Author: Eva Cunningham, Tate Soller
For a long time Anurag faced a constant dilemma over his passion for music. Music was prohibited in his community, which plagued Anurag. Later upon joining Manzil, Anurag was introduced to a mystic poet, Kabir, whose lyrics resonated with him and afforded him a new insight into the value of music. Kabir's lyrics hit a cord with Anurag, making him realise his desire to use music as a tool to bring out the change that people want to see. In his own words, music could be used to show the colour in life - “we cannot create a rainbow without different colours”, he observes. His vision to give rise to this rainbow was to create a space where people could share their voice and explore themselves as musicians. This gave rise to Manzil Mystics, where he and his group would explore social issues with children through music. Beginning with 27 people, they now run projects in eight different centres.
Anurag describes himself having been an average student in school. Though, once he started getting more involved in music he could see the change in himself. He then began using music as a medium for opening up dialog over pertinent social issues, starting first with his own home. The music sessions he did at home started leading to discussions, where he created a platform to dissect long ingrained traditions through music. Anurag was then able to break down traditions such as “Ghoonghat” for his sister-in-law by showing and creating a different picture for all to see via music.
Despite this transformation at home, Anurag's music career still remained unaccepted and unsupported. He was afforded no financial nor emotional support from his family, and society more broadly still don't accept music as viable, beneficial work. “Everybody loves it, but no one wants to pay”, Anurag explains. Thus creating a significant financial strain as a constant undercurrent in his work. He feels he has a responsibility, to be able to pay all of his musicians as well as for the instruments. But making these ends meet is a tenuous task.
For Anurag, the role of music in society is a question of perception. To foster community and change through his music he wants people to not necessarily accept the music, but rather to understand it. It is though this communication of ideas that music and theatre are able to be powerful mediums for capturing people's attention and sowing the seed of change, he explains. The music itself works to break down discrimination and stereotypes. Anurag and his group, together with the children they work with have created 11 songs based on gender. Here, the children are able to construct the lyrics themselves, thereby allowing them an avenue to voice their own perspectives on such contentions, ingrained social issues, as well as have an influence on the change they want to see. This then empowers them to pursue their dreams of change throughout their lives.
Sadly though, this creative means of exploring crucial issues is not granted space in the education system. Acceptance from such institutions, Anurag argues, is pivotal for progress. Schools and society more broadly need to see music as not being purely for entertainment value.
Despite such obstacles in his path, Anurag's passion is still unwavering. His proudest moments, he describes, is when everyone, without fail, gets up to dance each time they perform. He takes pride in the incredible growth of his project to now working with 150 students, and keeping in touch with 650 students. A major draw card in this are his unique songs, and most importantly, the visible enjoyment of the children is the program's overwhelming success.
Being a changeloomer has spurred on this progress. It has helped him with design of his sessions by providing alternative approaches and giving support and structure to his endeavour. In Anurag's perspective, he is now able to engage more effectively due to this support and advice he has received. He has grown as a music facilitator during this journey, he imparts. As a changeloomer, you get to meet so many new, amazing people, many of whom become close friends, as well as to explore varying approaches under a guided structure, Anurag asserts. It creates a community. "An idea is just a soul, changelooms can do the rest", he explains.
Anurag's ultimate vision is to create a space through which music can be used as a tool to bring out the change; to train people, teach them life skills and teach them English, all through music. He wants to convey to people that music is not just entertainment, but tool of change. As foundation for this vision are Kabir's phrases - sticking with Anurag all these years – a vision of a world which is one; Social inclusion because we are one.