WATCH NOW: 5 Ways in Which You can Use Music to Impact People: Tips by Kamakshi and Vishala

Martin Luther said, “My heart, which is so full to overflowing, has often been solaced and refreshed by music when sick and weary.” With the times we live in, these words could not be any truer. Music has the power to capture and stimulate emotions and is becoming a popular source of mental and physical therapy. It can improve and maintain the physical, psychological, and social well-being of individuals. More than anything else, it has been used for a long time as a means of self-expression and communication among various cultures. Although seemingly lost, music was used as a form of healing, to cure patients.

Refining this traditional form of healing to meet the current times, sisters Kamakshi and Vishala Khurana set up The Sound Space in 2010. Giving the Indian Classical Music a modern twist, the sisters are conducting therapeutic classes and workshops to spread the joy of Indian music among people of all ages. With their unique music courses and workshops, The Sound Space has impacted the lives of over 10,000 students in the past 8 years. The sisters speak to Siddhi Gandhi about music and how they use this versatile art to promote wellness among people of all ages.

Please tell us about the inspiration behind The Sound Space.
We were born in a musical home and had been introduced to music since birth. Our father, a trained musician, used to sing to us every day and we started training in classical music at the age of 3. We realised that it shaped us as people today. Especially in times like now, when people feel frustrated and uninspired, music is helpful. It is like a friend you cannot ever lose. We thought that if we can have this friend, so can everyone else in the world. That is how the idea of The Sound Space emerged. Music plays so many roles in helping people emotionally, physically and psychologically, that we decided to make it reach as many people as we can.

Music and emotions are interrelated and can even change the way we perceive our surroundings. Please elaborate on how we can use music to communicate various emotions.
Music has various effects on our emotions as well as our physical body. If we go back to our age-old traditions, there is something called Raga Chikitsa, which uses ragas for health. Ragas are musical notes strung together, sung at a certain frequency. The combination of these notes affects the energy centres of the body. This way of healing has been used for a long time; we just lost touch with it.

Understanding the impact of each raga on the mind and body helps learners find the specific chakra or energy centre that is essential for their healing process. Not many realise that music can be equally therapeutic for both mind and body. It allows people to refocus their energy, destress and achieve the required inner balance to heal and rehabilitate. People are beginning to see the healing effect of music. Not just emotions, music also affects the cells and hormones in our body. And if we are open to this kind of sound, we may enjoy its far-reaching benefits.

How do you approach teaching Indian Classical Music to children of a very young age? 
Indian classical music has different forms – folk, thumri, devotional. Having children with us from a young age, they learn so many values just from the music they are taught. In fact, we once had a parent tell us that the values that their child learns in class are not just music; they learn so much more while studying this subject. They can trust their teacher and the relationship with the student is the primary thing they need to form, which many people miss out on today.

Today everything is about bulk and how many students they get, that they miss out on building a strong and trustworthy relationship with their students. Once you have gained their trust, the communication becomes easier. It helps to understand their emotions and helps the teacher help the student find their centre. We believe that we have a very practical approach to things, we are friendly with our students, but there is also a certain line that we draw with them. So, they are very involved in every aspect of learning.

Indian classical music is often seen as unapproachable, faraway or difficult and our main attempt is to show them how easy it is. It does require practice and dedication, but it is approachable and beautiful. That is a way in which we have managed to keep our students engaged and involved. Music has the ability to change people’s perception and those are the days we live for. We often have students come and tell us that music changed them. Music opens up people’s senses, and they start looking at things a little differently. Especially children, they are so unfiltered, they tell you exactly what they see and how they feel or music has changed how they feel.

How receptive are the learners to the music workshops? Is there a difference in the level of reception among the various age groups?
Yes, today is all about how approachable and easily consumable information. And we have always believed that the easier and approachable we make the information, people would be able to identify it and understand it. So, for us, the biggest reason we can stay inspired and enjoy our work is that we feel we can communicate well with our learners across our country and even further beyond that. 

And honestly, we are in an age where people are open to different ideas and things that are very natural. You can create music with your voice or an instrument, the body. Music is a very natural way of being and this particular way is something that people are beginning to connect with now. Also, when we started, not all of the information on music and well-being was easily available. We had to look at different sources, study different courses, learn a lot at the job itself to gather the information that we have today. So, to make it easily available and approachable is a big part of what we want to do as well.

While teaching music does the mode or level of communication through music differ for different age groups?
The teaching technique definitely differs for different age groups. It is always nicer to communicate with children as they are more open. They are like sponges, and if you can make a connection with them, you can positively affect their lives. Having said that, today adults are also in search of something more in their life. We use music to make them explore their inner being. Whether adults or children, the main focus is whether they can connect with their inner self and their inner music. For children, it is more fun, and they at times do not even realise what they are learning. Adults are more aware. Their questions are more practical, sometimes they are more cynical as well. Overall it is great working with all age groups.

There are new trends in music almost every other day, how do you stay in touch with these trends? Do you update the course to integrate the new trends?
We keep ourselves very updated. We listen to all kinds of good music and also encourage our students to do so. We never tell them this is the right music and this is the wrong music. We try and incorporate all the aspects of music that they also bring. It is very important if we are teaching teenagers especially to keep ourselves updated. And relevance is very important. Both in music and life, keeping yourself relevant and updated is a big part of communicating with the newer generation.

There is no set form of music that we focus on in Indian classical music. Our course is generally very fluid and the students can decide on what they want to focus on. Our aim is to teach them the required techniques. And they do get to learn from some amazing gurus. We also use a lot of what our gurus had taught us, but we make it more relevant for the learners of today. The concept we mainly follow is to be open, something that is seriously missing in the Indian classical scenario today. The value system when we learned may not be relevant today, and not following the traditional rules will not affect the students’ ability to learn music. Students do not need to bow down to teachers like we used to do, they, however, need to learn the concept of respect.

You have mentioned that you teach a deconstructed form of music. Please elaborate.
We find the idea of deconstructed music very interesting. We just collaborated with Taufiq Qureshi – AAMAD, where we did rhythmic music. So, we tried to bring out their rhythmic aspects, where the students were playing on buckets and cartons and utensils while singing hardcore Indian classics.

Deconstructed music is about understanding certain concepts and we use different methods to teach them those concepts. The aim is to teach them Indian music and make them more aware of the musical arts of their own country. We use various techniques to introduce concepts like taal or sur. They learn so much through the poetries, workshops and interactions that the regular classes won’t be able to teach them. And now they understand Indian classical music so much better.

Shifting the focus a bit, please share the thought process behind the colours and styling of your logo. They have a very soothing vibe – even in social media posts.
A lot of our music is therapeutic. Even if we are not doing music therapy, every music we perform, everything we put out has a therapeutic angle. So, we wanted the same to reflect on our social media platforms. All the posts that we have put out, the colour scheme, our logo, everything resonates our beliefs in music and wellbeing.

With the lockdown not easing anytime soon, what alternatives are you using to teach music? Has the shift to online teaching changed the flow of interaction with students?
We had to change the whole structure of our class due to the lockdown. We had to change our method of teaching and up our technical skills. Kamakshi had to buy a laptop, we were sharing one previously. We also had to get some equipment to ease the teaching process.

We were lucky enough to have students that easily adapted to the shift. They, the parents and everyone related to The Sound Space was very supportive of the digital change. We struggled initially to get the process going, but overall it was a fluid process and there were not many difficulties when it came to interacting with the students.

While the students have become more efficient, we still prefer face-to-face interaction. A class is so much more than just learning and teaching music. Some days it might be just a conversation with little singing. But online, there is pressure to deliver. There is also a lag that happens in almost every virtual platform. This affects complex things like teaching taal. Though we have worked around it and found a solution, it is less than ideal. Thankfully the flow of delivery was not greatly affected.

Have you found teaching online more effective when it comes to teaching music?
During the lockdown, our students have taken to riyaz. It is very surprising as they are better prepared for classes now than before the lockdown. We asked them the reason, and they replied that practicing music keeps them focused. They love doing their riyaz and prepare for the class as it gives them peace of mind. They do not feel the need to be constantly around gadgets to feel relaxed.

People who seriously pursue any kind of art form are very lucky, as we do not have to fall upon any kind of stock entertainment or constant gaming or surfing social media. We have our art form to go back to, which is important for the kids today. Many interesting things are happening around us. Our aim is not to breed musicians. We aim to create people who understand and appreciate music, be able to use music to heal and see it as something that can be their partner in real life. 

We recently held a virtual-concert, Bulandiyaan to raise funds for underprivileged kids and touch as many hearts with music as possible. The idea was not in our yearly schedule, and it came about as an idea for an annual concert. It is an exciting concept as the students get to perform individually and it is for a good cause. The students managed to communicate well over the virtual platform in preparation for the concert. They were using screen share and WhatsApp to share ideas and plans, and we believe they made more progress than us when it came to working over the online platforms.

What’s next for The Sound Space?
We are working towards bringing music to the underprivileged. We work with lots of NGOs like Jai Vakeel, SevaSadan and Akanksha Foundation, where we talk about and promote music and the positive effects it can have on their mind and body. A lot of the people we have interacted with are experiencing it through our teachers and trainers. The future is definitely to bring music to more people and promote Indian music. It is something so priceless and we want to share it with the world as much as possible. 

We are still working on our marketing, so for now, the organisations reach out to us and we have managed to have a long-lasting relationship with them. We do not believe in the bulk system and want to truly affect each individual student. Each person is important. Even if we are teaching 100 students, every student is important.