If the Bandstand at Cubbon Park could talk, it sure would have a lot to say. It would probably tell you about how it started off, as all bandstands do, as a space for outdoor concerts / musical performances. It would narrate to you tales of long lost glory, of how it was a location where the royal family was entertained by musicians, and how, the people of Bangalore got an opportunity to witness memorable recitals by prominent artists, when the city was well and truly able to live up to its name of being the Garden city, much before it obtained its tag of being India’s tech capital.
The Bandstand at Cubbon park was built in the 1920s, and was the space where classical music concerts were held for many years, and most people in the pre-IT avatar of Bangalore have fond reminiscences of how they as children, had visited the park with their parents, to play in the grass and run around trees whilst the adults would be mesmerized by the music on display. Additionally, the Bandstand was also witness to western music that was played on Saturdays by the British Royal Air Force in the pre-Independence era.
In those times when Bangalore still hadn’t been introduced to pub-culture, and the now internationally famous Palace Grounds hadn’t yet graduated to being a venue for concerts that feature thousands of people, the Bandstand had built up a reputation of sorts to make music accessible to the common man, with free performances on Sundays and on public holidays.
True, there have been venues such as the Bangalore Gayana Samaja that have hosted concerts since inception in 1905, but the ambience as well as the accessibility provided by the Bandstand has been unparalleled, which is why it has remained a favourite with most people. It was only after the IT boom hit Bangalore that the residents of our city found a variety of alternate means of recreation.
An inexplicable lull in the activities at Cubbon Park was temporarily remedied by the revival of the Music Strip in the 1980s, when musicians would gather every Sunday evening and perform. However, with many other avenues developing for performing artists, the once glorious Bandstand was soon relegated to oblivion.
It is unlikely that the present generation of us post-IT boom Bangaloreans can understand first-hand the significance that this Bandstand held for those we choose to fondly refer to as old-timers, but, with the alarming reduction in public spaces and recreational areas for us residents, a gradual revival of the musical activity at the Bandstand might just provide us with a chance to appreciate the Bandstand’s role in our cityscape a little better.
In recent times, one has experienced a resurrection of weekly activities at the Bandstand. As Deepti Sarma’s article has highlighted (Bringing the bands back to Bandstand), an NGO named Prakruthi has stepped up efforts to have performances every Sunday by popular Kannada playback singers as well as classical music artists.
MS Prasad, one of the founders of Prakruthi says, “Except for those Sundays on which it rains heavily, we would like to have performances at the Bandstand. It is our endeavour to bring famous names to perform for the common man, and do justice to the Bandstand’s presence.”
Permission to use the Bandstand can be obtained by contacting the Horticultural Department, which is in charge of maintaining Cubbon Park. All one requires is to write a letter addressed to the Deputy Director, Horticultural Dept, stating the purpose for using the area. There is no fees for using the Bandstand, but care has to be taken to ensure that the flora around is not damaged.
In this present time, when complaints are aplenty about the lack of avenues for live musical performances, the reassuring presence of the Bandstand will provide a much needed respite to some, if not all live music aficionados. ⊕