survivor girl ukulele band

bringing restoration and hope to survivors of human trafficking through the healing power of music and love

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sgub song in hindi!!

if you have a minute and forty-three seconds, this just might make your day.

it’s audio of day two of the girls working on the hindi version of the “survivor girl ukulele band song.”

back in december, with the survivor girl ukulele band benefit concert coming up, my friend record-producer-musician-singer-songwriter ed tree wrote the song for the girls. here’s the original lyrics:

survivor girl ukulele band

if you’re down, we’ll lend you a hand
if you’re lost, we’ll show you a plan
if you’re scared, we will understand
survivor girl ukulele band

no matter who you are
no matter where you’ve been
the door is always open
we will let you in

there’s a brighter day
there’s another choice
there’s a melody
waiting for your voice

(chorus)

see who you can be
see how you can grow
see what life will bring
blessings overflow

there’s a brighter day
there’s another choice
there’s a melody
waiting for your voice

(chorus)

and here’s chorus of the hindi version, written by my new friend joseph pawar.

kya ho tum gire, thaam lo ye haath
kya de khoge, tum ko hai yeh aas
kyu tum dare, hum hain denge saath
survivor girl ukulele band

and here is the hindi version of the song written phonetically in bangla by one of the bangladeshi girls. is that cool or what?

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and now for the audio:

as you can tell, they love this song, and they lovelovelove singing the last line. and i think it’s because they know its about them, and it makes them feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves.

something special,

something good,

something strong:

a band.

a survivor

girl

ukulele

band.

the sound of music and give me some sunshine

some days i feel like i’m fräuline maria in the sound of music.

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oh, there are those minor differences: she was in salzburg and i am pune; she wore a dirndl and i wear a salwar kameez; she had a guitar and i have a ukulele; she had a handsome sea captain, and i have a — hey, wait a minute!

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anyway, the the joy in task is the same!!!

i now have 26 students in four different classes. they are all learning anthony raj’s “tu pyaar ka saagar”, which i’ve transposed into the key of c major so it’s easier to play. its a song they love, so they are willing to play it over and over. we start with chords and strumming and counting. we then add singing. and then we move into the c major scale — complete with naming the notes on the fretboard as they play, and from there they learn how to play the melody in fingerstyle.

here’s a 39 second video of batches 2 and 5 playing “tu pyaar ka saagar.” (i know these videos take a while to load, but if you watch this one to the end, you will be rewarded with a view of one of the dear kitchen girls hanging in there despite difficulties 🙂 )

one day toward the end of my batch 1 class, nandita* was struggling to keep up with the other girls in learning the c scale. soon there was a frown on her face as she complained in bangladshi about all the english letters in the c scale and how it was too difficult to learn. the next class i took her and another girl aside to give them special attention on the c scale. within minutes she had it. and what was so cool about her success was how eager she was to share with the other girl and teach her how to do it, too. she could hardly contain herself in her eagerness to help the other girl. yay!!

and here’s a 12 second video of yet another girl, anika, and her 3rd batch classmates working that c scale.

i wish you could see the smile of achievement and delight in her face as she finishes off with a flourish. they love learning ukulele!!

and here is alisha* who, along with laksha*, bravely learned how to change ukulele strings.

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what would fräuline maria do? create contests and give prizes? i think she would!

here are the prizes from last week’s contests. the addition of little plastic rings and nail polish has upped the ante.

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two happy winners in batch 3!

when you know the chords to play, you can play most an-y-thing.

recently one of the girls started jamming on her uke and singing, “give me some sunshine,” the catchy and yet poignant song from the much-loved bollywood movie 3 idiots, starring aamir khan.

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the girls all chimed in on the song, and that evening when i looked up the chords and lyrics, it struck me how relevant the words of the song are to these girls.

here are some of the lyrics from “give me some sunshine” translated from hindi into english (adapted from: http://johnboednew.blogspot.in/2010/08/translation-give-me-some-sunshine-ost-3.html). the chorus is already in english.

we kept living
an incomplete life till now,
let us live fully for a moment now
we have lost our childhood
as well as youth
now let us live fully
for a moment
give me some sunshine
give me some rain
give me another chance
i wanna grow up once again

na na na-na…na na na-na….

i’m hoping that learning to play the ukulele will be part of the survivor girls’s chance to grow up once again.

*names have been changed

and the winner is…

shops in pune have been closed for a week due to a bandh, or strike, by merchants against a new tax. this made it difficult to purchase prizes for the friday contests in the survivor girl ukulele band project. but thursday afternoon i found a little shop that sells bangles, bindis — those little decorative dots that indian women put between their eyebrows, and mehndi — known back home as henna.

a faded, dusty, and exotic looking old bedcover shielded the little stall from the afternoon sun, and inside the closet-sized shop the walls were lined with colorful bangles. hanging from the pole in the middle were dusty strips of cellophane sleeves that held packets of bindi that caught my eye.

kitna hai?” i asked, pointing to the bindi.

“five rupees,” said the shopkeeper, who then got up from the floor. “ten rupees, also,” she said, as she opened a plastic box that held the more upscale bindis. these had rhinestones and gold embellishments. ten rupees is about twenty cents in us dollars, so i splurged on a number of the dazzling packets of ten rupee bindis. meanwhile the shopkeeper opened a box filled with miniature bottles of fingernail polish. “ten rupees,” she said. “yes, please!” i thought to myself as i selected a number of the tiny bottles. “and mehndi?” “quick acting or normal?” she said. “normal. i’ll take five, krupya!” (please)

the next day i displayed the bindi and mehndi on the floor for my beginner ukulele class’s tuning contest.

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the girls’ enthusiasm rose a few notches. “whoever tunes their ukulele the best will get to choose their prize between the bindis and the mehndi,” i said.  “and next week’s contest will include fingernail polish!” as this was being translated, the girls grabbed their ukuleles and their pitch-pipes and scampered off to find a quiet space in which to concentrate. i’ve never seen them so interested in tuning.

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unfortunately, for all that solitude, concentration, and effort the beginner class tuning contest was a bit of a fail, in that no one came even close to getting their ukulele in tune. on the otherhand, they were all very attentive during the post-contest tuning workshop where we went around to every ukulele and tuned it as a team. and later in the day i noticed one of the girls practicing her tuning. next week there will be a winner in that class!

meanwhile, in my more advanced beginner class, two of the girls did extremely well with their c scales, so two prizes were awarded in that class.

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and later in my kitchen-girl class, the girl who recently burned her face very badly in a pressure cooker accident was able to tune two of the four strings on her ukulele and earned herself a prize. she was wearing blue, but she was tickled pink.

and here’s me with three of my first batch advanced beginners. these girls rock!!

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everybody loves a little uke

there have been a number of raids and rescues recently in the local brothels, and now the population of the home is 102 girls. and there is no keeping the ukulele lessons on the terrace a secret.

here’s where i teach. it’s called the terrace, and it’s the covered roof of the home. every day the girls’ clothes are hung to dry on the north wall of bars that surround the terrace. it makes for a pretty place with decent acoustics in which to teach.Image

every day a few girls sneak up to the terrace and sit with the class and try strumming one of the ukuleles. even the police officers who are on duty like to get into the action.

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the fellow below was also very interested in the uke that i often carry around in my backpack. we met on a number of occasions at this little chai shop down the street from the guest house where i stayed when i first arrived in pune. the first day we met he asked, “you are from nigeria?” i didn’t quite know how to answer that.

the next time we met he asked to try out my ukulele.

after i took this video on my iphone 3gs he said, “tell me again, how much does that phone cost?” i told him that phones like this are a couple of hundred dollars and then about $100 a month on a two year contract. the small crowd that had gathered calculated the cost of an iphone in rupees, and their eyes widened. he liked my uke, but really really really liked my iphone. i get that lot.

and here is a video of roma*, who is from bangladesh and is super quiet. she may not have the best technique, but she is always there and loves to play.

“this is a chance.”

we are just four days into survivor girl ukulele band lessons, and it is amazing to see what the girls are accomplishing. last friday when i visited the protective home for girls who have been rescued from brothels, they sang me a song — tu pyaar ka saagar, your love is like the sea. so i got a guitar hero to figure out the chords for me and was able to start teaching them to play the song with just a few chords, c, g, and a minor.

on day one, i started with three girls each in two separate classes. in each class one of the three girls spoke english. someone advised me to limit the classes to a half hour each, because the girls would be unable to be attentive for more than that.

monday’s first class went for an hour and forty-five minutes, and they were tuned in every minute.

a couple of the girls came with long fingernails on their left hands, making it difficult for them to fret the chords. they love their long fingernails. but they all agreed to cut their nails. through the translator, one of the girls said, “nails can grow, but this is a chance.”

on day two i combined the two classes, and now have six girls in the class.

here’s a video from day two, where the girls are practicing moving from the c chord to the g chord.

on day four, one of the girls showed up late, and didn’t want to tune her ukulele because she felt she couldn’t do it. she was also struggling with a stiff strum hand.

i took her aside and helped her “dekho aur suno” — hindi for “look and listen” — as we looked at the electronic tuner and at the same time listened to a pitch pipe and the sound of each string as we found the correct tuning.

then i tried to get her to relax her strumming hand, but she couldn’t do it. so i had her take ahold of my strumming hand. when we started to play, she wanted to take over and control my hand, but after a minute she was able to relax and let her hand move along with mine. still, it didn’t immediately translate into an easy strum on her own.

for the next hour and a half as the group played and practiced changing chords, she struggled with a stiff strum. then just before the end of the class, she started strumming with a nice easy stroke. she was so happy and we all clapped for her. she said, “you take my hand. now i can do it. i miss you.”

and here’s a video day four of the girl i mentioned earlier who said, “this is a chance.”

can you believe it? this is just her fourth day of playing ukulele!

“but we have 400 girls. where can we get more ukuleles?”

our survivor girl ukulele band project is nearly underway. i say “our” because i’m not doing this all on my own. many people are part of this endeavor, and i’m grateful for each and every one of you!!

here’s the low-down on week one in india. after 22 hours of air travel, i was glad to have friends in navi mumbai who had invited me to stay with them. and they didn’t seem to mind that i arrived at 2:30 am, in fact they rustled up some food and we talked for hours.

the next day is a blur, but the day after that i pulled out my list of after-care homes in mumbai and called one, a well-known protective home for girls who have been rescued from mumbai’s brothels. i asked them if they would like to hear about my ukulele project, and they said, “yes.”

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three hours later, i arrived at the head office on the other side of mumbai. when i pulled out a couple of orange and candy-apple red makala dolphin ukuleles, they said, “ooh, they’re beautiful!” and i when i told them that kala brand music had partnered with me and donated twenty makala dolphin ukuleles and that i wanted to teach twenty survivors of human trafficking how to play ukulele and help them form a survivor girl ukulele band, they said, “this will help the girls! yes!” and then i played ed tree’s “survivor girl ukulele band” song, and they said, “we must translate that into hindi!”

and then they said, “but we have 400 girls. where can we get more ukuleles?”!

so i will be on the lookout for more ukuleles, and if anyone is heading over to india, please put a makala dolphin ukulele or two in your suitcase.

slight change of plans: rather than stay in the super congested city of mumbai, i am shifting my base of operation to another city. a friend of a friend made a few phone calls and got me a low-cost room at a nice guesthouse as a base from which to look for an apartment.

here’s a photo of the guesthouse telephone. you don’t see too many of these classics around anymore.

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i will be working in the ngo’s smallest home, which houses forty girls. it is super exciting to think about growing this project to 400 girls. i’m quite sure that some of the first girls will be able to teach others, and so on, until the only limitation will be the number of ukuleles available — and my own skill on the ukulele. i just hope i can stay one step ahead of those girls!

below is a video of what i had for dinner last night. masala dosa on the street. i’m experimenting with video, so please let me know what you think.

and that’s week one in india. so far, so yay!!

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