The Society for Promotion of Indian Classical Music And Culture Amongst Youth (SPIC MACAY) is one of the largest non-profit, voluntary, non-political and participatory student movements in India that aims to bring Indian culture closer to students. It brings together people from all walks of life, who are welcome to join and contribute with their ideas, time, finance or any other resources. The movement has a central executive body in New Delhi and organises its programmes through a worldwide network of schools, colleges and educational institutions.
“The idea is to make education more holistic and to take classical arts and culture into Indian classrooms. We’re doing this in a slightly assertive and non-aggressive style these days, so as to introduce this into educational institutions in India as we are yet to formally be part of curricula. So we teach our children science, and we teach them maths, but we don’t teach them about our heritage or culture,” says Su Supriti, national vice chairperson, SPIC MACAY.
SPIC MACAY is a wholly volunteer-based institution. But in spite of the lack of resources, the group has managed to conduct over 7,000 shows just in 2012. “The way it works is that we have around 600 artists who partner with us. They come for a fee lower than their usual market fee. Then we approach and request schools to partner with us, which means they have to offer us their infrastructure, their space, and an allotted time when we can hold the programme. We have plenty of volunteers who come from different walks of life, perform different activities and organise these shows for us,” explains Supriti.
What is unique about SPIC MACAY is that students get an opportunity to interact with the artiste. So, if you’re a student and you’re listening to Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, you get to ask him questions at the end of the concert, ranging from simple to profound, related to music.
From music concerts, dance performances, film screenings to art workshops - SPIC MACAY does it all in the hope that students will come one step closer to the intricate world of Indian culture and learn to slowly appreciate it.
“It’s not that children are not interested in Indian classical art forms. It’s just that they haven’t been exposed to it enough. Through SPIC MACAY, they get to watch some of the best artistes in India and stand to get inspired by them,” says Vidya Harish, Karnataka co-ordinator.
Their volunteers range from retired Air Force pilots like Ramesh Phadke to ex-Goldman Sachs employees like Mathangi Keshavan, who is now pursuing her passion for Bharatanatyam through SPIC MACAY. With the hope to bring about a cultural revolution, the group is now focussed on their upcoming events. Among these are two rural school intensive (RSI) programmes that are all set to take place in Mysore and possibly Tumkur. The RSI is a relatively new initiative to include hitherto neglected rural children. Each RSI is for six days, where students experience yoga, learn art forms through workshops with gurus, attend concerts by great maestros, listen to talks by eminent speakers, watch classic cinema in English, Hindi and local languages. “All we hope for now is that we get to stop chasing schools and colleges and are instead approached by them, so we can set up beautiful cultural programmes for their students,” says Supriti.