Bathroom singers who turned into stage singers

Are you a bathroom singer and want to perform in a drawing room. If given a chance on a stage too? You can. And you don’t have to perform on the stage standing under a shower as shown in a lousy TV programme on bathroom singers some months back.

A Mumbai based group, Swara Sampada, led by two doctors has done it. They groom bathroom singers into stage performers. Some of them are now learning the seven swars. Don’t ask their age. The range is huge- from five to 70 plus.

When I had first come to know about the group, I had dismissed it as a publicity stunt. But the concept sounded thrilling. The probe started. Little search on the net and there it was, 40 odd members (families) from varied backgrounds and age bound by their special love for music. (Members include scientists, doctors, lawyers, academicians and magistrates. Housewives too)

Their mission statement was impressive, ‘To convert bathroom singers into drawing room singers and drawing room singers into stagesingers.’ It’s a mission accomplished.

I immediately got in touch with the founder-presidents Dr Ajay Singh and Dr Vijay Thakkar. Pat came an invite to attend their two-day long musical picnic at Silvassa. Musical picnic. Could be quite fascinating. I decided to join the group.

And what an experience! For 48 hours we had music, music and music. All of them performed on their makeshift stage, orchestra played in the background. Believe me, they made me perform too. Initially I was nervous. But the encouragement was huge. In tune or out of tune, I enjoyed every bit of it. I was singing, not in the bathroom.

Perhaps it’s because of the vow that they take. Music would remain the common binding force, the life of their fraternity. They would be self-less, not egoistic, dedicated to the almighty. They also take vow to be keen listeners as careful listening is 60 percent music. The rest 40 per cent is talent (10 per cent), understanding (10 percent) and riyaz (20 per cent)

There I met 75-years-old PS Sokhi. His face sparkled with every wah-wah even as his wife on a wheel-chair smiled shyly. Seeing his wrinkled fingers move efficiently on his slick Hawaiin guitar, it was actually hard to believe that he was holding the plectrum (guitar pick) after four decades.

Later, I learnt that Sokhi learned guitar in his teens listening to popular player of his generation late Hazara Singh. He is now picking up formal lessons from Janardhan Bhoir. “I used to passionately play guitar till some personal reasons forced me to discontinue it. I am so grateful to them that they encouraged me to resume my hobby,” said a beaming Sokhi who has now hosted a website to popularize Hawaiin guitar. An odd man out in the group of amateur singers, Sokhi epitomized the special spirit that binds Swara Sampada.

Ajay Singh, a singer himself, explained the way they go about it.

The group holds ten-hour long monthly music sessions. They also hold practice sessions in small groups. Some of them, even in their twilight zones, are now taking elementary classes from a music teacher.

So far they have done 50 performances, from small with an audience of 100 to 150 to a jam-packed hall with a crowd of 1000. Housewife Nirmala after her maiden performance told me excitedly, “There was no jeering or booing as they knew we were not professional singers. In fact many in the audience got the confidence to take up singing. Age is no barrier.”

While bidding adieu to Mumbai last week I called them up. The advice came on dotted lines, “Why don’t you form Swara Swampada in Lucknow? We are willing to provide all guidance.”

Why not, I wondered. Who doesn’t want to sing? Those who can’t sing in public do croon like me in their bathrooms. I might form one. How about you? Log onto the Swara Sampada website to know more about the concept and their track record.

I will end with their vow, “All of us are co-travellers on a musical odyssey. We shall sing along with each other, enjoy each other’s singing and each other’s company, till the end of our lives. We hope and pray that as and when the end comes, it comes with a song on our lips.”

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