I was recently at a week-long youth festival speaking to youngsters who had taken part in a singing competition. Their obvious love and passion for music was very evident as they performed. Music is a language that can bring people together, enable people to get in touch with their emotions, can break cultural barriers and build bonds — it is life-giving! The organizers of the festival (all youth) had also decided to give away part of the proceeds of the ticket sales to an NGO, they had also given of their time to work for the less privileged. There seems to be a unique strength and something magical about ‘giving’ and ‘music’!
At THE TEENAGER TODAY, we were very excited when we got a chance to interact with acclaimed violinist and Joy of Giving Ambassador Sunita Bhuyan. Sunita is an indo-fusion violinist and vocalist par excellence. She has contributed to building bonds between India and the world through music. Whether it is London, New York, Kuala Lumpur, Glasgow, Dubai, she has been sharing how music can be a powerful change agent. As an HR professional, she introduces corporate leaders to wellness and leadership change through music. Sunita has been invited to present and give talks at international forums such as TED Talks, Scotland Society Edinburgh, Commonwealth HRICT, Gartner Leadership Forum New York , Marcus Evans KL, Indian Consulate Dubai, Women Leadership Forum of India to name a few. She is also the ambassador for the South Asian Women’s Fund in Sri Lanka.
Sunita works very closely with underprivileged children, cancer patients and people with disabilities. Her work led to Don Bosco, Guwahati, inviting her to be the brand ambassador of their programme ‘Joy of Giving’ to celebrate the canonization of Mother Teresa.
She is the recipient of a number of prestigious awards including the Priyadarshini Award for Excellence, Giants International Award for Women, REX Karmaveer Global Award, and recently an Award from His Holiness Pope Francis at the Vatican for her work on music therapy with underprivileged children, cancer patients and people with disability.
Excerpts from the interview:
Tell us about your first memory of music and the impact music has had on your life.
Music is a journey that has been a part of my life since I was 8 years old. It was a gift painstakingly given to me by my mother. At that time I did not realise the depth of the subject. As a young girl I looked at it as something that took away time from my fun and friends. It was a blessing that I got to learn the right technique at home thanks to my mother, my guru, and was able to generate a few sounds soon after the initial years. My childhood was a flurry of school exams followed by music exams, visits to Kolkata to Pandit V.G. Jog’s classes, evenings at concert halls either to watch my mother perform or other great musicians from different gharanas and styles. It was as though a way of life and the only religion! The other strong influence was my convent education in Little Flower School, Dibrugarh, Assam and my brother’s being in Don Bosco.
It wasn’t until my early twenties that I realised the impact music can have on one’s life and the environment. As I went through my academic life, management education, and then joining a corporation, I gradually started experiencing the multidimensional benefits of this medium on one’s personal, social and professional life.
How does music help us lead better lives? What are the lessons and skills that music teaches us?
Art is an ongoing journey that does not have fixed milestones like an academic course or a career path. It is continuous and fluid and there are very rare moments that can define specific arrival points. Eventually art and life blend together as one, each getting influenced by the other, which is often referred to as the ultimate aesthetic experience.
MUSIC and WELLNESS: Melody has been proven to scientifically heal the mind and the body. Sound waves from the musician reach the target and as the brain responds to the stimulus, it sends signals to different parts of the body. This relaxes the nervous system which helps in de-stressing and redesigning fatigue. When the mind and the body are calm and composed we have happy human beings. Happy individuals are healthy individuals and thus they have more energy to focus on learning, social skills and relationships which ultimately define their success quotient.
CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION: Music is one of those unusual crafts that has an equal combination of structure and creativity. Hence it is referred to as an “art within a science”. Indian classical music has specific texts, structures, patterns and guidelines. Melody teaches us to work with various structures and patterns of the seven notes while rhythm is completely mathematical. Thus an engagement in music gives an opportunity to the human mind to think out of the box, innovate and thus come up with solutions and approaches that are unique to the situation.