Mumbai One of the more unusual, and innovative, of the programs associated
with ACORN Inte
and ACORN India’s organizing of the Dharavi Project with ragpickers in this huge mega-slum has been a partnership called “Dharavi Rocks” between our ACORN Foundation (India) and the Blue Frog jazz club in the central part of the city. Vinod Shetty, ACORN’s director in Mumbai, was able to fashion the partnership out of the imagination and persistence of linking a friend of a friend of his brother (who also runs a new jazz club in Bangalore!) with one of the principals in the Blue Frog club which has become prominent in the music scene in the several years since in opened. The heart of the deal is that six times a year, the Blue Frog will provide the artists and ACORN will supply the audience and the venue in Dharavi. The idea had begun with a group of Tamil rappers and then advanced with the Blue Frog to include the Boxettes a lively women’s band from the UK and a Norwegian rapper when they visited the club, and the rest, as we say, is rock n’ roll!
Vinod is careful to give ample credit to the French-native who manages the club for having the energy and understanding of the impact, particularly on our young ragpickers, but also getting the fact that it would
resonate with some of the groups and artists the Blue Frog imports into the Bombay music scene particularly from the UK and Europe. There was no better example of this than the 90 minute musical workshop with about 40 of our kids that was put on by the well respected and highly talented saxophonist and rapper from Birmingham, England, Soweto Kinch.
Soweto’s musicianship, personality, and patience were on wonderful display at the Blue Frog
where the first
workshop was held. I wasn’t surprised though since UK-native Sue Crow, a great development volunteer for ACORN International, in a meeting the previous day was a huge gushing fan-girl of
Soweto Kinch and filled us in on his path from the councils (public housing) of
Birmingham to Cambridge and then his decision to move into music to connect and make a difference.
It was all great fun as Soweto blew the roof off with the sax and painstakingly with Vinod translating tirelessly moved our gang through various exercises designed to allow them to experience rhythm and appreciate how to make music with their feet, hands, and voices. It was a master’s course on rap in many ways given to our our crew of slum kids adept in the music and dance of Bollywood. Even after the workshop and without any common language Soweto continued to engage our guys in a form of universal communication which speaks volumes to the power of organizing just as it does music.
The whole event was an unexpected treat for me on my last day in Mumbai before flying home. The manager asked me for pictures since all the professional photographers were shooting video, so I’ll have to hustle when I get back to the States to find some that are good enough for the Blue Frog and Soweto to share. And, as a final note, Soweto and I both were in Mumbai and both of us walked away with the t-shirt, his in red, mine in black: Dharavi Rocks!