The choir introduces children from slums to the magic of music and gives them an opportunity to present their music in other countries.
“Before coming to India, I had formed such choirs in Kenya and Cambodia.
In 2010, when I visited Pune, Chang, who visits the country twice a year.
He is also the president of Worldsharp,a Korean non-profit organization which funds the choir.But implementing the idea wasn’t all plain sailing for Jae-Chang, who had to scout for talent, convince parents of the children that his intentions were noble and take care of other logistics. “Convincing the parents was a difficult task. The principals of the schools where these children study were also sceptical about the initiative at first,” says choir manager Sumitra Kate.
Comprising only 12 children at its inception, the choir now has 71 members, ranging from eight-year-olds to 19-year-olds. “When they shared stories their experience with friends, the choir started getting more response. The children practice for an hour and a half daily. We also provide them a free pick-up and drop facility to and fro from the rehearsal venue,” Kate adds.
By introducing these children to music, the choir has instilled in them a flicker of hope for a brighter future. It not only helps them become better singers, but also builds confidence, discipline and focus in them. Jae-Chang says, “When these kids first came to me, they were shy and nervous. With time, they have blossomed into confident performers. I’m very proud of their achievements.”
The speed at which the children have picked up Korean and English songs is nothing short of amazing. They recently appeared on an Indian reality television show, and are now preparing to visit Canada and the US in April for the next series of performances. They are excited, but only the best 30 among them will be chosen for the trip.
The children also sing in Marathi and Hindi. Since 2010, the choir has regaled audiences in South Korea on four tours. Recently, 30 children returned from the country after a month-long tour. For nine-year-old Sinduja Rathore, this was her first visit abroad. Sinduja, a star performer at such a tender age, says, “We also visited Disneyland and took a ride on the rollercoaster. It was the first time that I sat in an airplane.”
“I liked South Korea so much. Everything was so clean, nice and fun! We got to eat duck meat and kimchi,” says 11-year-old Roger Pareet, who wants to grow up to be like cricketer Virat Kohli, though he is completely immersed in music.
Having invested four years in India, it is time for Jae-Chang to look for other pastures.
“My work here is done. I’ve laid the foundation and other volunteers from the NGO will soon take over. I’m now planning to work from scratch in Swaziland in Africa. I want more and more underprivileged kids in the world to benefit from this small endeavour,” he says. Pune will miss the man who has made its children sing along with his music.
The Banana Children’s choir
The choir, set up by South Korea-based opera singer Kim Jae-Chang, recruits children from underprivileged backgrounds.
It is funded by non-profit organization Worldsharp.
The children, who learn Korean and English songs, apart from Marathi and Hindi ones, get the chance to perform in other countries.
At present, the choir from Pune comprises 71 children between the ages of eight and 19.
Jae-Chang has earlier formed similar choirs in Kenya and Cambodia and plans to do so in Swaziland.