The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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A special band of kids

This December will be special for 20-odd children of the city. A musical performance by them at Sisir Mancha could open up a whole new world for them and mark a break from their bleak past. The kids are all from the red-light areas and giving them a chance to do what they want is Jabala, a social service organisation on Rashbehari Avenue.

Striking a chord is music director Deb Chowdhury, who is training 100-odd children from Bowbazar’s Harkata Gali in the basics of contemporary music. Of them, 20 were handpicked and so was born a special band, called Jabala Chhotora. This Friday, they will hold centrestage with their hour-long performance.

“Jabala works primarily with the second generation in red-light areas. I am a music therapist for them. Most of these children are problematic and traumatised, besides being temperamental. But they take to music instantly and it’s music that keeps their mercury in control,” says Chowdhury.

Through music workshops and training, the children have honed their skills. Six-year-old Pintu is already a promising percussionist. “I love to play the drums and the tabla, especially for mastermoshai,” says the little boy from Bowbazar.

Sharmishta, Soma, Ajoy and others echo similar sentiments. “For the show, we will be singing quite a few new songs, besides some popular ones,” chorus Soma and Ajoy.

Chowdhury admits that it’s difficult to wean away these children from filmi songs. “Their formative years, spent behind closed doors, have been full of Bollywood numbers being played and replayed. What I have done is compose new songs for them — sometimes written by them — or teach them songs of the late Gautam Chattopadhyay and other such singers.

For Friday’s soiree, they are going to try out a new song, Elo melo swapno, penned by them,” he adds.

Jabala is also trying to get proper exposure for the children through telefilms, music videos and audio cassettes.

“We do not just work with sex-workers’ children. The workshops and music therapies are meant for children from red-light areas, which could be anyone, from a panwallah’s son to a flower-seller’s daughter,” clarifies a spokesperson for the organisation.

The group, besides working for the children of Harkata Gali, also takes on a similar group from the red-light areas of Tollygunge and Barrackpore.

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