Good news for all those philharmonic Indians about the highly anticipated launch of Bangalore’s Centre for Indian Music Experience (IME). The first of its kind in India, the Bangalore-based institution is unmatched as an arts initiative. It’s an empirical music gallery committed to explore India’s cultural tones through its music.
The objective of the centre is simple: to educate viewers, mainly young people, about India’s amusing musical diversity. An interactive space as it is, “IME aims to encourage a rediscovery of various categories of Indian music, from the traditional to the contemporary, to build a deeper bond with music.”
Imagine 8 thematic spaces which include an instruments galleria with over 200 items, performance spots, learning spaces and several computer-based interactive installations that allow the guest to experience the process of music-making.
India’s olden museum world could use a shake-up. A 2014 British Council survey of 150 museums across the nation noted that “there are very few that even aim at being visitor-friendly and interactive”. One exception is the Virasat-e-Khalsa museum in Punjab, where multimedia exhibitions and fascinating storytelling have enticed 75 lakh visitors over the past five years. As claimed by German scholar Andreas Huyssen in his dissertation Escape from Amnesia: The Museum as Mass Medium, published in his book, Twilight Memories, “entertainment and spectacle can function in tandem with complex forms of enlightenment.”
In the instance of this new Bangalore museum, one cause of innovation was Gallagher & Associates, a prominent US-based design company, whose projects include the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles and the Experience Music Project in Seattle (now called the Museum of Pop Culture or MoPOP).
Gallagher’s connection with India was crucial. Senior companion Sujit Tolat grew up in New Delhi in the 1970s, attended the National Institute of Design, and praises the cultural organisation SPIC MACAY for lengthening his musical education beyond a teen preference for Jethro Tull. So, despite his overseas design commissions — including work on the blues-infused BB King museum in Mississippi — he was acquainted with the thrills of India’s auditory culture, as well as its transport maestros.
“The autorickshaws are like little portable musical shrines, running around ubiquitously and depicting the personalities of the drivers. It was natural for us to use those,” Tolat explains. Overall, he worked meticulously with a small content committee in India, comprised of experts in Carnatic, Hindustani, regional music and film music. In turn, that committee appointed other experts for written briefs on specific subjects.
On top of being a museum, the centre aims to be at the pole position for delivering curriculum-based music education with the advancement of music teaching aids for both private and government schools.
Accommodated in a 50,000 sq ft building, the IME exhibition hall will be located on a 2-acre property with a 500-person capacity venue adjacent to it.