Police Band: Upholding a legacy since 1868

Police Band: Upholding a legacy since 1868

Khakhi Music

The Police Band performs on the Palace stage, as part of Dasara celebrations in Mysuru, on October 22.

The just concluded Mysuru Dasara has some basic features like caparisoned elephants, horses, golden howdah, cannon guns, and Mysuru Palace. Similarly, Police Band is a vital, rather providing the lifeline music, feature of both Dasara and also Mysuru Palace.

Police is basically meant to maintain law and order in the society. However, the special wing of the Mysuru City Police plays melodious music, instrumental, and enthralls connoisseurs of music and also other people, with both Indian classical and Western music. Police Band is inseparable for both Dasara and Mysuru.

The present Mysuru Police Band traces its origin to 1868 and has evolved over the past one and a half century, assuming different names, at various points of time. Following Western influence on the Wadiyar kings of Mysuru, the Engliish Band was started in 1868, after Tenth Chamaraja Wadiyar was coronated, following the death of his adopted father, also maternal grandfather Mummadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar. Initially, J T D’Fries, a Frenchman, headed the Band, with musicians drawn from the best music schools.

The English Band was meant to play ceremonial music to welcome dignitaries and also to play western music during banquets. Gradually, the troupe also started to play Carnatic music. Thus, it had two wings – Indian Orchestra and English Band. It has to be noted that Tenth Chamaraja Wadiyar, a musician himself, was a great patron of music. Musicians like Veena Subbanna, Veena Seshanna, K Vasudevacharya, Veena Padmanabiah, Mysore Karigiri Rao and Bidaram Krishnappa were encouraged and patronised in the court of Tenth Chamaraja Wadiyar.

The band came to be known as the Palace Band under the patronage of Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar, the successor of Tenth Chamaraja Wadiyar. Nalvadi, also a musician and a patron, similar to his father, invited well-known musicians from Europe to train the band members.

During his period, a separate Band House was constructed on the road leading to Vasantha Mahal Palace, in Nazarbad, now housing the District Institute of Education and Training (DIET). The road was later named after Dewan Sir Mirza Ismail. The Band House now houses the office of the City Police Commissioner. A band stand was also built at Nishad Bagh, now known as Kuppanna Park, for the band to give performances.

After Independence and after India becoming a Republic, in 1951, the Palace Bands (Indian Orchestra and English Band) were integrated into the Police department.

The sanctioned strength was 56 and 34 musicians respectively. Thus, it was called Mysuru Police Band and was renamed as Mysuru Government Orchestra later. However, it is famous as Mysuru Police Band. In 1958, its base was shifted from the Band House to the building of the Mounted Police Company, on Lalitha Mahal Palace Road.

As per the Police department, the Mysuru Police Band plays music during government functions, such as banquet and tea parties; during Mysuru Palace functions such as Dasara and Janmastami; during Police sports events; during visit of VIPs and VVIPs; during functions as per the orders of the Inspector General of Police; on second Sundays, only Carnatic Band, at Brindavan Gardens of Krishna Raja Sagar Dam, on payment by the State Director of Tourism; during Saturdays and Sundays, both English and Carnatic bands, in several parks of Mysuru city; and in functions on payment, subject to the conditions laid down by the government. Keeping pace with changing times, the band also plays contemporary compositions.

Recruitment to the Police Band is based on merit and a majority of the musicians come from renowned music schools, with talent and experience. Some of the members of the band play more than three instruments, when the need arises.