Updated: Oct 17
Parindey: Reshma Arya & Anurag Hoon
Alivelihood: Music for Social Change
Region: Delhi, India
“We want to create more accessibility and usability of music and create more happy spaces!”
- Reshma and Anurag
Reshma Arya and Anurag Hoon are among the six co-founders of Manzil Mystics Foundation, a Delhi-based not-for-profit organisation that has been working with the low income family sections of society since 2017 using music as their instrument for social change. They work with low-income background schools and communities to create change in the fields of education, music and social development. They conduct interactive and experiential music workshops to explore topics such as gender education, menstrual hygiene, reproductive health, spoken English, and life skills through music. They also partner with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and corporates to produce socially conscientious music for them.
There are around 42 lakh students studying in Delhi and most of them do not have access to music. Despite music being a part of the curriculum in Delhi’s government schools, only 20% of schools have music teachers. Manzil Mystics Foundation took this issue up as their team members had studied in government schools and could connect with the cause. “There was no music in my school as well as in my home. Learning music outside was expensive. I was passionate about learning it but it was not accessible. I started feeling a certain uneasiness and wondered why this was happening,” says Anurag.
Anurag’s childhood was cluttered yet beautiful. His calling and passion for music took root from the age of 14 when he started writing and exploring music. This inspired Anurag to learn music, despite the many resistances from his family. In May 2010, Anurag joined an NGO called Manzil (an after-school alternative learning space run by an IIM graduate, Ravi Gulati) to learn music, where he met Reshma and Sant Prakash. After seven months of learning music together, they registered a foundation under the name 'Manzil Mystics.' Around the same time, he had his first performance as a member of their band. Through his efforts, he secured a full scholarship of one year and with this support, he gathered the courage to set out on a self-exploratory journey to America for a year to study Marketing and Sales.
Reshma, on the other hand, comes from a very similar low-income family background. Her childhood was her motivation in itself. Reshma’s turning point in life too was joining Manzil. She used to learn music there while studying Nursing (mother and health) at the age of 17. In 2013, she left for Gadsden State Community College in Alabama, USA, to pursue her Majors in Nursing and Phlebotomy and that experience helped Reshma grow as a person. Upon returning to India, Anurag pursued Masters in Social Work. After Reshma’s return, Anurag and her started Manzil Mystics Band and later registered Manzil Mystics Foundation as an NGO in 2017.
Manzil Mystics Band is a Delhi-based choir, which performs self-written and composed music inspired by saint Kabir, in Indian classical and folk fusion form. Manzil Mystics Band has been in the music sector since 2011 and they have performed in over 50+ schools, 20+ colleges, and 200+ organisations, with over 1000+ stage performances. They have performed at music festivals, college festivals, corporate shows, community events and theme-based events for organisations throughout India.
Now the CEO of Manzil Mystics, Anurag, raps, sings and contributes to creating social impact through music. Reshma, a core band member of the Manzil Mystic Foundation, is working as a program director. Her years of experience in nursing helped and inspired her to create the WeBhor project. ‘We’ means together and ‘Bhor’ means morning, compounding to ‘We Rise Together’. WeBhor works for women’s empowerment through music. They conduct workshops in nonprofit centres and schools for adolescent girls and young women. They use music as a creative tool to engage the participants and convey powerful messages on gender sensitisation, reproductive health, menstrual hygiene, career orientation, and equality at the workplace and home.
Reshma and Anurag’s motivation is the same when it comes to their life and work: To bring more music to the world and to increase the usability and accessibility of music. To create safe spaces to learn music. They meet a lot of people on their journey and people’s stories motivate them. They feel everyone has a responsibility towards the advancement of society and people should contribute in any way that they can.
The biggest challenge they experience is finding funding and co-creating sessions with government schools as it is a long process to get entry into these schools. Another major roadblock is to influence society’s prejudices in a way that they become more open towards viewing music as a viable career option. Some of these challenges are being worked upon with the support of mentors, family, friends and teamwork. “Challenges are a part of life and now we are not scared of these challenges. Because of the support that we get and the cause which we are working on, these challenges don’t feel like challenges,” says Reshma.
After 11 years of experience, 200 plus NGOs worked for, 1000 plus stage performances, and 2000 plus workshops conducted, they have come a long way. One of the most significant impacts they’ve had is that the children are getting a comfortable space to learn and increase their understanding around and beyond music. They are currently reaching more than 5,000 children directly and have reached out to 3 lakh children indirectly. They are getting more shows as a band and getting more acceptance in different sectors like education, development and music. SBI Cards became the first CSR (corporate social responsibility) donor for Manzil Mystics. Manzil Mystics launched India’s first Mobile Music Classroom and Recording Studio to assist government schools and low-income community children in Delhi to pursue their passion for music.
Reshma and Anurag want to break the notion of music just being a hobby because it is much more than that. They want to see more children get access to music and be able to further pursue it as a career; be it songwriting, singing, song composition, vocals or playback singing. They want to create more happy and safe spaces for people!
Reshma can be reached at: email@example.com
Anurag can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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