Indian Ragas, Bollywood item numbers, Bhangra on England’s music curriculum

Indian Ragas, Bollywood item numbers, Bhangra on England’s music curriculum
Courtesy: Roberto Ricciuti / Contributor | Redferns via Getty Images

Classical Ragas, Bollywood item numbers and Bhangra beats are among the Indian musical traditions included in the new music curriculum guidance for schools in England.

The Department for Education (DfE) said the guidance launched this week is aimed at giving more young people the opportunity to listen to and learn about music through the ages and across cultures. Indian classical virtuoso Kishori Amonkar’s ‘Saheli Re’, Anoushka Shankar’s ‘Indian Summer’, A.R. Rahman’s ‘Jai Ho’ and Bollywood box-office hit ‘Munni Badnam Hui’ are among the Indian musical references included in the DfE Model Music Curriculum guidance for schools.

Rich and diverse

The guidance notes: “It is important to recognise that modern British identity is rich and diverse, resulting in communities which celebrate and explore their own specific, localised ‘cultural capital’.”

The DfE said its Model Music Curriculum has been developed by a panel of 15 music education specialists – teachers, education leaders and musicians from across the UK.

With reference to some of Indian inclusions, it notes: “Kishori Amonkar was one of the leading vocalists of Indian classical music in the 20th century. Amonkar’s approach to music emphasised the spiritual as articulated in her statement that ‘To me it [music] is a dialogue with the divine, this intense focused communication with the ultimate other’.

“Further listening might include performances where the melody is instrumental, such as the music of Ravi and Anoushka Shankar.”

Composer Lalit Pandit’s ‘Munni Badnam Hui’ from the 2010 box-office hit ‘Dabangg’ has been used as a reference point for Bollywood’s unique traditions.

“Item numbers feature in Bollywood movies without pertaining to the plot, and while the protagonist, policeman Chulbul, enters this song the main performer/producer, Malaika Arora, only appears in this number. The song includes many typical features of Bollywood films in its music, dance and colourful visuals,” it reads.

Musical renaissance

As well as ensuring all pupils can benefit from knowledge rich and diverse lessons, it is expected to make it easier for teachers to plan lessons and help to reduce workload by providing a structured outline of what can be taught in each year group. Case studies are provided as part of the plan to clearly demonstrate how teachers can combine knowledge, skills and understanding in a practical way.

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said: “After the most difficult of years, it’s time for a musical renaissance across England’s schools and I hope this will inspire a new generation of musicians.

“A rich variety of music should be part of the daily life of every school. We want all schools to have a rigorous and broad music curriculum, that inspires their pupils to love music, and stands alongside high levels of academic attainment.”

The aim is for pupils to cover a vast range of genres and styles, from historically important composers to more contemporary influences. Pupils will be encouraged to listen to classical music such as Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, Rock n Roll songs from Little Richard and Elvis Presley, jazz from Nina Simone and modern classics such as Queen.

The DfE said it has also committed £79 million in the 2021-22 financial year for Music Education Hubs, which provide pupils with instruments to play in class, and GBP 1 million for charities which teach pupils about different styles of music.

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