Pandemic gloom: Visva-Bharati begins music therapy, not many tuning in


Anyone in the world could log in to these sessions. Poor attendance could be due to lack of awareness, says official

To help staff and students cope with the gloom generated by the pandemic, Visva-Bharati has started daily music therapy sessions, a move ridiculed by detractors of the administration.

It’s not even a month since these online sessions started — daily for an hour, at 4 P.M., except on Sundays — and the university is already complaining of poor attendance. Many, in fact, were not even aware of the initiative until the university issued a circular on Tuesday, complaining of the poor response and urging staff and students to log in.

“Unfortunately, the number of attendees is declining fast, day-by-day. Under these circumstances, this is an earnest request to colleagues [teaching and non-teaching] and our students to join these sessions, because these form part of Visva-Bharati’s tribute to Gurudev [founder Rabindranath Tagore]. It is hoped that our colleagues and students will attend the regular music therapy sessions to carry forward the rich and deep Rabindrik [Tagorean] tradition,” the notice said.

Sense of bonding

Visva-Bharati PRO Anirban Sircar told The Hindu that not just staff and students but “anyone in the world” could log in to these sessions, conducted by the Sangit Bhavana (the university’s music department), and that the poor attendance could be due to lack of awareness. “These are difficult times, when we are cut off from the outside world and when the physical distancing and the lack of events, educational or cultural, is leading to depression. The idea behind the music therapy sessions is to create a sense of bonding and make participants feel mentally strong,” Mr. Sircar said.

“Also, since it is not possible to physically visit those affected by COVID-19 in some way or the other, these sessions are a way of telling them, ‘Look, we are with you, we are all a part of the same family’.” the

The initiative, needless to say, has drawn ridicule from those critical of Vice-Chancellor Bidyut Chakrabarty, considering that it was only a month ago that faculty members of Sangit Bhavana were forbidden from giving non-official performances “without the approval of the competent authority”.

Sangit Bhavana is one of its oldest institutions — in fact it was set up even before the university, now celebrating its centenary, — and never before such restrictions were placed on its teachers. This was just one of the many unpopular decisions taken by Visva-Bharati ever since Prof. Chakrabarty took over as the V-C in November 2018.

‘Poorly and unprofessionally aired’

“Tagore never used his songs for therapy. On the other hand, he wrote songs to protest against hegemony and dictatorial attitude of then ‘’competent authority’, such as during Curzon’s design of dividing Bengal in 1905,” said a senior academician associated with the university for many years.

“And assuming I am depressed with COVID-inflicted isolation, why would I listen to these poorly and unprofessionally aired, from both video and audio angles, renditions when I have the option of listening to much superior YouTube productions of Kanika Bandyopadhyay, Suchitra Mitra, Debabrata Biswas or Subinoy Roy? I am not at all blaming the competence of the present Sangit Bhavana teachers, but it is the knee-jerk reaction of the authorities which has resulted into this half-baked, poorly organised set of programmes,” the academician said.

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