After a week-long residency in Chennai, the young musicians took to the stage at the Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Concert Hall, for the highly anticipated Concert for Friendship. Performing alongside them were young Indian musicians from A. R. Rahman’s Sunshine Orchestra in Nagaland and students from the KM Music Conservatory in Chennai. The concert featured popular works by Puccini and Beethoven, as well as Scottish and Carnatic melodies, and Naga and Tamil folk songs.
The trip was supported by the British Council, and the Concert for Friendship marked the end of their year-long India/UK Together Season of Culture, celebrating the rich musical traditions and cultural bonds between both countries. We are so grateful to the British Council for giving our talented young people this amazing opportunity.
Twelve young people, aged 15-18, from Big Noise programmes in Govanhill in Glasgow and Raploch in Stirling took part. During their residency week in India the young musicians, accompanied by four Big Noise teachers, were part of a wider outreach programme, visiting a local school and university to deliver music workshops and learn about South Indian culture. They also attended a busy schedule of rehearsals at the KM Music Conservatory in preparation for the concert. The collaboration aimed to explore musical ideas and provide an opportunity for the exchange of cultures between the young people taking part.
For the young people from Big Noise Govanhill and Big Noise Raploch this was a profound experience – providing the opportunity not only to demonstrate their musical talent on an international stage, but more importantly, to connect with young people from different cultures and act as ambassadors for their own communities.
Cleoné, participant at Big Noise Govanhill, said:
“At first in our rehearsals I found it hard to play some of the music, but it was great working through some of the more complicated music with the musicians from India and the other people from Big Noise. The conductor also showed us some of the similarities between the traditional music of Scotland and traditional Indian music which really helped. I really enjoyed listening to the Indian music, so I would love to play some of that again.
It was a bit of a culture shock when we first got over there, but we quickly got to know the Indian students we were playing with and asked them all sorts of questions about life in India. On our last day we had a bit of a leaving party, and we were teaching all of the Indian musicians Scottish Ceilidh dancing, and they taught us some traditional Indian dances – it was great fun! It was great getting to meet new people from a different country, and also getting to know the young people from Big Noise Raploch better as well. I hope we all keep in touch!”
Leanne, Cleoné’s mum, said:
“I'm proud of the commitment Cleoné has shown to Big Noise Govanhill. To have an opportunity offered to her, like the recent trip to India, is a fantastic reward for her commitment - and what an experience! Big Noise has been a wonderful anchor for Cleoné through some challenging times - and experiences like going to India aren't something that would be readily available to her. She has made so many friendships through her involvement with Big Noise, and through the India trip she has now made even more connections, internationally, opening up her world further!"
Shannon, a participant at Big Noise Raploch, said:
“I loved experiencing Indian culture – the food, the people, the music. Just like in Scotland, the passion for music is massive over there. They’re all about their music,
and so are we! The music itself is quite different to what we’re used to, but the way they feel about it and how they go about it is just the same as we do.
At first it was a little difficult to get used to playing with the Indian musicians, because it was so different from anything we’ve experienced before, but as time went on we all got closer, made new friends, and loved playing music together. We had a dance party one night and we were teaching the Indian students Scottish Ceilidh dancing, it was brilliant! We’ve been messaging our new friends in India since we left – I hope we keep in touch!”
Nicola Killean, CEO of Sistema Scotland, said:
“We are delighted that our Big Noise young people were invited to take part in the Concert for Friendship in India, celebrating friendship through music and the wonderful bonds between our vibrant cultures. Big Noise is all about improving lives and strengthening communities. The opportunity to travel internationally, representing their communities, is a major milestone for the young people and is testimony to their hard work and dedication over many years. We are overjoyed that our young people were given the opportunity to embark on this exciting journey and unforgettable experience, and we are most grateful for the support from the British Council, KM Music Conservatory and the AR Rahman Foundation to enable this to happen.”
Lucy Young, Interim Country Director at British Council Scotland, said:
“It’s been wonderful to follow the stories of the young musicians travelling from Scotland to India for the Concert for Friendship – a real celebration of the links between the India and the UK and a great showcase of amazing Scottish talent! The UK/India Together Season of Culture is all about creating opportunities for collaboration just like this.”
Dr Adam J. Greig, Artistic Director at KM Music Conservatory, said:
“Bringing young people together to make music is a transformative experience, especially when this happens across country and culture boundaries. We were thrilled to be able to host our guests from Scotland and Nagaland here in Chennai and had a wonderful time creating an exciting concert together, building new friendships and celebrating the India/UK Together season.”