Some are born with a disability while some come across it accidently in the normal course of life. Disability may be a constraint for some while for others it can be the source of stimulation which enables them to achieve something beyond the expectation of this world. There are many examples of the disabled people achieving a tremendous amount of name and fame in their lifespan. Here I am telling you the story of one such young talented girl who despite facing the disability disorder from the age of 15 achieved a lot of accolades for her god gifted talent of singing.
This is the story of Jolene Dias from Margao. Jolene was born just like any other normal child but when she became 15 years old, she was diagnosed with the rare hereditary syndrome called ‘Muscular Dystrophy’. The Muscular Dystrophy is a condition in which the group of muscle diseases weakens the musculoskeletal system and hampers locomotion. Muscular dystrophies are characterized by progressive skeletal muscle weakness, defects in muscle proteins, and the death of muscle cells and tissues. “This condition started when I was answering my 10th Standard. The initial symptoms started with the slowing down of my physical activities. In the early stage, I could Walk, Climb the Stairs, do Squats, but the only thing was that I could not do it is as fast as the others which meant I used to get left behind. Gradually as the years passed by my disability progressed and my limitations also grew,” Said Jolene.
According to the Jolene, she was born with the talent of singing. “Well, according to me I did not realize my own talent. It was my mother who saw this spark in me and enrolled me to join the Solfège classes. At the age of 5, I was doing Solfège that too pretty well. This motivated my mother to send me to the piano classes which I completed grade 5. As I grew my interest in music developed with me. I started appearing on the merit list of the music school, this motivated me more. But here my life started changing. When I was a Grade 5 student, I was already in the 10th Standard at Manovikas High School. Here my ailment started appearing and I had to give up my music. Due to the disability syndrome, my body muscles started giving way one by one. But still in the similar condition, I completed my Grade 8 study in the music,” Jolene Narrated.
When I asked Jolene if the disability stops her from doing things she wants to do she said that although it did not stop her, but when it comes to the mobility and locomotive action she needed to be dependent on the others for it. Due to the Muscular Dystrophy, her fine motor skills have got affected and it became weak with the time. “I can play the Piano but cannot play as fast as a normal person. Initially, I thought that this could become the barrier but when I saw the condition of other children I felt that mine problem is nothing in front of them and that gave me more encouragement to work in the field of music,” she said.
Jolene always had a dream to become the celebrity, she says, “I am the born actor and I always wanted to become the celebrity, sign autographs and be seen on a big screen. I wanted to be in front of the camera and not behind the scene, but my limitations made me give up my dreams. I took the music as my passion and pursued my studies in that field. Despite the situation, I completed my grade 8 in the music. Now I teach the music to the special children. It’s been almost 5 years now that I am teaching the music to the specially abled children.”
Jolene says that “As far as the special children are concerned, they have a slight difficulty in their cognitive skills like recognizing & memorizing. These Children go to Special schools, but there are also limitations with the educators. Some of these students cannot pick up things were done in class so I introduce music and by putting a beat to it. The Waves of music strikes a special child in a perfect manner. They are very sensitive to the sound, especially the autistic children can memorize anything with the help of sound of Music, and the power of sound is very effective. So what I do is bring the essence of sound in music and I deliver whatever information the special educators cannot put in them.”
Jolene’s singing career started with the Hindi title number “Soniye” in 2011. “I have sung many songs before doing my debut in Hindi single title Soniye which was released in 2011. It was I can say something original and that created the identity of a true singer. The music of Soniye was composed by Margao-based music composer Allan Fernandes. It was the song based on the heartbreak situation and I feel that is very close to my heart too. Besides this, I also sang Konkani songs for a devotional album “’Jezucho Mog Ek Vizmit” by Brian Fernandes. Besides Konkani I have also done one single “Olathumbathe Olanjanli” in Malyalam language composed by Santosh Verma a Musician from Kerala.
“Olathumbathe Olanjanli” is a song on nature. It’s like calling out to a bird which usually sits on coconut trees and it’s also calling out to a dragonfly. It’s like telling the bird and the dragonfly that if we are together, then the sky is within our reach.
According to Jolene, she always wanted to do something different than the usual. “When I decided to sing in Malyalam language it was not easy at all. I had no knowledge of the language but still I decided to accept the challenge. I always wanted to do something different. I decided to be versatile and multi-lingual. I started listening to a lot of Malayalam and Tamil songs, although I did not understand a single word. I started watching South Indian films which had subtitles in English. I can never say that I am 100% perfect now but each day I learn. At present, I can sing in Konkani, English, Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil, Punjabi, Marathi, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese and Dutch,” She said.
Coming back to the dealing with the children with the disability factors Jolene said that “Now as far as the Children with Physical disability are concerned, I give them a musical instrument of their comfort so they feel Self-confident. Many times we see how there so many music teachers, but then there are hardly any Teachers for The Specially abled kids. And by nature, I am ever ready to take up challenges so where others wouldn’t do it, I Would! I feel that this is a Blessing of the God, but as I was doing my Grade 8, I had this interest in doing a little bit of more research in my studies in Vocals. This is where I discovered about “Music Therapy” and at the same time I went to this special school called “Setu” which is situated at Porvorim. Dr. Nandita D’Souza helped me. This is also where I saw and came into contact with these children which gave me an idea about things from a Music Therapist’s Point of view.
When we tried to find out from Jolene as how she managed to handle the stage program in Kala Academy she said that “I was approached by Anand Vikas, the organizer of the show who chose me to perform at the program. He said that he wanted someone to perform for an hour and a half. So he left all the management in my hands and said that whatever I wanted to do he would accept it. So I saw the opportunity to involve children in my program so most of my dancers were children and even the backing vocalist were my friends, the musicians from around. We did a lot of practices too.
Jolene has also had one more famous solo to her credit, “Thodi Aalg Hoon” when we asked her about the same she said, “Actually I met this person in Mumbai called Suresh Thomas, who is the M.D. of Crescendo Music which is a record label. So at that time, I was a big Bollywood Freak as I loved the music then and I told him as how I wanted to be a Bollywood singer and asked him how he could help me. I also told him about my physical conditions and my limitations. The Song “Thodi Alag Hoon” was entirely his concept, and he had funded everything right from pre-production to post-production. So there was lyricist who was a Bollywood, the actress in video and the music director Vikram Khajooriya, they all did almost everything and I had to only go to the studio and just do my part of singing. The Video for the song was shot at my place, and the recording was done at Margao and the mixing was done in Mumbai.”
Jolene is a perfect example of the winner. She is the fighter, who fought against all the odds in her life and came out as a winner at the end. Today Jolene do not have any limitation of her disability. She doesn’t just prepare herself for the next task, but she also helps the special children and teaches them music. Her contribution may not be very big to the society, but the example set by her is surely big enough for the others to learn from it.
Jolene says, “Keep practicing. Love yourself and have faith in God. Nobody has the time to see your weaknesses. I am not a star today because I am physically challenged. I am a star because I worked hard.”