Name: Radhika George
Category: World Percussion
Location: Cochin, India
I was 5 years old when my dad played his newly bought musical movie Help by the Beatles, and through out the movie I was so fascinated by Ringo Star! What he was playing, how he was playing it, and the movie made it a little easier to focus on him because he had the major role in the movie. My mother picked up on this and enrolled me in Tabla classes; when I asked her why years later, she said it was to stop me from annoying her with the tapping on the furniture and kitchenware. Drum lessons began when I was 13 and it seemed easier because I had already been learning Tabla. It was my Tabla teacher who encouraged me to try my hand at other percussion instruments, because according to him they all belong to one family – the family of rhythm. From then on I’ve studied various other percussion instruments from Djembe, Tumba, Cajon, Bongos and still continue to study Mridangam and my native percussion instrument Chenda.
I’m currently studying Civil Engineering at SRM University in Chennai, Tamil Nadu.It was during my second year at University I became a part of Engineers Without Borders (EWB). While working on a sanitation project for a nearby village, I noticed how the children had access to only recorded music on television. Two other musician friends and I co-initiated a program called Heart Beats. Through this program we aimed to bring live music to institutions like homes for the destitute, school for special children and government run schools. This project is open to all musicians. We meet together at the location, play songs, organize musical games and teach a few techniques to the audience. It was quite amazing to see how stupefied some of the kids were with simple sound of a C note on the keyboard or how hooked they were on a pattern on the percussion. They were excited because they produced that sound, with their own hands! You realize how much you take for granted that you have a talent, however big or small, to make music with your hands! The program continues, every month with different musicians taking time out on weekends to join the Heart Beats team.
A female playing any percussion instrument still invites comments from most of the audience even today in my country. Percussion would never be the first choice for a girl even if she wanted to learn and play an instrument. When our band was playing in Cochin in 2016, a local reporter asked me if I feel manly while playing the drums! This concept of losing your femininity is a big part of why many young girls, their parents and society have reservations when it comes to percussion. I’d like to change this rather archaic notion by making not just young girls but their parents involved in Heart Beats. These workshops will focus on empowering little girls and boys by removing the stigma around this issue. A lot of doubt is removed when people see for themselves how playing percussion should not depend on your gender. Hence Rhythm Pods will be a small group of both women and some men who will conduct workshops to keep the community aware and involved in the joy and fun of playing percussion and remove gender as a criteria for choosing an instrument.
Using music to bring about a social change is now very close to my heart. My work towards it has been bolstered by a recent collaborative project I had the opportunity to be a part of called Strisvara. It was a collaboration of 15 women musicians – international and Indian. It was a residency program, that involved staying at the hometown of the Soliga tribe, composing music, forming friendships, empowering each other and then heading out to showcase our work. But it did much more than that for me. For the first time, I felt so sure about what it is that I wanted to do, and even more importantly got the confidence that I could do it! Staying and working with a diverse group of people not just from my country but abroad broadened my views on life that I didn’t think needed broadening! Musical exchange knew no bounds!
I currently play drums for an Indie rock band called Vertigo and a rock band called That Band. I also perform with other independant artists for various shows and events.