A couple of weeks ago I went to a music and drama day with East London Vision, at the Theatre Royal in Stratford. I haven’t done either of those things since school, so this was going to be something very different for me. But I felt sure it would be fun and interesting to try it out, especially as I was with a group of people I got on well with. And I was right, it was a really enjoyable day.
The morning music workshop was led by blind Indian musician Baluji Shrivastav OBE from the Baluji Music Foundation, and we got to hold and play with various Indian stringed and percussion instruments. The big sitar was the most fascinating I think. It’s large but not as heavy as you think it’s going to be. And it has 18 strings on it – with half on a higher level than the others. It was very impressive when Baluri played it, as it sounds like there’s more than one playing at once.
There was also an instrument called a gopichand, which we called a gopi for short, which was just a single string hanging down between 2 diagonal arms of wood, opening up to a bulbous part at the bottom. Whereas the sitar needs tuning, this one doesn’t – you can just squeeze the arms and use your fingers on the string to get all sorts of sounds out of it, as Baluji showed us, again impressively! It takes a lot of skill to play music with it!
We also learnt a few types of Indian rhythms, and different modes as well (variations in the notes of our traditional do-re-mi scales in effect, which can get confusing!). And we got to play and sing together as a group on the various instruments, which we all had a lot of fun with. And we were given a CD by the Inner Vision Orchestra at the end, which was nice to listen to later.
So it was a great session – Baluji’s a very talented musician indeed, especially as he’s good at playing quite a few different instruments. And he’s a good teacher too. On East London Vision’s Twitter feed, Yyu can see a couple of videos from the music workshop here and here, and photos here.
We then had a drama workshop in the afternoon, led by Maria Oshodi from the Extant drama group for visually impaired people. She was really friendly and enthusiastic, and had us doing a range of activities during the afternoon. We did a few warm up exercises and games to get us all interacting with each other – such as exchanging facts about ourselves, and throwing imaginary balls around the room to get used to everybody’s names and voices (which got very confusing when 2 imaginary balls were flying around!).
Another game had us moving around the room in any way we liked, making exaggerated gestures and getting in any positions we liked. Maria would then clap her hands to get us to freeze in the position we were in, and when her assistant tapped us on the shoulder, we had to say what we were doing in that position. So I ended up saying that I was a flying superhero, catching a baby falling from a burning building, and holding back an unstable wall, on each of the occasions we had to freeze.
Another exercise involving freezing has us building up a scene one person at a time. A scenario was laid out (e.g. a party, or a bank robbery, or the Titanic sinking), then one person would come up and freeze in a pose from that scene, followed by another, and another. We did this in 2 groups of 6, and once all 6 people were in position, we had to unfreeze and play out the scene from there. That often proved to be quite amusing.
We then played a game where we had to tell a story one word at a time – which inevitably got pretty weird! It ended up being something like “Once upon a time, there were some sheep, and a stupid old wicked witch. She barked loudly at trespassers, and they jumped and bounced around the Christmas tree!” Random but fun. But it had a purpose, because it helped Maria to discuss with us the important parts of a drama – the the characters, locations, emotions, conflicts and so on. So it served its purpose.
With that in our minds, we were then asked to split into groups of three and create a scene – where one person was the interviewer, another was the interviewee, and the third person was the alter-ego of one of those other 2 characters, acting out what they were really thinking. My group ended up doing a court scene, with me in the dock accused of stealing a 55-inch plasma TV. I was denying I’d done it, while my alter-ego was making it clear I had done it and was desperately trying to get out of it. I’m not going to be in Hollywood any time soon, that’s for sure, but it was fun to do!
The final warm down game had us pairing up again, spread around the room, while Maria stood on a chair in the corner to command us. This time she would shout 2 body parts, and we would have to connect them in our pairs – e.g. touching foreheads, or knees, or toes, or connecting knees to shoulder blades, or foreheads to elbows, or whatever it may be. And then, whenever Maria commanded “people to people”, we had to quickly swap and partner up with another person in the room. A daft but enjoyable game to finish off the session.
So all in all, it was a great day, and the time flew by. Everyone was keen to get involved, and we all had a good laugh and enjoyed ourselves. And it was interesting to try out music and drama again having not done it for so long. I think I’d be better at music if I ever picked up one of those things to go into further, but I really enjoyed trying both!