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Saturday, January 06, 2018

From a Thai slum to a rock stage: Music and life lessons for disadvantaged kids | ABC Online - World News

"A music school buried in the densely-packed slums of Bangkok offers an oasis for children living in an otherwise rough neighbourhood, teaching perseverance and building confidence one performance at a time" says Liam Cochrane, ABC's South-East Asia correspondent and Supattra Vimonsuknopparat, Thai journalist. 

Two Thai teens in scout uniforms strum electric guitars
Photo: These Thai teens are part of the Khlong Toey Music Program based in Bangkok. ABC News

Two teens in scout uniforms strum electric guitars, practising for an upcoming concert.
Downstairs, younger children sit cross-legged thwacking away at ukuleles, as a boisterous boy in a Superman outfit bursts into a room filled with modern recording gear.

It is not what you might expect from a slum music school. 

In a crowded slum in Bangkok, learning a musical instrument would normally be an impossible dream. But for some of the city's most disadvantaged children, a music program is teaching them not just how to play — but hopefully, how to live.
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But the Khlong Toey Music Program (KTMP) is an oasis in otherwise rough neighbourhood — an estimated 100,000 people densely packed into the heart of Bangkok.

"These are the typical issues from slum communities, such as violence, drug addiction, alcoholism in the family," said Frenchwoman Geraldine "Gigi" Nemrod, who co-founded KTMP.

"Sometimes the family is completely shattered, some of the kids don't know their parents and live with their grandmother."

But every Thursday and Saturday, it's all about the music.
"They can forget about the obstacles of their everyday life and they grow, have fun and express themselves through music and art," Ms Nemrod said.
Nichada Nudang plays lead guitar and is one of the most committed students, although the reason for choosing her instrument is suitably rock 'n' roll.

"I'm a girl and I chose to play guitar to look cool," she said, her grin revealing braces.

"I get to see friends and play music, we feel united together," said bass player "Bank", also known as Suttipong Sawangkhokegruad.

"We were all musicians and we knew how much music can bring into children's lives, so we wanted to give that chance to other children who didn't have the opportunity to learn," Ms Nemrod said.

The school is funded by donations, with support from the Playing for Change foundation and by fundraising drives like "Pimp My Ukulele", selling ukes painted by Thai celebrities.

Dance lessons are being planned for the future, but KTMP hopes to instil more than just music and movement.

"I think they might learn about perseverance, about commitment, [that] if you want to be good at something, you have to work hard for it," Ms Nemrod said.
"We hope that they will apply these life lessons whenever they will want to realise their dreams in life."
Time to rock KTMP also aims to build the children's confidence and playing live provides the ultimate musical test.

The Kod Indy Festival brings together more than 100 alternative bands at an alcohol-free event on a sunny afternoon. 
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Source: ABC Online


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