Working with prison authorities and NGOs, the prisoners are now exponents in keyboard, drums and the guitar.

Musicians in the making 6 inmates from Coimbatore prison to take up Trinity music exams
news Human Interest Saturday, March 24, 2018 - 18:49

Most of us tend to forget that prisons aren’t a place where those convicted of crimes are sent to, they are correctional facilities. And true to this purpose, the Coimbatore Central Jail in Tamil Nadu has been imparting lessons in the universal language of music to inmates.

And now, six prisoners are set to take the Trinity Music Music College exams – considered a high honour among musicians.

Speaking to TNM, the Superintendent of the prison, Senthil Kumar, says, “They have been learning music for a long time. They have been seriously preparing for the exams since last week. The ADGP Ashutosh Shukla and DGP Arivudainambi have been part of this effort. With the help of NGOs, we are able to bring some joy to the prisoners through music. As we go around, we ourselves identify prisoners with musical talent and ask them to participate in the classes. We also encourage them to volunteer themselves.”

The SP says he has observed that music helps the inmates heal mentally. “There are many who are serving life sentences and they miss their families and are depressed. Music is a way in which they can feel joy,” he says.

Twenty prisoners at the prison learn a variety of instruments such as the keyboard, guitar, drums and tabla.

Stephen of the Prison Ministry of India, an organisation that works for prison reform, is thrilled. “We have been teaching them for 13 years, but this is the first year that they will be taking up the exams. I teach them percussions, with notes. My colleagues teach them keyboard and guitar as well. We also help them train their vocal singing skills. This will be very useful for them when they finally leave the prison. Former prisoners have very limited job opportunities. If they write the exams then the certificates can even help them start their own music centres,” he says.

The prison authorities and NGOs are also working to encourage more prisoners to face the exams, which will be held in November. The NGOs pitch in with the exam fee, and they generally also provide the instruments to the prisoners.

“We hold our lessons once a week on Friday mornings. But they practice the whole week and are thorough with whatever they are taught,” says Stephan. “If I’m unable to make it even for one week, they feel bad. They forget the world when they play. They compose songs on their own or from the books they read.”

They even hold performances inside the prison on Gandhi Jayanthi.

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