The Western music ‘scene’ in Hyderabad, as they call it – is not at all new. Pianists, choirs and ensembles have been around in this city for long and have produced many talented artists. In fact, Jazz was heard frequently as far back as 1935.
The Hyderabad Western Music Foundation started as a space where music students and practitioners could get together, perform and organise not just musical concerts, but also music related events, discussions, listening sessions, lecture demonstrations and more. The HWMF family has grown from strength to strength, with a large number of individuals interested in the choirs and ensemble performances in order to associate not just as participants but also as educated listeners. The theme of HWMF is ‘Sharing Music, Creating Harmony’, which is all about bringing people together through music.
HWMF was started in 2008 by Joe Koster (a musician from Switzerland, who resides in Hyderabad) along with other trustees, Goethe-Zentrum Hyderabad and Alliance Française, to act as an agent for revitalising and reviving the ‘appreciation’ of Western music.
We believe that music has the power to pervade borders, resolve differences, unite people, propagate pluralism – and create harmony through music. We have created a forum for musicians and lovers of Western music in Hyderabad to meet, interact, understand and appreciate the different genres. Through this initiative, we wish to work for music through education, engagement, creating platforms and getting people enthused about being a part of a larger musical community.
Various educational institutions and public speakers have commented and lamented on the slow decline of interest in the classical music scene. In a cultural ecosystem like India, film music dominates the scene with a slaw of ready tunes which are always programmatic in the context of the story. Some ephemeral film creations are able to sustain themselves as other musical pieces are interpreted and enjoyed over many years. Some are created in the way that fast food is – to deliver maximal enjoyment immediately. A challenge with the promotion of classical music is to help people find a reason to ruminate over music, and allow the different interpretations and colours of classical music wash over ourselves. We have to learn to listen to new musical experiences. Trade coarse musical imagery for the restrained but sustained exploration of classical music. No kind of music is better or worse, but all are different, and we have to learn how to listen to different musical forms.
Picking up on this thread, HWMF did several ‘Listening Post’ sessions at Lamakaan. Lots of people would gather on a Sunday, and an expert in a musical instrument or style would set up a playlist. All participants then listen to several pieces of a particular style / instrument / period etc. We have had Trombone pieces, Jazz pieces, Pieces from Baroque music, exploring Sonata form and so on. Seeing the success of the listening posts, we thought, why not get people together to sing rather than to just hear?
Then began a four month long journey of Community Singing. Here, we would gather anybody who is interested in singing – regardless of background and musical education – and we would all get together to sing songs that were meant to evoke the sense of communities and belonging to groups. The voice as an instrument is a very physical, intimate one. Several genres of song exist for the reason of encouraging groups of people to feel each others’ voice and be able to represent the group with one musical voice. These traditions are from different cultures, the world over. Some represent work songs, which tired labourers would sing to keep their spirits up, while others were religious, or patriotic, or community dance related, for people to be able to align to each other’s sentiment and movement. Each week we would have a different theme, call upon various people to come join us to bring these songs from around the world to life. On our way, learning also about these different cultures and the origins of these songs.
Another concept explored in this series of unique musical events is the ‘Reading with the Tunes’ initiative. This is a place where children gather to get a taste of music and literature together. Musical pieces and theatre pieces are performed together to evoke a theme – a time period and so on. This lets children enjoy both literature and music in a novel way by joining the distances between these varied subjects.
We got the young instrumentalists of Hyderabad to come together and play as an ensemble – the Hyderabad Youth Ensemble. The jazz ensemble from the city – Jazzed Friends, the choir from the city – the Deccan Voices, and the Youth ensemble – all encourage fresh talent to come participate in the activity of playing together, and HWMF enables all these players to have a stage to play on, and to express their music.
The HWM Academy recently started with the view to deliver music education to people of all ages without the pressure of taking ‘grade exams’ and studying for finite objectives. We offer lessons every weekend in Piano, Saxophone, Flute, Violin, and Voice to talented candidates, with a focus on holistic music education, dealing with musicianship development, reading and writing, and feeling the music that people like by developing their musical acumen rather than forcing upon them exam music that might not already be speaking to them. So far, we think people are enjoying learning about music in a way that is not just based on checkpoints, but is a journey itself.
In November 2015, HWMF, Goethe Zentrum and the Secunderabad Club were proud to bring to the city its first Jazz festival, featuring outstanding Jazz acts from all over India. We have so far managed to keep the musical community in Hyderabad engaged and continuing to get a taste of different flavours from Western music!
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