When the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus visited the Mount Vernon Campus Wednesday to allow students to tour the mobile recording studio, it was an Indian dance group performance that stole the show, students said.
The bus, sponsored by the Program Board, invited Folk Art Rajasthan, a foreign group that was practicing nearby and is set to perform at Mount Vernon this week, to play inside the bus for the students who visited throughout the day Wednesday.
After walking into the small entrance of the bus, students could hear the upbeat rapid rhythm of a drum and unfamiliar lyrics to an exotic song. Three men and one woman sat in a half-circle as a crowd of students watched their performance.
Both the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus and Folk Art Rajasthan have goals of promoting music and art around the world. The Lennon bus travels 10 months out of the year, boasting performance music workshops, holding song writing contests and recording talented young artists.
The group of young Indian musicians and dancers are touring East Coast cities and campuses in the United States to promote traditional music, dance, and crafts, founder Sarwar Khan said.
Until last Monday, most of the performers, who are from Rajasthan, India, had not seen electricity, and until Wednesday, none of them had ever been in a recording studio. In 2004, Khan established Folk Art Rajasthan as an incorporated non-profit organization in order to promote the traditional cultural experiences of her native land.
Students considered the cultural band a hit, and were mesmerized by the foreign-sounding performance.
“It was an amazing cultural experience. They had never been out of India, it was so innocent, void of modernization,” freshman Leighanne Boone said.
Khan also explained that the group is also touring the United States for more philanthropic reasons, such as promoting the empowerment of women and children in India and around the world.
The performers said that they do not read or write music – they learn it. Their parents taught them, and they will teach their children; it is a tradition that spans more than 36 generations. They can learn to play pretty much any instrument with incredible accuracy in a short span of time, they said.
“They came from a society without technology, and knew how to play immediately. They saw electricity for the first time two days ago,” freshman Karen Veisblatt said.
Barbara Goodbody, a Mount Vernon alumna, brought this group of Indian folk artists to GW in to share their art with the Women’s Leadership Program, a freshman living and learning program at the Mount Vernon Campus, and emphasize the thematic exploration and development of women’s leadership.
The group’s next performance will take place at the Hand Chapel on the Mount Vernon Campus at 8 p.m. on Thursday. Their performance will include traditional music, song and dance. The event is free and open to the public.
The Folk Art Rajasthan also fight for the creation of music archives to help store their musical heritage, women’s rights with the Women for Women Fair Trade Craft project, and many other humanitarian aid organizations.
“It’s awesome that the bus is here. I got my free gift bag with some song writing info,” freshman Lucila Farina said.