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Where folk & Western tunes merge

- Eastern Fare Music Foundation to open in Guwahati, offer Trinity Guildhall certificate

Calcutta, Jan. 8: One summer’s day in 2007 in Bangalore, Jim Ankan Deka walked out of a corporate office to pursue his dream of teaching music.

Five years down the line, after many battles to become the first person from Assam to set up a music school and production house of international standards in Bangalore — the Eastern Fare Music Foundation — Deka will now help music lovers in Assam realise their dream with a branch in Guwahati.

The Assam capital will get the foundation’s third branch — the second one being in Shillong.

It will pave the way to musical success not only through a certificate from Trinity Guildhall, London, but also state-of-the-art recording and video studios and a jamming room to facilitate students’ foray onto a larger platform.

Scheduled to open soon, the foundation will provide training in Assamese folk as well as Western classical music.

“We are planning to promote Indian and Western music and most importantly, the Xattriya culture, started by Srimanta Sankardev 500 years ago. Khol and borgeet are the foundations of Assamese music, but rarely encouraged by parents. There are very few proper Western classical music schools in Assam. We are going to teach piano and classical guitar with courses from Trinity College, London (Trinity Guildhall) and promote Hindustani classical and tabla,” Deka said.

The school will also promote upcoming bands, through a video and audio recording and editing studio, called Music Malt.

“I know the struggle of the musicians here, hence I thought of helping them by promoting their music at a subsidised rate,” he added.

Parmita Borah, the foundation’s “writer, brand manager, interior decorator and even porter” as she laughingly described herself, said, “The team basically started from scratch, inside a small garage, painting it and converting it into a musical hub. Our students come from diverse backgrounds and when they are confident enough to perform, we organise gigs for them.”

The non-certified course will target working professionals and the certified course will be for children as well as adults.

Enrolment will begin from June and the first batch will be able to sit for Trinity Guildhall practical exam in September and theory exam in November.

“As Trinity Guildhall offers internationally recognised musical qualifications, we thought of sending our students for the graded exams. Every year, for the last three years, at least one of the students from our institute got a rank in the Bangalore top 10. We have a cent percent pass rate, too,” he said.

Sunil Guttala, father of Sheela, a student at Eastern Fare, Bangalore, said, “What we admire is the structured approach to teaching. We had sent Sheela to a keyboard teacher earlier, but were not satisfied. Here, the foundation follows a set course and we know her musical education is in good hands.”

Sheela, a student of Class IV, is extremely happy to be part of the foundation.

“I like to play the piano and the keyboard and the teachers have taught me all my favourite tunes,” she smiled shyly.

Duncan Marbaniang, of the Trinity Guildhall centre, Shillong, outlines the process of awarding the certificate and lauds the performance of the students at the Shillong branch of the foundation.

“Trinity Guildhall, London, sends down an examiner to evaluate the students. The students have been performing really well, with a fair number of distinctions. The foundation has come a long way,” she said.

Deka recaled his earlier days of struggle.

“I worked for different corporate houses before joining a local music school as a teacher. I could see that most of the schools hire teachers without checking their qualification and make it a money-making business. So, I thought of starting an institution of my own with special courses for adults and housewives.”

“The name Eastern Fare appealed to me as I am from the east. We share only one motto — love music... share music! Staying in Guwahati, there were limited resources to learn Western music and start a career. For financial assistance, I had to move to Bangalore. Now I have the experience and the resources to start something in Guwahati without anyone’s help,” he said.

Promotion of music is the institute’s first priority.

However, the foundation will also look towards a larger picture, that of promoting the Northeast as a whole.

“It amazes me and fills me with pride how our humble beginnings led to acceptance and growth of the foundation as a hub of cultural exchange. Perhaps that is what defines the institute, the crazy team behind it,” Parmita said.

“I believe, it is my duty to share my experiences with my people and show them the opportunities. Hence, this branch in Guwahati will also be like a small ‘thank you’ note to my motherland,” said Deka.