e are all aware that music and “atmosphere” go together. We might enjoy
relaxing music for a quiet, romantic dinner, but may prefer something
livelier while doing physical work or out socialising. Farmers play music to
their animals to increase production. Recent studies have also shown that
listening to fast music while driving increases the rate of car accidents.
So, there is no denying that music — the tempo, rhythm, pitch, melody,
harmony — can influence and affect our state of mind. But why should
organised sounds affect us to such an extent that billions are spent
annually on making music?
SPIC MACAY has been concerned about the lack of cultural inputs in our education system. The concern stems from the belief that the appreciation of art, music, dance, literature and aesthetics, in general, is as important to development of human capital as are academic skills and technical expertise. According to Seth, “Art, music, dance… develop a human being. Academics only provide Par-vidya, whereas cultural inputs provide Nad-yoga — the realm of inner development.” There was also the desire to make this a voluntary movement, to which students were drawn out of their own keenness to participate. This philosophy has imparted a unique structure to the organisation. Students, teachers, volunteers and donors give willingly of their time and work with unparalleled dedication to organise over a thousand programmes every year.
Students participate actively
by organising concerts by renowned artistes, arranging local publicity
(posters, word of mouth, internet), etc. It is essentially a students’
movement that has been, through slow and intense exposure of Indian culture,
quietly transforming the lives of thousands of young Indians over the last
two decades. Apart from being able to understand the finer aspects of the
various art forms, students benefit immensely from direct interaction with
the artistes. They get a peek into a world that is vastly different from
theirs, as Indian music and dance forms have always been part of a spiritual
quest for artistes. As they share the difficulties of rigorous training and
the relentless pursuit of perfection, students are exposed to living
embodiments of value systems — people of the likes of Guru Kelucharan
Mohapatra, Pandit Birju Maharaj — that they would seldom come across in the
hustle-bustle of today’s life.
SPIC MACAY has experimented with various forms to spread the message of India’s cultural heritage among students. Over the years, a few definite instruments have emerged:
Lecture Demonstrations in Classical Music and Dance
Dance involves using energy or force to move one’s body through time and space. One can use dance as a therapeutic tool. The body movement reflects the inner state of the human and, by moving the body within a guided therapeutic setting, a healing process begins. Emerging inner conflicts and issues from the unconscious to the consciousness of the person are addressed at all levels viz. physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.
Lecture demonstrations by SPIC MACAY are held across the country in the first half of the academic year. They are informal and interactive, providing a forum for the artiste to perform as well as lecture about the various technical aspects of their art form as well as share the finer intricacies of the process of learning and creating with young students. In 2004, the students of the
Godrej-run Udayachal Primary School were fortunate to witness two of the seven Indian classical dance styles by renowned dancers Uma Dogra, who performed Kathak, and Daksha Mashruwalla, who performed the Odissi dance. Both dancers were invited by the School under the aegis of SPIC MACAY. The programme comprised performances, explanations of their dance styles, expressions, etc. The artistes interacted with the children asking them questions and even went a step further by allowing them to perform alongside on stage. Children were also introduced to the different instruments the accompanists played.
The Festival (or Concert Series)
These are informal chamber performances, aimed at creating the traditional upasik-rasik relationship.
Scholarships are offered once a year, which help students to stay for a month with "gurus", persons who have dedicated their lives to a larger cause, outside narrow personal benefits. These "gurus" could be from the field of literature, religion, the arts and social work.
Apart from State Conventions held in each State twice a year, a National Convention is held every year in June, bringing together all members of SPIC MACAY at a common forum. The 19th National Convention in June 2004 was held at IIT, Powai. Shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan and renowned Kathak exponent Pandit Birju Maharaj were among the artistes featured. There were also performances by Maya Jadhav (Lavani dance), Shubha Mudgal (vocal), a talk by Gulzar and a screening of Shyam Benegal’s Samar. Yoga camps are also scheduled. Organisational issues such as performance of chapters, funding, accounts and the plans for the year are also discussed and finalised.
SPIC MACAY receives funds from various sources. Chief among these has been the Government, which extended grants from the Ministry of HRD. Says Seth: “With the fiscal crisis mounting every year, however, this source has become increasingly difficult to tap. Support has been received from individual as well as corporate donors such as Indian Airlines, the Oil and Natural Gas Commission, Gas Authority of India Ltd., Nuclear Thermal Power Corporation, Hotel Ashok, etc. Philanthropic foundations have also contributed to the cause. Ninety-five per cent of the funds raised are ploughed straight into the activities, and our overheads account for only 5 per cent.” Being a non-profit organisation, SPIC MACAY is registered under the Societies Act and all donations are eligible for benefit under Section 80 (G) of the Income Tax Act, 1961.
The movement is in its 27th year. The best compliment SPIC MACAY deserves is that it has been able to look beyond the traditional sources of financing its activities and yet steadfastly resist commercialisation. As Seth sums up: “That is because a group of us has been touched by the true nature of some aspects of our heritage.”