By S.T. Ravikumar
[Pics. by M.N. Lakshminarayana Yadav]
The Band House that once housed the Mysore Police Band will be brought back to its past glory and restored to its original place — Old Mysore City Police Commissioner’s Office at Nazarbad. It will be weaned away from the present Mounted Police Company on Lalitha Mahal Road and brought back to its original place. Not only this, the Band House will be renovated suitably and a Museum too with rare collections is planned.
Usually, Police Band gets its attention only during Dasara or during events like Republic Day Parade or during the visit of any VVIP or a foreign dignitary. Now plans have been chalked out for daily performance of the Band so that it will attract tourists. With the City Police Commissioner’s Office shifted to new and swanky premises nearby, the old Office is all set to pave way to house the Police Band.
During the regime of Sri Chamarajendra Wadiyar X (Chamaraja Wadiyar X), who took music to the masses of the Kingdom of Mysore, the Palace Bands — the English Band playing Western music and the Karnatak (Carnatic then) Orchestra playing Karnatak classical music — were formed in 1868 and came to be an integral part of the social fabric of Mysore in the years to follow.
Patrons of music
Though the present Mysore Police Band traces its origin to 1868, it has evolved over the past years assuming different names at various points of time. Initially, J.T. D’Fries, a Frenchman, headed the Band, with musicians drawn from the best music schools. The English Band was meant to play ceremonial music to welcome dignitaries and also to play western music during banquets. Gradually, the troupe also started to play Karnatak music. Thus, it had two wings — Indian Orchestra and English Band.
It has to be noted that Chamaraja Wadiyar X, a musician himself, was a great patron of music. Musicians like Veene Subbanna, Veene Seshanna, Mysore K. Vasudevacharya, Veene Padmanabhaiah, Mysore Karigiri Rao and Bidaram Krishnappa were encouraged and patronised in the court of Chamaraja Wadiyar X.
Palace Band to Police Band
The Band came to be known as the Palace Band under the patronage of Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar, the successor of Chamaraja Wadiyar X. Nalwadi, also a musician and a patron, similar to his father, invited well-known musicians from Europe to train the Band members.
It was during Nalwadi’s period, the Band House was constructed on the road leading to Vasantha Mahal Palace in Nazarbad, now housing the District Institute of Education and Training (DIET). The road was later named after Dewan Sir Mirza Ismail.
The Band House had separate enclosures such as the instruments’ room, music library and an exclusive concert hall, apart from other rooms that were part of this magnificent structure. A Band Stand was also built at Nishad Bagh, now known as Kuppanna Park, for the Band to give performances.
In 1952, when Kengal Hanumanthaiah became the Chief Minister, he brought the Palace Bands under the Police Department. A special wing of the Mysore City Police was formed and trained to play melodious instrumental music to enthral connoisseurs and common man. In 1958, the Band was shifted to City Police Commissioner’s Office at Nazarbad. In 1997, a need arose for more space in the Commissioner’s Office and the Band was shifted to Mounted Police Company on Lalitha Mahal Palace Road.
Rs. 62 lakh estimate
Now Police Band is all set to move back to its original place — the Band House. Speaking to Star of Mysore, City Police Commissioner Dr. Chandragupta said that the iconic Music Band would be restored to its past glory and retained as a separate entity like before.
“Experts, technicians and architects have already visited the Band House and we are in the process of restoration. The experts have estimated the restoration work to cost Rs. 62 lakh including renovation, repairs of Mangaluru-tiled roof, wooden beams, plugging of leakages, sealing cracks on the walls and also partitioning of walls that will suit the requirement of the Band House,” he said.
There are plans to create a Museum for Police Band with photos of performances to erstwhile Kings, British royalty and dignitaries. The Museum will hold rare memorabilia of the Police Band including instruments like Clarinets, Piccolo, Flute, Oboe, Bassoon, Saxophone, Trumpets, French Horn, Circle Bass, Euphonium, Trombone, Drums, etc.
The Band also boasts of a collection of other instruments such as Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello, Double-Bass, Harp, Bass-Saxophone, etc. Even rare instruments like Horn Cello, Tubular-Bells, Deagan, Organ Pipes (Tubular Organ), Accordion, Glockenspiel and Xylophone were used. The Police Band has a huge library of musical notation consisting of compositions of renowned and famous composers of the world.
Permanent musical evening
Dr. Chandragupta further said that they were looking to convert the space between the old and new Police Commissioner’s Office as a permanent place for Police Band performance, both English and Karnatak. Now the Police Band performs only on important days. We want to make it a regular ‘musical evening’ for tourists.
The Mysore Police Band, owing to its reputation and expertise, has emerged as a training centre of martial music wherein all District Police Bands come here and get trained on a regular basis. The Karnatak Band has a sanctioned strength of 30 and at present, 20 of them perform while the English Band has the strength of 28.
The members of the Band don’t have Police duties. Music is their job and they spend hours practicing and learning new compositions that could be incorporated into their repertoire. While Manjunath is the Head of English Band, Manohar heads the Karnatak Band. They are supervised by Violinist Christopher.
Both English and Karnatak Bands have two kinds of uniforms depending on the occasion and season. They wear green ceremonial dress while they play for visiting dignitaries and during Dasara. They also wear a white uniform during summer.