Bollywood Beats, by Molly Robinson

_MG_6458Photos by Dora Pelczer.

Of all the events that I have attended this week, Bollywood Beats was the one that offered me the chance to learn about something that really was new to me. In a three hour tour through the history of Indian film music, and its traditions and instruments, I experienced the classical roots, global influences, and in some cases subversiveness, of Bollywood.

As I entered the room I was greeted with a soft drumming, accompanied with the occasional guitar riff. The performers and demonstrators were merely warming up, but it set the tone for what was to be an enjoyable and informative afternoon. It was explained that there was no Bollywood without song and dance, and each of the film clips we saw over the course of the session was filled with a physicality and a musicality somewhat unlike Western cinema.

The first part of the session gave me an insight into the traditional dances and moods of Indian film music, illustrated carefully by movie clips. The presentation then moved on to explain the relationship between Indian cinema and global cinema, even using tracks from Jesus Christ Superstar and Brokeback Mountain to highlight their influence on the films we were looking at.

After tea and biscuits, we resumed the session, and had the opportunity to see some of the instruments, such as a sitar and the tabla (a percussion instrument), being played live in front of us. The history of each instrument was explained to us and then they were demonstrated. My favourite part of the whole session came when an extremely talented member of the audience came up to join in and play the tabla alongside the sitar, and the room was filled with the raga that the two performers expertly played.

This is what Innovative Learning week should be about – learning something completely new, and having fun doing it.


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