Venture Stories

 Venture Story 1

A jukebox that will make you nostalgic

When nature forced us to be locked up inside our homes during the pandemic-induced lockdowns, many of us sought solace in music, which helped us heal emotionally. As our lives switched to digital, it led to many connecting in the online world to discuss and share music, and form online music clubs, small and big. So, when two Mumbai-based friends — Kalpana Swamy, a communications professional, who is trained in Hindustani classical music and Kunal Desai, an IT and telecom professional, who is a trained Western classical musician – got an opportunity to create a musical venture, they grabbed it. After two months of intensive research came into being Nostalgiaana Jukebox. Their endeavour is to unearth the forgotten melodies from the 1980s and beyond that evoke the feeling of nostalgia. The USP of their venture is guided listening. In this interview, Swamy and Desai, co-founders of Nostalgiaana Jukebox, tell The Good Story Project’s Swati Subhedar how, through their musical venture, they are striving to spread the goodness of music.     

Music is therapy. During the lockdowns, music helped many deal with their emotions. Tell us about the importance of music in the present anxiety-ridden times.

Swamy: Music has always been an integral part of our culture. Whether classical bandishes or western tunes, everyone has their individual liking and seek solace in their preferred genre. Film music binds everyone alike. During the lockdown, while living within the four walls of our homes, digital connectivity helped us stay connected to the outside world. Online music groups and art communities helped in a big way by channelizing peoples’ creativity.

Tell us about the thought behind launching Nostalgiaana Jukebox.

Swamy: Jukebox is an offshoot of the Nostalgiaana group (earlier known as Rewind), which, during the lockdown, came up with the idea of starting a radio- style online music listening show focusing mainly on the retro film music. This show, known as R4 (Radio Retro Revival), was an instant success, and the audience loved their sessions. 

Desai: When Nostalgiaana approached us for a series on the music of the 1980s and beyond, it seemed like a natural progression. However, before we agreed to take up the show, we started working on the song list. We wanted to make sure that we had a pool of songs to choose from because we had long-term sustenance in mind. After almost two months of background work and research, we hosted our first show on November 16 (2021). I still remember how nervous we were before the show! And, after the show, we behaved like teenagers who had taken their 12th board exam and were cross-checking the answers!

Kalpana Swamy and Kunal Desai, the co-founders of Nostalgiaana Jukebox

People usually associate soothing Hindi melodies with the decades of the 1960s and 70s. It’s interesting that you chose the decades of the 1980s and beyond.

Desai: The general perception is that melodies faded out in the 80s and 90s. On the contrary, some beautiful melodies were composed and sung in this period. Even in the post-millennium years, thanks to the advancement of digital technology, good music was created. However, in the pursuit of commercial success and publicity, good music lagged.

Swamy: Both Kunal and I have grown up listening to the music of the 80s and 90s. There is a great repertoire of melodious music in terms of film songs, non-film albums, and regional music that seldom comes to the surface. Our endeavour is to unearth these lost gems and the forgotten popular numbers and give them their due respect. Through our show, we also highlight the regional and non-film songs that have remained unnoticed by the audience at large.

Tell us more about the concept of guided music sessions.

Swamy: Imagine a studio or a Jam room where before performing a song, the musicians narrate to us the back story of the song to make us understand the nuances and the soul of the song. This way, the audience is able to connect with the song and it enhances their listening experience. This is known as guided listening, which is our focus. It happens many times that we like a song but are not able to decipher what makes it so melodious or why do we yearn to listen to it again and again. We don’t know what raaga the song is based on, what the arrangement of music is or who the arrangers are. Unfortunately, many talented but unknown musicians and songwriters are not known to most people.

Desai: At Nostalgiaana, we highlight the nuances of the songs we play. We believe in “Art before Artiste” and strongly follow what we believe in. This format of ours is loved by our members. They are able to enjoy the songs from a multi-dimensional point of view, which adds value to their listening experience.

What is the USP of Nostalgiaana Jukebox?  

Swamy: We feel film music is much more than just entertainment. It’s a perfect amalgamation of music (composition), literature (lyrics) and art (singing/emotions/picturization). What makes our show unique is that each song is preceded with an elaborate narrative through which we tell our audience about all the nuances of the song. So, it’s the narrative which guides them to listen to a particular song or a portion that’s played. Our other USP is the quality of audio that we play. We invest long hours in editing the songs before we present the playlist to our listeners.

The highlight of the show is the trivia that you pepper the show with. What’s the process behind gathering this trivia?

Swamy: Our source of information is not just what’s there in the public domain. For every song, we try and highlight elements which we are personally sure about. Kunal is a trained Western classical musician and I have taken formal training in Hindustani classical. So, both of us analyze the songs mostly for their musical relevance. We rely on multiple sources to crosscheck facts and we present them to our audience only when we are 100% confident.

Share with us some interesting songs and trivia that you came across while researching.

Desai: We stumbled upon a forgotten gem yeh barfani raatein from the 2017 film Babumoshai Bandookbaaz and loved it. Interestingly, we found its roots in classical raags as well as the blues. Then we came across this beautiful fusion song from a film Blue Mountains called bheeni bheeni bhor, which was loved by our audience. Very recently we played a song chaha hai tujhe chanhenge from the film Jeena Marna Tere Sang which was released in the early 90s. While researching on it we traced that the mukhda of the song is inspired by an unreleased song of RD Burman. In fact, we have a small segment on our social media pages called #JukeboxConnect, where we co-relate some known tunes and their counter new songs. This helps the audience relate to the old tunes which inspire new melodies.

Swamy: We have always believed that the narrative should be complemented by songs and not the other way round. So, for every episode, our challenge is how to make the song presentation intriguing and interesting. Then comes the playlist curation, which is the most difficult, but also the most interesting, element of our work. For each episode, we include a few unique elements like an artist’s birthday or achievement showcase and one farmaish song by our members. While we try and balance out the mood of the songs, we try to retain the element of nostalgia in all the songs. We think from the perspective of our audience while selecting the songs. Both Kunal and I have different tastes in music and many a times we end up having differences of opinion, but it’s our great partnership that has shaped Nostalgiaana Jukebox.

How do you ensure that the non-connoisseurs of music are as invested in the show as those who understand music and melodies?

Swamy: Every member is important to us. While a few patrons are musically trained and understand the nuances, most of the members are new to this concept of guided listening. So, instead of making our show information-heavy, we try to keep the flow very easy and conversational. Whether a member is musically inclined or a casual listener, we make sure each member enjoys the playlist that we curate. We also have a live chat going on throughout the show which makes the interaction lively and engaging.

What have been the biggest milestones so far? How has the response been?

Desai: Our 50th episode was our biggest milestone. We were overwhelmed with the love and appreciation we received from our audience. We have been fortunate to receive some great reviews from our friends from the entertainment industry. We did one on-ground show in Mumbai which was very well received. Recently we hosted our 60th episode.

Swamy: We thrive on comments and feedbacks. We have many senior members in our group and it’s very encouraging to see them enjoy the music of 90s and beyond. The way they engage in conversations is very overwhelming. Once a member wrote to us saying that when he was feeling low after his mother’s untimely demise, our show helped him rebound. This was precious to us. Another member, who is a singer, said he was surprised to find that there are so many incredible songs from the 90s and beyond that he can now add to his playlist. We are glad that we are able to enrich the lives of our members in many ways.

What’s your vision for your venture in the years to come?

Desai: At Nostalgiaana Jukebox, we are committed to providing wholesome entertainment to our members with our unique playlist and narrations. We want to make Jukebox the biggest platform where contemporary music is appreciated. We also want to bridge the divide between music lovers from yesteryears and the current generation.

This is Part 1 of our promotional series ‘Venture Stories’. If you want us to write a feature on your venture, drop us a mail at contactgoodstories@gmail.com and we shall share the details.

The Good Story Project came into being in October 2020, in the middle of the global pandemic. To read the stories published on our platform, click here. To read the testimonials, click here, and to know about the various content services that we offer, click here.

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 Venture Story 2

Educating kids for Re 1/day … that’s indeed a good ‘Shuruaat’

As per UNICEF, the pandemic and lockdowns have led to the closure of more than 15 lakh schools in India and impacted more than 25 crore children enrolled in elementary and secondary schools. However, for a developing country like ours, the pandemic was just an added blow as more than 60 lakh boys and girls were out of school even before the pandemic. Efforts are being made by individuals and organisations to bridge this gap, especially post covid. Recently, Abhishek Shukla, the founder of Shuruaat — Ek Jyoti Shiksha ki, opened a school for underprivileged children in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh, named Shuruaat Play School. The children studying here are given quality education … and a lot more … for just Re 1/day. Why Re 1? Because that’s how much one tends to give to children who beg at traffic signals. The tagline of the campaign is quite apt – ek rupaiye bhiksha, ya ek rupaiye me shiksha … how would you rather spend your Re 1? By giving it as alms to a child or towards his/her daily school fees? 

Swati Subhedar

“When we started a few months back, many children would not even take bath or brush their teeth before coming to school. They did not know the importance of hygiene. It wasn’t their fault. They came from extremely poor pockets of the city. We would bathe them, and dress them up in clean uniforms,” said Abhishek Shukla, 31, who opened Shuruaat Play School in April this year in his hometown in Prayagraj (earlier Allahabad) in Uttar Pradesh.

“The main purpose of the school is to teach these children moral values, apart from the regular subjects. They come from extremely underprivileged and poor backgrounds. Their parents are daily wage earners and make a living by driving autos or by picking and sorting garbage. Some are unemployed and most consume alcohol. These children go through a lot mentally and emotionally. We have identified some of them and encouraged them to join the school,” he added.

Around 90% of the children studying in the school are first-generation schoolgoers. For now, owing to the space crunch, Shukla and his team of volunteers have identified 50 children who desperately needed help. Some 30-40 are still waiting and thousands are yet to be identified.  

https://video.wordpress.com/embed/DHcJcyCH?cover=1&autoPlay=1&preloadContent=metadata&useAverageColor=1&hd=1Watch Shuruaat Play School’s fundraising video. Click here to contribute

“It’s a play school, so technically we should have given admission to 3-5-year-old children. However, because of their background, these children were never admitted to any school, and most are in the age group of 6-8 years. In fact, there are 2-3 girls studying in upper Kindergarten (UKG), who are 11-12 years old. It’s the first time in their life that they are going to school. Some children are orphans and the parents of some can’t even afford to pay the fees of Rs 30/month. However, we have allowed them to continue,” said Shukla.

The obvious question that came to my mind was why anyone would expect children from underprivileged backgrounds to pay Rs 30/month when there are many Anganwadi centres and government schools that are teaching children for free.

“The reason is, when parents pay fees, even if it’s as nominal as Re 1/day, both parents and children start taking school seriously. Besides, paying for their children’s education instills a sense of pride and self-respect in the parents. Also, when we take fees, our responsibility and accountability automatically go up,” said Shukla.

He added: “The reason why children drop out from government schools is that they don’t have to pay any fees and hence there is no obligation for parents to send their children to school or children to go to the school daily. The children don’t get any help or motivation from home as their parents don’t understand the importance of education. Gradually, they lose interest and drop out. These are the children we see begging at railway stations or traffic signals. They do odd jobs, or worse, start doing drugs, or end up in juvenile homes.”

Around 50 students are studying at Shuruaat Play School presently

High school dropout rate is indeed an issue. Data speaks volumes. As per the findings of the National Family Health Survey-5 conducted in 2019-21, the most common reason reported for children dropping out of school is a lack of interest in studies. This was the main reason found for children abandoning their education in previous rounds of the survey as well.

The key is to keep the children interested and invested. For this reason, Shukla and the six volunteer teachers working at the school have adopted innovative methods of teaching. The regular pattern of textbooks, classwork, and homework does not appeal to these children, so the teachers try to educate them through games, pictures, and paintings.

And what will happen to these children once they pass out of the play school? Shukla has cracked this. It’s not the first time he is dealing with underprivileged children and trying to integrate them into the mainstream education system.

It all started in 2016. Shukla was preparing to be a civil servant. One day, he was waiting at a traffic signal. A little girl came begging. She was carrying her baby brother in her arms. She told Shukla that her mother had passed away, her father was an alcoholic, and it was her responsibility to raise her brother. Shukla did not buy her story and went along with her to the slum where she lived. What he saw there changed his life. There were so many children who were miles away from any form of education. He decided to put his dream on hold and educate as many children as possible.

Shukla is now looking at CSR funds to make the school sustainable in the long run

A few volunteers joined him and together they started teaching children in slums, on railway platforms, in parks, and on the streets. Many children were addicted to drugs or would beg and were violent. It wasn’t easy, but the team persisted. Gradually, they started enroling these children in government and government-aided schools. It was a huge motivation when some of these children started performing well. The team continued to work even during the 2020 lockdown. Recently, class 10th and 12th board exam results were announced and some of these children, especially girls, from extremely poor backgrounds have cleared their boards with flying colours.

Shuruaat Play School was conceptualised because teaching children in open spaces is difficult. The plan is to open many more such “Re 1” school.

“We need help. Right now, we have managed to collect funds through public fund-raising. People trust us, they have seen our work and hence they have contributed. But this is not going to be sustainable in the long run. The rent of the building where I run the school is Rs 22,000/per month. I am not even able to pay the sweeper Rs 1,500 from the fees that I collect. We are in the process of figuring out a sustainable financial model for our school, but for now, if people could donate to our fundraiser, that would be great,” said Shukla.   

What keeps Shukla going despite the hardships and roadblocks can be gauged from the incident that he narrated.

“There is a lady named Rita Vishwakarma. She works as a house help. A few years back, we helped her two children get admission to a government school. A class 10 pass out, she got married very early and had to kill her desire of becoming a schoolteacher. She joined our school and for one-two years concentrated on brushing her knowledge. Later, she joined as a schoolteacher. When we were starting the play school and scrambling for funds, she pleasantly surprised us by donating Rs 20,000. She had been saving a little from her earnings for 5-6 years so that she could buy a computer for her son. She did not think twice before donating that entire amount to our play school because she believes in our cause. It is this goodwill that keeps me motivated and I am sure I will continue to get help,” said Shukla.  

This is Part 2 of our promotional series ‘Venture Stories’. If you want us to write a feature on your venture, drop us a mail at contactgoodstories@gmail.com and we shall share the details.

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The Good Story Project came into being in October 2020, in the middle of the global pandemic. To read the stories published on our platform, click here.

To read the testimonials, click here, and to know about the various content services that we offer, click here.