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Indian Music Experience Museum

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The Sound of Music

India’s first interactive music museum, The Indian Music Experience (IME) is an ode to all things music.

Daler Mehndi’s shiny blue velvet robe jostles for space with Long play records as do Mahatma Gandhi’s letter with a large collection of rare musical instruments. In fact music reverberates from every corner of this space. Welcome to IME, the space for all things music.

Founded by M. R. Jaishankar, Chairman and Managing Director of the Brigade Group, the IME is located in Bengaluru’s Brigade Millennium Enclave in JP Nagar. An initiative of the Indian Music Experience Trust, a non-profit public charitable Trust, supported by the Brigade Group is modelled on the lines of Seattle’s Experience Music Project. Jaishankar says, “I have always believed that music and the arts add great value to our lives. When I visited the Experience Music Project in Seattle, I was inspired by the quality of the architecture, design and displays on music and had a vision of creating a similar institution in India, to introduce India’s rich cultural heritage to the next generation. We have built the museum to international standards, and are confident that it will become a prominent hub for tourists and music connoisseurs from around the world.”

Strike a Note

The lead consultants world-renowned museum design firm Gallagher and Associates have created a nonlinear, flowy exterior facade that keeps the music theme intact. The two acre space has a built up area of 50000 square foot in which the multi storied museum is housed. The museum itself has three sections, a state-of-the-art interactive exhibit area, a Sound Garden and a Learning Centre. The outdoor sound garden serves as a perfect precursor to the actual museum and it is recommended to start your tour here. Unlike other museums that have a “do not touch” policy, this is a space where you can touch and feel the instruments and immerse yourself into their sounds and vibrations. There are ten musical installations here made with natural materials like wood, stone and metal that allow you to delve into their distinct sounds and vibrations. There are handy instructions on how you can experience them so do follow the same. The Humming Stone for instance allows you to put your head into a cave like structure and hum any sound and you can feel the vibrations through your body. The Singing Stones here have grooves and using wet hands you can move your hands into them to hear different vibrations. There are other installations here including a Melody Chime, Sound Wave, a mallet-based instrument, Sound Railing, Spinner Chime, Tubular Bells and a Flower Gong that allows you to tap each petal with a mallet. The Storm Drum at the entrance of the main building can actually mimic the sound of rumbling thunder.

Musical Journey

Once you enter the four storied main building, you start from the third level and progress down to each of the galleries. The terrace level can be reserved for music do’s in the evenings and has a small amphitheater. The main exhibit area has eight thematic galleries, an instruments gallery with 108 musical instruments and three mini theatres. Each gallery has computer-based interactive installations to allow guests to experience music and music making. Manasi Prasad, Museum Director says, “the IME is perhaps the only place in the country where visitors can get a complete overview of the sheer amount of diversity of Indian music and culture. From classical music that is over 2000 years old, to the hybrid sounds of indie rock bands, the IME has a little something for everyone, whether a visitor wants to spend just an hour or days on end browsing the stories and legends behind some of the most iconic pieces of music.”

Gallery Tour

The first gallery is called ‘Contemporary Expressions’ and is designed like a market place complete with two auto rickshaws and is an ode to the independent ‘indie’ rock music of India. Daler Mehndi’s performance costume is also on display here. From here head to the ‘Living Traditions’ gallery that will decode all kinds of music terminology from tala, gharana, dhrupad, sruti, raga, khayal and kutcheri. You can learn all about classical music, understand basic concepts of carnatic and Hindustani classical music and hear musical concepts at the interactive stations here. In the ‘Songs of the people’ gallery which is an ode to folk music you can learn about the songs of the folk and tribal communities of India and also admire the mechanized puppet displays, folk art murals and the kaavad box. The ‘Melting Pot’ section is where you can learn about the history of musical instruments and also see the leg harmonium. The museum has several photo-op locations too so you can go back with personal memories. The Instruments gallery has a double-height display of 108 musical instruments sourced from all parts of India. The ‘Songs of struggle’ gallery will stoke your patriotic side with over 35 versions of ‘Vande mataram, a replica of Mahatma Gandhi’s letter to MS Subbulakshmi and more. At the ‘Stories through song’ section you can browse through landmarks and legends of Hindi film music and also learn the history of recorded sound in India while you admire the rare phonograph and wax cylinder display. In ‘The stars’ gallery hundred stalwarts of Indian music are featured and you can see some personal belongings of the Bharat Ratnas including Bismillah Khan’s Shehnai, MS Subbulakshmi’s Tambura and Bhimsen Joshi’s Concert attire. Dr. Suma Sudhindra, Director – Outreach says, “the IME is an extraordinary journey of many talents coming together to create a global landmark in Indian history. This interactive music museum is an unfolding of the rich and diverse living culture of Indian Music. Years of in depth research have been married to contemporary design and state of the art technology to create an offering that will be an institution and tourist attraction in the next one year.” A visit to the museum and you will realise that her words could not be truer.

This story first appeared in The Tribune dated 23 Feb 2019 here:

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