Published: 30th November 2019
Here's why you must visit India's first experiential museum, Indian Music Experience in Bengaluru
Manasi Prasad, Director of Indian Music Experience and takes you through India's first experiential museum in to understand and experience the music from the times of Vedas to the Modern times
Leo Tolstoy once said, "Music is the shorthand of emotion." And it is true because when you feel low it is music that helps you feel good and energetic. But how many of us have really tried to research or find out the origin of music? If you are seeking an in-depth answer to it, then Indian Music Experience, a museum located in Bengaluru is the right place for you to explore the origin of music and the people behind it. This museum was founded by the Indian Music Experience Trust, a non-profit charitable organisation that works to promote culture. While the team spent nine years to research on music and get their facts right, it took around five years to put everything in right place while building the museum. From the Vedic period to the modern time's contemporary music, the museum has everything to watch, feel and experience.
Manasi Prasad, who is a classic vocalist and has been into music when she was only four-years-old. She is the Museum Director of IME. She says, "This museum was designed especially for kids because it is they who can help the culture grow. Unlike other museums, here we allow the kids to listen and experience the music. Through this, they can different theories Physics, Geography and History. Hence, the museum houses Sound Garden at the entrance which has different instruments placed in this garden including humming stone, singing stone, storm drum, melody chime, sound wave, sound railing, spinner chime, tabular bells and a flower gong."
Sound Garden at the entrance of Indian Music Experience (Pic: IME)
She futher adds, "Each of these instruments are made of wood, stone or different types of metals including aluminium and brass. For example, the humming stone has a small whole in it and if you sing or hum inside the whole, then it produces a different sound. You can adjust your pitch up and down until you find a complete resonance. This instrument allows you to experience a kind of vibration through your body. We also have xylophones made of aluminium, brass, wood and stone in this garden. Each one of them sounds different and this principle is called timbre. Even the tubular bells in this garden produces different sounds. A long tube produces low sound and a short tube produces high sound. This is based on the frequency and amplitude being inversely proportional to each other."
You will be surprised to know that the museum has nine galleries and each one of them can provide immense knowledge of music. Out of these nine, eight are thematic galleries, one instrument gallery, three mini theatres and at least 10 touch-screen based interactive screens. As soon as one enters the museum, you will come across the Navarasas, their meaning and purpose in music. These navaras include Srngaram, Raudram, Karunyam, Santam, Viram, Adbhutam, Hasyam, Bibhatsam and Bhayanakam. Each word is described with a meaning below it. When you move ahead, there is a theatre that screens a five minutes video on how one can find sounds even in the nature. Whether it is the croaking of the frogs or the sound of insect crickets at night or the rowing of boat, this video is enough to kindle an interest in you to go ahead and find out more.
Samay Chakra theater that describes the ragas played in the Hindustani music in different times of the day
Nine galleries with different themes
These nine galleries are designed in a way that there is no repeated information on music. In the first gallery, you can come across the theme called 'Contemporary Expressions'. The two autos stranded at the entrance of this gallery allows the visitors to sit inside them and watch videos on famous music bands in India. These autos are painted in fluorescent colours and lights inside it can give you a feel of pop culture. Moving ahead, you will come across those posters of busy streets in Bengaluru including Commercial street, Brigade Road, etc where most of the youngsters hang out during weekends. This gallery houses information on bands like Millenium, Pentagram, Indian Ocean, Rock Machine, Beat Bands and Lou Majaw. You can even put on those headphones and select the music that you want to play by a particular band.
According to the research done by IME, the classical music find its origin in the Sama Veda. and these vedas are displayed at the gallery called Living Traditions. You will get to study the origin of Karnatic and Hindustani Music which actually means the South and the North Music. As per the information from this gallery, majority of the Hindustani Music was influenced by the colonial rule of English people and the Islamic music during the Moghul rule. However, the Karnatic music remains the same and carries the original form. One can also experience the music that was played in gharanas, khayal and kutcheri.
The interesting feature of this gallery is the Samay Chakra. In the Hindustani Music, ragas are played according to the changing times of the day. While Ahir Bhairav and a few other ragas are played in the morning hours, Brindavani Sarang is played in the afternoon, Madhuvathi in the dusk, Bihag and Shankara in the night hours.
Living Traditions gallery gives you in depth information on the Hindustani and Karnatic music
Songs of life
Well, you can understand the theme of this gallery from its title 'Songs of Life. In olden days and even now, people would sing songs in their local language according to the changing occasion and time. This gallery takes you through some of the videos and music sung by common people in rural or tribal villages. The highlight of this gallery is Kavad art of Rajasthan. Not everyone are literate that they can read, write and understand the scriptures. Hence, a particular set of people in Rajasthan had developed this art of painting stories on wood and joining them together. These paintings would tell the ancient stories of India. While this art is not known to many people, don't you think it is the best form of story telling.
We can't forget those music bands that are invited to play music during weddings and other ceremonies. They play a greater role in the Indian music. The gallery houses a portrait of Kawa Brass Band which you will not fail to notice and take a photo with the band men of this group.
Different music bands invited to play during weddings and ceremonies
The first expression when you look at this gallery will be Wow, What a diversity! Yes, it has more than 100 musical instruments which you might have seen and some are not even played these days. The stunning double-height display of instruments can be viewed from the third floor along with their origins, making and playing techniques.
Songs of struggle
Music existed in all the times and even during our freedom struggle otherwise how would the great poet Rabindranath Tagor write our National Anthem. This gallery takes you back to those days of struggle to make you feel proud. Then, music was used to unite people and express dissent against British rule. There are over 35 versions of the song 'Vande Mataram and a replica of Mahatma Gandhi's letter to MS Subbulakshmi and many patriotic songs from Hindi movie.
Experience the music during days of freedom struggle in the Songs of struggle gallery
Stories through songs
Music has become an inseparable part of our lives from the time of the first talkie in 1930s. Famous stars like Raj Kapoor, Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao, M. G. Ramachandran and Dr Rajkumar finds place in this gallery. Their achievements and contributions are recorded to show that the South also had their iconic stars who contributed to the national level cinema industry.
While these songs and music was produced, there must be a medium to reach out to the people. Hence, this gallery called Reaching Out has the oldest instrument, gramophone, different radios as well as the pioneers of recording. The other highlights include the rare phonograph, recording studio and you can also click a photo with a gramophone set.
This gallery called The Stars has featured hundred luminaries of the Indian music whose songs, we continue to resing, remix and play during all times. Songs sung by R D Burman, S Janaki, M S Gopalakrishnan, Lalgudi Jayaraman, Zakir Hussain and many more. The highlight of this gallery is it houses a shehnai of Bismillah Khan and a cap he wore, tambura of MS Subbulakshmi and her saree and a concert attire of Bhimsen Joshi.
Stories through songs is a gallery mainly to highlight the journey of music in the cinema industry
Apart from giving you an experience in music which is worth remembering, the IME also offers Learning Center to children who wants to pursue courses and career in music. Manasi who feels happy for having 120 children pursuing at their Learning Center in such a short time explains, "We have a five years Diploma Programme which is innovative and interactive, It includes workshops by renowned national and international artists. The curriculum is based on knowledge, lectures, creativity and performance. Not just physical classes, they also have a smart app home practice tool for students. This enables the parents to guide their children practice better and progress faster."
Manasi recommends music to kids mainly to develop three C's in their lives. Here, the three C's refer to Create, Communicate and Collaborate. She says, "Whether you pursue engineering, law or arts, all these C's are important to excel. Infact Music helps in the overall development of kids. It mainly helps them in improving cognitive abilities like memory power, language skills, etc. A child who learns art has greater advantage than the one who does not."