Mrs Kanga: musician with a message
As the World Music Day was marked around the globe on June 21, it was rather disappointing to note that a vibrant city such as Karachi failed to organise a decent event for its local audience to remind them about the impact of music on one’s everyday life and spiritual health. While some organisers hold the law and order situation in the city responsible for being unable to promote musical events – that are now attended by a handful of audience only – local musicians feel the changing trends in education (where music lessons are no more considered an important part of the curriculum) are equally responsible.
Mrs K. Kanga, one of the few well-known pianists in Karachi, when interviewed by The News said she feels the ratio of youngsters attending musical performances, when compared to the adult audience, has decreased over the years because of their lack of interest in music. “The schools are responsible for discouraging this trend,” she complains. “The increasing pressure of studies at home and at school makes it difficult for students to spend time on extra-curricular activities that are equally important for a child’s development.”
Mrs Kanga, who is now in her late 70s retired as a music teacher from the Mama Parsi School a few years ago after which she decided to give piano lessons privately. She has also performed at three concerts at the Goethe Institut and has trained students whose solo performances have gained appreciation as well. Some of her disciples are internationally reputed as well, she adds with pride sharing details [of each] from her scrapbook that she continues to maintain.
Although her career as a pianist does not earn her much financially, she decided to keep her family trend alive. Mrs Kanga, who belongs to the Zoroastrian community, comes from a family of musicians. “I was made to sit at the piano at the age of three; after that I never got up,” she laughs adding: “You can learn to play Mozart on the piano when you are as young as that.” The Parsis in Karachi, she says, are all very fond of music and some members of the community residing in the Parsi colony of Mehmoodabad, also formed a musical society to promote the same. However, with the passage of time as most of community members migrated abroad, it became difficult to reach out to the younger generation.
Although she believes piano lessons should be taught at a young age, Mrs Kanga teaches people of all ages – anyone who is willing to learn. She currently has ten pupils belonging to different age groups and gives lessons only on weekends. “Since I am a widow and most of my children are settled abroad, teaching also keeps me occupied.”
However, she feels not enough is being done to promote art and music. “This city has lost its charm,” says Mrs Kanga recalling her childhood in Karachi when it was less populated and different communities made an effort to promote their culture. “I remember music lessons were an important part of our co-curricular activities and the pressure of exams did not keep us tense the entire year. Today, all students are worried about is tuitions and exams.”
What parents need to understand is learning to play musical instruments also makes a student intelligent, especially the piano. “Many facets are involved with learning the piano; memorising, learning about musical chords, interval etc all need the focus and concentration of one’s senses. Even the body posture has to be upright. This concentration exercises parts of the brain and the entire experience motivates the IQ,” she explains.
On being questioned about the difficulty she faces in the profession, she made a special mention of piano tuning which can cost a fortune. “The cost of maintaining a piano can sometimes cost more than the price of a decent piano itself,” she protests. The minimum amount charged by a piano tuner charges in Karachi ranges between Rs8, 000 to Rs10, 000 clearly reflecting that piano playing is becoming a dying art.