Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Thoughts about teaching music and instrument playing

by Mohamed Jiwa

Copyright (c) 2014 by Mohamed Jiwa All Rights Reserved

Music Listening, Singing, Piano and Guitar for ages Foetus to Child to Adolescent to Adult

I am offering music classes in a format that has probably never before been offered academically, at least in the countries I have been to.

Would you take a quick look at it?

For a quicker paragraph of information turn to:
 For a challenge, read on:


The experience of studying music will be anchored by the study of an instrument:  Keyboard, piano, guitar, harmonium.  This is different to the notion of the study of an instrument to learn music.  We start with the experience of music, not the instrument, though it may also be through the instrument.

Yet, the final effect of the classes ought to be to have gained the power to play or make music, to feel literate in music.

This course consists in the use of music to obtain the consummate experience and meaning of culture and its place in daily life.  Culture necessarily attempts to hold history down, and protect itself from being swept away by the dry winds of time. Experience should answer the questions, "What is music, really, and what is its place in our lives?  What is the place of music in the world and life of today and how can its real power be used to heal our selves and our worlds?  Can it help to restore our world to its peace, harmony and sense of home (hold on, what could that be, 'a sense of home')?

In this course there is an aim to offer appreciation of music through its symbolism and connection to the way our hearts here in Africa beat.  This leads me to take it further and consider the place of music in the whole of life, before and during the school years and thereafter.

A curriculum in Interdisciplinary Studies in Music would comprise of lessons that orbit around the playing of an instrument without making the exercise a chore, for young children and people of age groups that are growing out of this preliminary stage up to adulthood through to elderhood.  Even the foetus is affected by the emotions of the mother carrying it.

For, each stage of development the teaching of music could, quite legitimately, aim to address the academic, personal and social framework that any child is likely to be negotiating and, sometimes even, struggling with in a migrant world where all these aspects of life are in flux.

The current offering is simply a trial run that should, nonetheless, comfortably drizzle the subject or student with enough structured exposure to music and the things that surround and confer upon it with soulfuness.  Introductory course is for twelve weeks, twelve sessions.  It would be followed by an assessment and a certificate to which would be attached subject areas covered through an interdisciplinary approach.

The object of the interdisciplinary approach is to give the student the power to connect all areas of learning in a web that is built around the comfort and joy of learning.  This is what children do miss a lot in alienating social situations at school, for example.


12 Lessons to go home with a complete song/ piece/ arrangement and rudiments of basic composition by ear or by simple notation.

In support of the experience of an auspicious entry into the world of sound are offered the following toe-dipping elements, together, separately or in part (note that each course will be tailored to the tastes (collective consciousness) of the class and is, ideally, always under development - it informs and improves itself). The consciousness of the class, which will reflect the consciousness of the world outside shall necessarily be raised.

History can be pinned down with the help of those who have stories.  Guests and parents and grandparents will be invited to demonstrate their knowledge.  Parental and family involvement in the child or a student's development in a particular area of study, like music, can only strengthen the process of finding meaning and make it more enriching.

Guest performers will be invited to talk and /or perform.

Students will perform their pieces at the end of the 12 session course.

Areas of Enthusiasm to be Explored and Grown beyond the Practice of the Instrument include (you choose from the menu and we shall prepare the experience for you):

  • Identifying one's favourite music/ songs/ beats and listening to them more closely
  • Introduction of new musical experiences from older and newer renditions of expressions from different cultures in an attempt to make the strengths of that culture palpable through the six senses
  • Using music to heal (useful in energising subjects that find it difficult to respond or do not respond)
  • Looking at and being affected by some music of bliss consciousness
  • Music and breathing
  • The music of the elements
  • The music of relaxation and restoring alpha rhythms
  • Using one's favourite and new music as a window to getting a hands on experience with the instrument
  • Experience of how music can be used as a window to find refuge and obtain rest from stressful situations
  • Interdisciplinary study using music, playing singing and academic activity like English, language mathematics etc through video experience, for example in learning the words to popular children's songs and singing them.  For adults, of course, other materials may be considered.
  • Motivation in music - how and why to search for music on the internet (use of imagination to transport listener to a new place and confer upon music more than the dimension of sound:  emotion, imagination, colour, timbre, tone, frequency and various other aspects of music may be explored).
  • Listening to classical music for upliftment and raising of IQ.
  • Comparative study of various classical composers.

Exploring music of various languages and their cultures through geography, pictures and sound:

Interestingly, the students will make contact with their cultures and historical moments of interest intimately, simply through their music (and dance and dress, where possible).  Thence, the student may express a desire to learn more about the geography, the traditions, the beauties and the strengths of that culture to withstand the vagaries of time in the 21st century.  For example, in studying the Mijikenda one would learn about the sea, the forest and its holiness or wholeness, and the weather, the climate and the stars the way they speak; one would learn about the feelings of a people whose land has been taken away from them and culture is under great deal of pressure as a result of tourism. Human aspects of humanity would then rise to the surface in the study of music.  For the study of everything often ignores the sounds within which everything moves and changes.

    Songs and rhymes (a nice way to learn rudiments of a particular language)
    English, Welsh, Irish, Scots and American
    American Indian
    Central Asia and Iran
    China and Japan
    Aboriginal Sounds
    Gregorian Chanting
    South American
    Europe and the Latin World
    Central and Eastern Europe
    Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, Ceylon,
    Other geographical regions
    Qur'an and Arabic intonation ('Tilawat'; can be combined with Calligraphy)

The above may be combined with dancing if the student knows the moves (the teacher may not always know all the moves).  A guest dancer may be present to show us the moves.  Music is very often accompanied by movement; even the movement of the stationary body of the musician betrays much that is not easily perceived, normally, speaking. 

While the music is well under the purview of this course, there will not be any modern or jazz dance or ballet!  But there will be dance pieces like seasonal songs and pieces, love songs and dirges.  Through the above facets of global life one would be able to prepare the student to think about history and historical questions relevant to oneself.  For example, through the ginan one can be stimulated to study both the language of Gujerati and the history of the Pirs who came to India to lead the tide of conversion into Satpanthi Ismailism.  Through the Qasida one might also be able to connect with the history of the Ismaili Imams in Iran.  Through Samaved or Ghandharva ved one may be inspired to look more closely at the Mahabharata.  Through the Luhya dance or nursery rhyme one can connect with the positive aspects of village life and discover areas of bridging our own existence with village existence which is going extinct.  All the foregoing can be rendered even through instrumentation exclusively or through voice with or without accompaniment.

Simplicity is the best state of mind.  One tone, a single solitary sound can convey more than enough about any multidimensional aspect of the purpose of music.  It can hold within it the whole universe:

Ceremonial Music, as in Graduation, funeral, enthronement, anthems, military colours.

Spiritually uplifting music
Prayer, Hymn, Mantra, Ginan, and Religious Experience drawing from all faiths and knowledge systems including Buddhism, Shinto, Veda, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. 

Music in General
  • Music from Classic movies and musicals
  • Pop, rock, jazz, simple classical, R and B
  • Poetry and art: The doorway to music as an aesthetic
  • Writing a short story or poem with the help of music
  • Music and water and food (eating and drinking)
  • The music of prayer
  • The music of the planets and stars (the universe or 'the spheres')

Closer look at how music can help to better understand the problems that the word, "Islam" presents to those who are affected by questions concerning their faiths in their lives:

What is the place of music in the Sunni tradition?  What do the majority of believers do to maintain their sanity?  The Sunni, the Ahmediyya, the Shi'a?  The Druze?  The Ismaili?  The Bohra?  Who are the Takfiri and the Salafi, the Al-Qaida and the Al-Shabaab?  What happened?

How can we relate to what is troubling them through music?  What do the Ikhwaan-as-Safa'a have to say about music? Students would have at their own individual levels the opportunity to look into some examples and backgrounds of some of the musical traditions that are related to various times in the history of Islam while their languages, art and music would come to the fore.  There is the whole world of sufism to look into, too!

What are the afflictions that are affecting the world of Muslims, today?  How do we understand the news, today?  How come Muslim in some parts of the world are being associated with the sounds of guns, bombs, helicopters and aeroplanes, and what they may be going through? Tha's a relevant question, right?  How can we mediate these sounds into music?  There are ways to do so.  Chord and discord, rhythm and arrhythmias can be ordered and controlled into pieces of sound that dethorn the noise of its power to destroy.

And, of course the healing and restful language of the Qur'an and its recitation by silent, believers, men and women and children of faith deserves exploration in conclusion.

The music of war music, war drums, war dance...
and that which should have the capacity to bring an end to war:

  • Simple Rhythm
  • Consciousness raising
  • Understanding colours and chords and one's own favourite things
  • The difference between music and noise, upliftment and desecration of space/ time
  • Learning how to choose the kinds of programs to watch on TV and how to look out for what is harmful
  • The music of animals:  Elephants and Whales; dogs and dolphins; horses and sleighs, the birds, the bees, the breeze, the trees and the rustling leaves, etc.
  • Music of the seasons
  • Learning how to demonstrate how music helps to create a better world and environment (vibrations and and waves)
  • Ghandharva
  • Understanding silence
  • Simple Yoga and meditation for children
  • Music, rhythm and reading

Hey, Come to a Teacher Training Course in the Culture and Healing Powers of Studying and Practicing Music.  Let's look at this culture?


Total powerful effect of each class should result from exposure to sounds that give in to shapes, and HEALING and should be felt at home upon return and during practice times, even more when instructions are rigorously followed.

If the student supplements with practice then s/he will demonstrate elementary skills in three months.

All of the above are guidelines behind a philosophy of teaching music that would be tailored to the sensibilities of the age group/ combination.  A teacher is not obliged even to mention things like Westgate when working with children in the composition of rowdy music that energises and detoxifies, as opposed to the vapid stream of explicit images that scream into the room out of KISS TV at 3 pm, which curdle the sensibilities of an innocent child, just as s/he comes home and switches the box on to unwind from the stresses of having been to school.  Young children will be taught the rudiments that prepare them subconsciously for what they may later want and need to question and reject in their lives when ready.

Current offer:

2,000/=    [2,000/= pp] per individual class,
2,200/=     [1,100/= pp] for 2 students
2,400/=     [825/= pp] for 3 (+ one child from underprivileged background)
2,600/=     [650/= pp] for 4 (+ one child from underprivileged background)
2,500/=     [500/= pp] for 5 (max no. of) students in a class (+ two children from underprivileged background)

This price will be raised by about 33% for new students who join the program after three months to take its rightful place in the market which is currently destitute in terms of relevant curriculum for children in our milieu.

Discounts are available where financial ability is limited.  Children from ALL income groups are welcome, so larger groups will ideally accommodate some children from nearby ghettos. 

Mohamed Jiwa (aka Mr Kilulu and Baba Saida)
Writer and Thinker on Social Responsibility
What is the meaning of "Africa as a leader of the world"?


Learning to read music and notation

Bring your own instruments until further notice. (Keyboard or guitar and, if a local child, a local instrument, for there are teachers available for every type of instrument, including the tin can or scrap iron with sticks.)

4:24 PM 6/17/2014,7:15 PM 6/17/2014,9:20 PM 6/17/2014,
Edited: 10:37h 6/18/14, 21:51h 6/18/14, 00:08h 6/19/2014 09:47h 6/19/2014