The women silently filed on to the stage and when they rendered kummiyadi penne gummiyadi … nammai piditha pisasugal poyina nanami kandom endru kummiyadi, it was not just a folk song that was being sung. These women, largely from the domestic workers association of CWDR formed the Snehidhi singers. They followed this up with siru siru malargal and odi vilayudu paapa, songs on women’s freedom penned by the immortal Tamil poet, Bharathi. And as they sang paadhagam seybavarai kandaal avar mugathil umizhndhu vidu paapa, the children in the audience got the message that gender violence was unacceptable
After all, just a little earlier, a host of voices lifted in gusto, as a group of 40 children ranging from 4 to 14 sang ‘santhi geet’, ‘yeh waqt ki awaaz’
and other songs on national integration, integrity and tolerance. When they ended the with maithrim bajatham the applause was deafening. The parents and other guests rewarded the two groups of performers a resounding round of applause
Both groups were trained in harmonic singing by Sudha Raja who has been singing in the Madras Youth Choir since her 9th grade for over 30 years now. With tears welling up she says proudly “these women have been training for merely 2 weeks and juts 3 classes while the children have been training for just 12 classes. For me it is a touching moment as these women sang with their heart and soul” She adds that the children too have been taught to sing after understanding the import of the lyrics. “I am overwhelmed by their performance today” she says with pride amidst her tears.
Such were the moments that marked Aikya, an evening of music
organized by the Prajnya trust as part of its ongoing 16 day awareness campaign on gender violence. The musical evening was held at Srinivasa Sastri hall and began with S. Sowmya, well known carnatic musician and trustee, Prajnya, introducing Prajnya’s 3rd edition of the campaign.
For the next 2 hours Vidya Kalyanaraman sang 8 songs composed by women - mangalam ganapathy, andal, rukmini ramani, padma veeraraghavan, ambujam krishna , neela ramamurthy, a meera bhajan and suguna purushotthaman.
For Vidya, it was a different experience from her usual concerts since this was the first time she worked on thematic selection of compositions. “ it has made me more sensitive to women as composers and musicians and how they get left out just as mush as other work by women across professions”
On what motivated her to organize 3 such different performances for the evening, Sowmya shared “It was true confluence of these musical genres and diverse groups of people we reached out to this evening. The domestic workers, the children and through them their parents and also carnatic artistic community and music aficionados have all been sensitized to the issues of gender violence. This will go along way on also making music and art a means of sensitizing people to such issues.”
If choral music proved therapeutic for the snehidhi singers, the evening proved to be a sensitive yet elevating experience for the audience, if the deafening applause was anything to go by