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          Volume 10 |Issue 42 | November 04, 2011 |


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Primary Schools to Warble Tunes

Shah Husain Imam

It is nice to enliven optical and auditory nerves with a piece of extraordinary news. Imagine the spectacle flavoured with the musical notes floating from digital pianos being played by primary school children in Bangladesh. South Korea has decided to donate 5,000 digital pianos and 50,000 metallic white boards – we have only known blackboards, or call these big slates, if you like -- to our Directorate of Primary Education. These will be for distribution amongst primary schools in Bangladesh.

Already, the first set of 100 pianos has arrived in Bangladesh. Ninety-one of these have been handed over to as many school headmasters in and around Dhaka metropolis.

We talk of merit in looking East but now we sense it in kind. South Korea comes out with its elemental love for fine, soft music coming off the flute, horn and clarinet and, of course, pianos. It is sharing the pleasure with us in a bit of software diplomacy with a decent agenda to win the minds and hearts of children. They are giving them access to a rather expensive musical instrument including valuable teaching aid like metallic boards-for general use.

South Korean Booyoung company, as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) has built 600 elementary schools, donated 5,00,000 blackboards and 60,000 digital pianos in Indonesia, Laos, Thailand, East Timor and Malaysia. Bangladesh has found its place under the tapestry – which is such cheery news.

Now to the nitty-gritty: 5,000 pianos to 37,000 government primary schools, so a large number of them would obviously be left out. Since, however, a piano costs US$ 1,000, depending upon how the limited access to piano works out, the programme can be expanded from our own resources.

On the sidelines, 50,000 metallic boards look a little more ample with the number of primary schools at 37,000.

We have a feeling that such a thoughtful move by South Korea may popularize digital piano to a point that it may co-laterally move our corporate sector towards buying pianos or other extramural aids for school children.

The programme commends itself for the spadework done by the Korean side to flag it off. As a senior education officer AKM Abdul Awal Majumder says, “Some Bengali songs and Korean songs have already been pre-recorded into these digital pianos. This will help our children to play these songs on the piano.” (Courtesy BBC)

A two-member South Korean team with a composer has been in Bangladesh to train up teachers about the operation and basic skills of digital pianos. An official of the education directorate tells me those who can play the harmonium will have little difficulty picking up basic notes on the piano.

We have not done the homework as yet in setting out the rules of distributing the 5,000 pianos in a way that would follow a certain representative pattern, so the dots can be eventually connected when the instrument will have been in wider demand. Let's do our part professionally beginning with the backward but talent-wise resourceful areas first and then move sideways. We must put a trained person behind it like in the case of a computer. No personal favours should blight the objective behind such a wonderful gesture by a foreign government. Then there is the twin-issue of electric connection and supply to the schools. Let the musical instrument not rust away or land up in the residence of an official or local influential.

One remembers as part of haute culture, pianos with their keyboard and pedal used to be played in Bangla and Hindi movies resonating soft musical melodies beckoning lost or beseeched love. Some of the timeless Bangla songs had been rendered through this instrument in the 60s and early 70s. But later it fell into relative disuse, particularly in films, even though in private homes of the well-to-do one can see the hooded instrument, though very rarely.

Now, of course, music is set to dancing rhythms of all kinds, choreography overtaking lyrical contents. It is more visual than audio – rocking, rolling, gyrating, pyramiding and then melting away through the side screens imprinting vigour and energy on the audience or spectators in the follow through.

Pianos are individualistic and private, yet, a medium that has produced some of the finest musicians of the day making huge public appearances.

Yanni, a self-taught Greek pianist, keyboardist and composer who later moved to Los Angeles and put together a small band which included John Tesh and Charlie Adams performing to the listeners' delight. His earliest instrumental albums, Keys to Imagination, Out of Silence, and Chameleon Days carry his outlook of 'nothing really fazing him', his music 'coming from the heart'. He was one of the few Western artists permitted to perform and record at the Taj Mahal in India and Forbidden City in China.

Pianists like Liberace, an American of Italian origin came with his flamboyant showmanship; Richard Calyderman of France and the American Stevie Wonder held their audiences to pin drop silence. Elton John plays the piano too.

Who knows catching young will pay dividends in our country with one or two pianists making it to glory someday!


The writer is Associate Editor, The Daily Star.

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