Music Basti (For a Change): Interview with Faith Gonsalves

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Music Basti (For a Change): Interview with Faith Gonsalves

Faith Gonsalves, Founder Music Basti on DesiQube

Faith Gonsalves, Founder Music Basti on DesiQube


Faith Gonsalves, Founder Music Basti on DesiQube

Faith Gonsalves, Founder Music Basti on DesiQube

Ever thought how the efforts of one person can induce change and create a revolution?
No need to dig deep into the history books, no need to go down the memory lane to remember that one moment or person who led a revolution, for a change.

Look no further as DQ brings you the interview with the energetic & inspiring Faith Gonsalves. Faith is one of the very few youth who follow their passion and that too for a change. An avid music enthusiast, Faith founded Music Basti, a project/NGO to positively nurture and impact the lives of children, children for whom life was all about slums.

Catch more about Faith and her initiative Music Basti in an exclusive interview.

Tell us something about yourself?
I was actually always interested in archaeology and anthropology as a child, and to that end pursued History and arts education into my Bachelors as well, which I completed from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University in 2009. I have a twin sister, Pattie, who is student of psychology and will be pursuing her MA in Public Health
later this year, two brothers, the eldest, Jonatha, who is a practising music therapist in Melbourne, Australia, and the second, Josh, working with UNHCR based in Budapest. My parents are from Goa/near Mumbai and Mangalore. My mum has been involved in health work and my dad in education, human rights and development
work from policy to grassroots levels for over 4 decades.

How did Music Basti start? What are the objectives?
Music Basti, for me, was a point of connection bringing together different things that particularly interested me or that I was involved with, namely, music and arts, artist communities and at-risk children in a non-formal education format.
In the summer of 2008, as I began my last year of college, Music Basti came together after a few months of research and team recruitment. It had then, and continues to have a collective philosophy bringing together different individuals, artists and others into a common and shared vision for social justice. We began
with a pilot project of workshops and sessions, and based on the enthusiasm of the artists connected, comittment of volunteers, and positive response from the children involved, we were able to take Music Basti forward into 2011.
Music Basti’s mission is to strengthen the voices of children, while raising awareness also on social global causes such as control and management of natural resources, vision is to establish and strengthen an egalitarian socio- economic order based on the democratic values of equality, sharing, cooperation and common good.

Music Basti Project on DesiQube

Music Basti Project on DesiQube

Music Basti’s work is focused on the following objectives:
– To motivate, mobilize, train and sensitize the youth and music community to understand child rights and utilize the medium of music in order to protect and promote these rights.
– To develop a music program that motivates street children to be creative and enjoy childhood by learning and developing skills as well as attitudes; Promote participatory learning in the music program, where children through such a learning process experience togetherness, cooperation, harmony and common good.
– To build the capacity of institutions/NGOs working for child- care through an arts and music driven content and methodology to build the life-skills, attitudes and socio-cultural awareness of street children.
– To develop a partnerships approach and network with street children, youth volunteers, music communities, NGOs, government organizations, commercial and educational units.

How much is the contribution of creativity and innovation in your business?
I have never considered Music Basti in itself to be a wholly innovative and new concept, but I have always understood our approach to be an unconventional solution to an age old challenge. While there are similar minded projects internationally, what distinguishes Music Basti from these is the fact that it is placed
within a very unique context.
In New Delhi, India, 18% (3.24 million) are children below the age of 14 years, among whom no less than 0.5 million children below the age of 12 years are officially declared as “street children”. It is estimated that there are at least 10 times as many children actually within this category of being on the streets. These are children who lack access to information and education; they live without the support systems of caring families and communities; involved in child labour, trafficking, exploitation; abandoned by families and education; children in situations of abject poverty. Today poverty is considered one of the paramount human rights violations. Alleviating poverty is not merely the provision of government schooling, three meals a day, and a roof over one’s head. It is the provision of opportunities to learn, grow and develop, to enjoy childhood into mature adulthood.
Music Basti seeks to use music as a tool of personal empowerment in a community for these children who too have every right to enjoy their childhood, as a part of their healthy development and growth toward mature adulthood.

“Early interventions can alter the lifetime trajectories of children who are born poor or are deprived of the opportunities for growth and development available to those more fortunate.“ [Early Child Development, A Powerful Equalizer, WHO, Commission on the Social Determinants on Health, 2007]

A Music Workshop by Music Basti | DesiQube

A Music Workshop by Music Basti | DesiQube

The innovation in Music Basti’s approach also focuses on shifting not just the paradigm but also the perception of the problem. It challenges the belief system phenomenon of children on the margins not as ‘takers’ but as ‘contributers’. Alliances should be encouraged between all individuals and organizations dedicated to child well-being and social welfare.

Youth and children on the street have very complex and interconnected life experiences that need be addressed e.g. education and health; income and housing. Programs must incorporate the stories, dreams and ambitions – as well as choices of these youth and children.
First hand experiences are critical to fostering positive public engagement with development. Music Basti provides a model by which engagement with a marginalized community is creative, constructive and fun!
There must be an effort to re-“brand” street children and youth – so as to strengthen the engagement of the public. We need to invest in the belief that street children have the same inherent dignity, right to self-determination, and equally deserving of our collective respect.

Tell us about some projects being run by Music Basti?
Core music programs
a. Music Workshops Education Programme: With at-risk youth and children (targeting about 500 children and youth total): This is a program involving workshops by local musicians, visiting international musicians performing or giving guest workshops; participant group size between 30-100 children and youth.
b. Music Skills Development Classes: Focused small-group classes (participant group size between 1-10) for instruments and vocals have been introduced since October 2010. Indian and western vocal training, guitar, keyboard, tabla, drums are included; flute, percussion and other instruments may be included.
c. Musical Exposure Programs: In-house concerts organized at the homes/centers where children live; trips to concerts and recitals are organized;
d. Performances & Showcase: Music performances are organized for focused small- groups of children (primarily part of Music Skills Development Classes) to perform at key concerts, events, programs regularly.
e. Song-writing and Music Composition: In 2010-11 Music Basti is creating an album of children’s music recorded in June 2010, when in partnership with Andrew Dubber, Jez Collins and Ian Wallman of the Music and Cultural Research Department, Birmingham City University, UK, a 2 week long recording project took place at centers for children part of Music Basti’s programs.
f. Recording & Distribution of Music: In 2011, with the support of Project Ahimsa and local partners, Music Basti is undertaking a recording project with 60 at-risk children to record original music and creative musical expression by the children.
Networking & Community Building
a. Discussion Groups Programme for Counselors working with street/slum children and other groups of childre-at-risk (abandoned or runaway, orphans, victims of abuse, neglect, discrimination): With partner organization Skillshare International focused Discussion Groups are being organized to strategically build the capacities of organizations working for street-child development, integration and welfare, by building and equipping the staff of these organizations with additional counsellors/child-care workers from over 15 organizations locally.
b. Best practices sharing: Sharing of best practices, methods, and program model with organizations in Delhi and India to equip other NGOs and organizations to integrate arts programming into their curriculum/programs.
Training and Development of Artists and Volunteers
a. Skills development of Artists: Local artists are being networked with potential organizations such as MIMA Music USA, Music Therapy Trust India, Bridge Music Academy, to create formal and non-formal spaces for interaction, skills development and learning around the themes of musical instruction, developing teaching frameworks for children with backgrounds of trauma/violence/neglect/other, building on hands-on skills as teachers, etc.
b. Skills development for Volunteers and Interns: Regular training programs and internship programs offer volunteers and interns many potential avenues for learning and skills development, including training on child participation, rights and protection, child centered development, music education; communication and media projects, audio- video projects, and hands-on work with children, etc. Over 500 volunteers and artists have worked in Music Basti including from Study India Programme (UK),DAAD Germany) and other local volunteers.

Music Basti Project in Action | DesiQube

Music Basti Project in Action | DesiQube

The idea of using Music as a change agent is unique and holds potential to impact the larger section. How are you working on this idea? What are the future/long term plans?
Creating stronger artist networks is key to change. Music is inherent in individuals but is also a transferable skill. Creating groups of people who are equipped to work in children’s communities over time is the biggest challenge to creating sustainability. Music Basti in itself does not need to spread and musical work for community building need not happen under the tutelage of the organization. We aim for localized movements adopting the model and strategies fo the development of their local communities.

What do you have to say about the role of online & social media for positive impact & social awareness?
There is much talk lately about the ill-effects of social media, Facebook in particular. However, when we look at the kind of activism that Facebook has inspired recently, the mind boggles! Tahrir Square was inspired by a Facebook post.
Music Basti is predominantly made up of young people who are familiar with and regularly using social media. We have developed some interesting social media projects, one in particular, “The Pencil Project” with Mumbai based Digital Law and Kenneth, that received the support of 5000 fans in 5 days to support the education of a child, just by pressing “Like”. One mouse click or tap is all is takes to make a difference today.

Street dwellers singing at Music Basti Project | DesiQube

Street dwellers singing at Music Basti Project | DesiQube

Some words for DesiQube and its readers.
If you are keen to create a movement of change or something of your own, you can. It only takes hard work. Sometimes we are our own biggest obstacles, our own apprehensions loom larger than the real challenges. And lastly, change takes strength, time and perseverance, leaders are those individuals who through garnering the strength of their communities commit to a vision of long term change.

Catch more about Music Basti in our segment on youth run non profits soon. Help Music Basti promote its mission by sharing this amazing interview.

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Gurwinder S Jathoul is the Founder of DesiQube Media [www.DesiQube.com] A design & new media enthusiast, he provides process improvement and creative solutions to businesses. He loves to think, being close to nature, writing & Bhangra. Follow him on twitter @ gjathoul

1 Comment

  1. bertina mkanyika mwandoe says:

    It is amazing what you guys are doing and i am really impressed. Personally, i am a musician and i also do visual art and i have started an art and music project with the less fortunate children in the slums in Kenya. I have learnt alot from you as i read through. Be blessed and keep up with the good work.

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