Mission Apollo

Rahi Patil
Thursday, 10 January 2019

Here’s a children’s band which is giving back to society through music

Performing in a musical band is probably everyone’s fantasy as a child. There are some who make this dream come true and live it. Apollo Music Band is one such group of kids. Not only are the members dedicated to music but they are also driven by a sense of giving back to society and doing something for the less fortunate. 

The music band came together earlier last year. The kids are as young as 11-14 years. Last month, on the World Disability Day, the band performed at the Tata Memorial Hospital as well as Aashraya School, Vashi, for the specially abled children. We spoke to Sujatha Ramanathan, a parent and a classical dancer who coordinates the band...

How was the band formed?
It was a process. These things do not happen in a day. My younger son Rohit has been drumming for a while now. In summer vacations, he started practising rigorously. His teacher, Shawn Coutinho insisted that he tries playing with different instruments and people. The process began with a group of friends coming together and collaborating. Gradually, they formed their own band. They really enjoy each other’s company. So in a way it was the kids who started it. 

During the vacation, they practised for a couple of hours each day. That intense involvement resulted in a great camaraderie between them. They learnt to be together as a team. Eventually, we realised that they need a goal to come up with something constructive. 

At the end of two weeks, we arranged a show at home for all the parents. The kids put together a wonderful concert for a couple of hours. It was as good as any professional band. The numbers that they played were really outstanding with perfect synchronisation. 

What is your role in promoting and encouraging the band?
As a classical dancer and entrepreneur, whatever I’ve learnt from my teachers and experience comes into play here. I have been involved with the band quite closely. I look for some opportunities for them. I try to give them ideas and then I step aside. Later they bring it on.

Staying involved with the band engages me a lot but I do it as I love the fact that the kids are engaged in music so much. Somebody has to take the onus of promoting them and giving them direction, otherwise, they would remain as one of the many bands and I wouldn’t allow that to happen. It is vital to keep that interest and energy of the kids going on. It is also fun to become a part of their practice sessions. I sing Carnatic music for them and they play on it. So, the process of learning happens through contribution. 

How does the process of composing music happen in the band? 
There are certain basic skills that all of us have. And it’s true for music as well. The young children are at different stages of learning music. We are making them learn Hindi, Konkani and  Marathi music along with English songs. They are starting to play for the people who probably appreciate that sort of music. It helps them understand the audience. It has led them to creating their own song and dance mix which we call The ‘Apollo dance mix’. 

They have started thinking on those lines where they are trying to create their own fusions using different instruments. In the end, it depends on how they use each other’s skills and creativity to the level best. 

The mentor

Shawn Coutinho, the guide of the band, says, “I have been teaching the kids individually also. I thought of collaborating and we began the rigorous practice. It was not an easy task to put it all together. The kids were really enthusiastic and everything they were taught they took it to another level. The dedication of both the kids and parents and their support was really impressive. It made my work easier and we’ve reached where we are today. I take children to perform to different places like clubs, events and gymkhanas.” 

Coutinho, who works intensively in therapeutic music, says, “When we got the show at Aashraya school to perform, the elements of my therapeutic music truly came in handy. If there was some adult band performing for them, it would have been different. The kids would have just sat in the chairs and clapped. But when this band performed, the kids were so excited that they came on stage, jumped and danced. They could connect with the performers since they were their age.” 

As for instilling the sense of responsibility in the kids and their specially abled friends, Coutinho says, “I think children should learn what giving back to society is. The experience that these kids had at Tata Memorial Hospital will stay with them forever. After this show, the principal of Aashraya school approached us. These experiences are life long for the children. They have realised what it is to do something for those who are not as fortunate as us. And they have realised that music is a great thing to share with people. I have been trying to do my best to promote this lovely set of children. At this age, they have learnt to prioritise music over everything else. They have learnt a lot of commitment, discipline as well as time management.” 

Where does he see himself taking the band in future? Is their any specific plan ready? “The plan is to get the kids to perform in as many shows as possible. It is very important that since a young age, the kids are introduced to do things for a social cause. Everything is not about how much money you make. When they pass out from the school and look back, they should realise that this is where life starts but they should feel good that they have already done so much for society. I think it is the biggest recognition to have.” 

“I have been playing drums for two years. It was great performing for the special children and make them happy. We had fun while performing as they were very enthusiastic and  danced to our songs. Also our teacher Shawn who plays many instruments, is well versed with each and everyone’s abilities in the band. He mainly guides us with what we are going to play and the shows that we play in. He is the one who conducts the band.” 
Rohit Krishnamoorthy, drummer, Apollo Band  

“Performing with the Apollo Band has been a fabulous. I have always loved music. Performing with a band and that too with people who share similar passion, amplifies the whole experience. Communicating through music connects you to the audience on another level”.  
Janani Balaji, singer, Apollo Band

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