mobile phones,” says Kamakshi, 36. If the students couldn’t come to the classes, they decided, they would go to the students.
On Friday, they launched The Sound Space on Wheels—mobile music classrooms—starting with one bus that can function as a fully-equipped music classroom with different instruments. A music teacher and an assistant will conduct free 40-minute sessions with children aged 6-12 every week. “We collaborated with some of the NGOs we work with to understand which bastis the children come from. Kids from those settlements signed up with us and at present we are catering to approximately 200-300 children,” says Vishala.
The sisters have Visharad degrees from Lucknow university as well as degrees in psychology from Mumbai university. “Through music,” says Vishala, “children can strengthen their language skills, increase creativity, develop social-emotional skills and improve communication abilities.”
Deepali Singh is a Mumbai-based independent art and culture writer.