About 1,000 prisoners of Tihar Jail, the largest prison facility in South Asia, were serenaded last week by the Ska Vengers, a Delhi-based ska band, at an outdoor concert in one of the complex’s jails.
“Music is a great way to keep the inmates occupied, and has a therapeutic effect,” said Neeraj Kumar, the director general of Delhi jails, including the Tihar facility.
The concert was sponsored by Furtados, a music instrument retailer that donates used instruments to the prison as part of a music program started about six months ago for Tihar’s nearly 12,000 inmates.
The Tihar complex has nine prisons and every prison now has a space for music, where inmates can learn musical styles, ranging from the Rabindra sangeet genre of music for the women’s wing to Hindustani classical, Western classical and instrumental music.
Opening for the Ska Vengers were the SlumGods, a group of boys who beat box, rap, and break dance, who hail from Khirki village and surrounding areas in south Delhi and from the giant Dharavi slum of Mumbai.
“The energy of the universe conspired to bring us together,” said Bboy He Ra, the leader of the SlumGods, whose name deliberately contrasts that of “Slumdog Millionaire,” the 2008 movie, which the band felt stereotyped slum life.
Next were the Flying Souls, a prison band formed in Jail Number Three in Tihar.
The Ska Vengers ended the event with a number of songs in English, during which some of the inmates were allowed to dance. “We encourage inmates to vent their creative energy” through music and dance, said Mr. Kumar.
The jail runs a talent hunt called Tihar’s Idol.
Asked if she was pleased with the response to the concert, lead singer Samara Chopra said she was — with a caveat: “I think these guys haven’t seen a woman in a very long time,” she said.