Introducing Ragas to Children

The song Chaiyya Chaiyya plays on the lawns of the Mehboob studios in Bandra, Mumbai. After the first few lines of the song, the music is switched off. I ask the kids in the audience if any of them want to sing the song. There is a show of hands and two girls sing together. There’s a confident smile on one face while the other shows signs of nervousness. Yet both girls sing the song effortlessly. As I sing along with them and later a snippet of the classical raga behind the song, there’s a look of dawning comprehension on several faces.

I am at the Times literary festival 2014 in Mumbai with my friend and writer Shoba Narayan. The two of us are conducting a workshop for children “The Raga Connection” where we trace the classical roots of popular indian music (Bollywood for you).

Raga Connection at Timeslitfest Mumbai 2014

When we are young, particularly children, we are very open and receptive. We can grasp things easily. With the right encouragement and incentive the energy and attention of children can be channelized into any activity. The Raga Connection workshop was intended to help children realize that classical music is not something alien or inaccessible but that they are already listening and singing – only they are unaware of it. Like learning a language or an instrument, learning classical music or at least to appreciate it, helps the listener lead a richer life. Advanced listeners will learn to recognize how the math or physics they’ve studied applies in real life.

The best way to introduce ragas is through songs – especially songs that listeners can relate to. Even for those who want to appreciate classical music, the first step to identify a raga is by songs based on the raga and not by the structure or notes of the raga. By bringing a connect between classical melodies and popular music whether Bollywood, bhajan or folk music, children can first get familiar, then begin to understand the concept of ragas.


  1. Deepa Mohan says:

    Interesting initiative!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Similar Story

Thiruvaiyaru – A State of Mind

A small town in the Cauvery delta comes alive in January each year. Carnatic musicians and rasikas all over the world turn their focus to Thiruvaiyaru (city of five rivers) in the Tanjavur district of Tamil Nadu. Many even travel from around the world to be there. Thiruvaiyaru is where carnatic composer Tyāgaraja lived and composed some of the most well-known songs of the genre. On Bahula Panchami—the fifth day of the lunar month Pushya—Jan 25 this year, five songs of Tyāgaraja, simply referred to as the “pancharatna kritis” were sung in one voice by millions of people all over…

Similar Story

Akka Mahadevi across the shores

I didn't expect to hear Akka Mahadevi's poetry being recited on a stage in the US. Fire and Ash, a multimedia show about Lord Shiva is where I encountered the poetry of this Kannada saint. The theme of the show conceived by playwright Gouri Ramanarayan centered on the stories and attributes of Lord Shiva. How Lord Siva symbolizes both the positive and negative energy of the universe was effectively brought out by the narration ably supported by vocalist Savita Narasimhan and dancer Anjana Anand. Several compositions ranging from Muthuthandavar's Teruvil Varano to Tagore's Srijoner to Kalidasa's Kumarasambhavam and Akka Mahadevi's…