Sunday 31 March 2013

The band stand of music

The Band stand is one of the most attractive and  historical places of the Cubbon Park, the biggest green of Bangalore.
This band stand of Cubbon Park is perhaps the first of its kind in the entire country and it was initially set up in the Rose Garden before being shifted to its present location.
Located in front of teh High Court, this octagonal platform was constructed during the early part of this century. The band stand today is part of what is called the Ringwood Circle. It was a gift in 1917 to the music loving people of Bangalore by the then Wodeyar Emperor of Mysore,  Krishnaraja Wodeyar.
Every Wednesday and Saturday evenings, the Mysore Infantry Band held its performances at this Band Stand and this highly popular tradition continued for several decades till Independence.
On the occasion of the Silver Jubilee of the reign of Krishnaraja Wodeyar on August 8, 1927, the Madras Pioneers Group presented a grand musical show which was attended by the British as well as by the locals in large numbers.
Since then the band group started giving regular programmes on the fourth Thursday evening of every month. People from far off places started to come, so it became difficult to provide accommodation to all of them. Thus in 1927 as per the suggestions of then Yuvaraj (who in 1940 went on to become the Maharaja) Jayachamaraja Wodeyar. the Bandstand was shifted to a vast space in between the High Court complex and Government Museum buildings.
The Band stand was set on a high platform to help the audience see the performers. After 1960, the then City Corporation of Bangalore started arranging performances during weekends. But, gradually they also became irregular and finally stopped. Thus, now the Band stand remains just for namesake.
This is a sad story for the bandstand which has always remained Bangalore’s favourite. A purely Western concept, it can trace its origin to the Brass Band movement of United Kingdom.
The Brass band movement owes much if its origin to valved brass instruments like the cornet and the tuba and the increasing need for entertainment among the working classes during the Industrial Revolution in England.
The working class wanted cheap but quality entertainment. They also wanted dance and music and what better way than such bands. This is how the brass bands came to be born. By 1800, they became the most popular form of entertainment for the working class and there were at least 40,000 of them, singing and entertaining the masses.
 Soon, concerts in parks became popular and regular. The first such bandstand to showcase brass bands were built in 1861 at the Royal Horticultural Gardens in Kensington near London.
Bangalore soon followed suit and the band stand at Lalbagh was built in 1863. The original band stand at Cubbon Park came up in 1870 and it was located near the petrol bunk adjacent to Bowring Institute.
This band stand does not in any way resemble today’s band stand that we know of.  The old band stand was double pillared and was almost at ground level. A map in ‘Mysore: A Gazetteer’ compiled for the then Mysore Government by Benjamin Lewis Rice and  published in 1897, shows the bandstand near Bowring Institute. Archival photographs also conform this fact and show that the first band was much closer to the St Mark’s Church on MG Road. It was in 1917 that this band stand was demolished and the present one constructed within the premises of the park.
Though the band stand was built several years after Queen Victoria died, it can still be categorised as a Victorian structure.
Most of the bandstands that were built during the Victorian era share a marked similarity. The bandstands have columns made of cast-iron, cast-iron railings and decorative roofs with octagonal designs and a raised plinth. A majority of the band stands were fitted with false roofs.
The band stand in Cubbon Park became so popular that even BL Rice, the India born gazetteer, linguist and grammarian and of course epigraphist, also wrote about the crowds.
After Indian gained Independence in 1947, concerts and music were still being played at the band stand but their frequency decreased and over tome they stropped altogether.
The band stand today needs physical and musical support. The time has come to refurbish the historic stand completely and also  infuse music.

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