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Ekal - LEAP Choir - Music In Unison

Nikita Minocha

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On May 13th at MIT’s Stata auditorium, Mother's Day was made even more special with Ekal Vidyalaya and LEAP Choir, truly breaking boundaries! LEAP India presented ‘Boundary Breakers, a moment with music’, an event designed to appreciate musical traditions from around the world. The event was in appreciation of Ekal New England supporters and well-wishers. Students from the Bala Vidya Mandir school in Adyar (Chennai, India) graced the special occasion with their beautiful voices. Under the artistic direction of Srinivas Krishnan, the performers rocked the stage with their soulful renditions. LEAP (Leadership Engagement in Artistic Performances) is an organization that encourages young musicians to create global awareness through cultures, values and teachings of human relationships. The program is guided by well-known musician and composer, A.R. Rahman. It prepares an understanding of diverse music and artistic traditions including Marathi Natya Sangeet, Sufi, Indian Folk music, Rabindra Sangeet, semi-classical and classical ragas from Northern India, as well as English Pop and American Musicals. 

Team Boundary Breakers included 12 students from Grade 5 through 9, with a majority of them from Grade 7. Many of the students had no formal training in classical music and to the surprise of the audience, they presented a wide range of songs, from folk music to Adele’s Rolling in the Deep.

Before coming to Boston, the children performed at Columbia University, Washington DC, Mary Baldwin University and were later headed to New York City. The entire trip was led by Srinivas Krishnan who has collaborated with A.R. Rahman for two decades on a host of projects around the world. Krishnan is the Founder of Global Rhythms World Music Ensemble and has been associated with Miami University for 30 years. He also served as Marsh Professor at University of Vermont. Teachers from Bala Vidya Mandir, Jamuna and Shobha, were the caretakers and chaperones for the students.

Musician Jason Koontz traveled from Kentucky to join the group. His accomplishments include a collaboration with A.R. Rahman for popular number Rang De Basanti! He performed a mesmerising 'jugalbandhi' on the steel drum, along with Krishnan. Amlaan Shakeel, a young musician from Atlanta, accompanied the show on the keyboard. 
The South Asian Boston community is blessed to have talented and experienced music teachers. Local teachers Sudha Subbaraman and Jyoti Sharma worked tirelessly with Ekal adult and youth volunteers to present two opening numbers - Swagatam, a Rabindra Nath Tagore composition, and Hey Sharade Maa respectively. Most of the singers were 'Mother-daughter' or 'Mother-son' pairs. What an opportunity to perform together on this special day, bringing about the warmth of Mother’s Day! They were accompanied by Priti Chakravarty on harmonium and Pt. Nishikant Sonwalkar on tabla. Nishikant ji’s student, Ashish Puri also joined on tabla. 

Ekal Executive Director Ranjani Saigal passionately talked about the Ekal mission while Latha Krishnan shared her Ekal experience from her recent trip to Jharkhand. This was an eye-opener not just for the audience but also the guests. As the LEAP students shared their US experiences, one young girl mentioned that she also comes from an uneducated family. Her mother makes a strong effort for her education. Ekal’s mission to provide education in rural India struck a cord and the students were so appreciative of Ekal New England’s work. 

Such an event is only possible with the help of many individuals who selflessly come together to support Ekal’s cause. Special thanks to Meena Subramanyam for bringing the event to Ekal. And a heartfelt gratitude to MITHAS team, Sreekanth, Rajaram, Vithal Deshpande and others for the audio. Cheers to all volunteers and families who helped with: rides, food, housing, outing, setup, videos, photos and other behind-the-scenes activities. Ekal NE Secretary, Pushpa Baskaran concluded the event with a thank-you address for a successful evening. 

A huge thanks to the audience who celebrated Mother's Day, in musical bliss with roses and endless love. We wish for a better brighter future for all and of course, breaking boundaries!

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Ekal Vidyalaya is an organization that brings education to 68,000 rural remote villages at the low cost of a $1/day. Please check out their website at http://ekal.org

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