Image Credits: starofmysore.com
When one thinks of the Police, we think their job is to maintain law & order and also to investigate and manage the safety of the State. But there is one more interesting facet to the State Police – i.e., to play instrumental music, and this Police Band has a glorious history of more than 154 years, dating back to the reign of Mummadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar, around the 1860s. Ali Ben Sou Alle – a French musician, who migrated to Mysore, the inventor of the saxophone worked as the Director of the Band in its initial years. After the death of Mummadi in 1868, the Palace establishment came under direct control of the British. Commissioner Bowring appointed Major Elliot and Dewan C.V. Rangacharlu to take control of the management of Palace affairs and reorganize and resettle the establishment.
Then the Band was merged with the Kille Kacheri. After Rendition in 1881, Sri.Chamarajendra Wadiyar X was coronated. Being a connoisseur of both Carnatic and Western classical music, and a musician himself, he is credited with setting up the first Palace Band, in 1868 whose repertoire was fully Carnatic music. Another English Band was formed in1890s with JT De’Fries, a French musician as its 1st band Master.
He held this position from 1892 to 1923.
Initially, it was a military brass band playing mostly military tunes and melodies at ceremonies like the Mysore Dasara and banquets for visiting dignitaries. Music Directors like Mr. Bartels who set to Music for Mysore Anthem and Richard Caton Woodville – a British Artist and illustrator who spent considerable time in Mysore with the Maharaja were at the helm of affairs.
The Band was nurtured further by the next ruler – Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar by inviting renowned musicians from Europe to train the Band. In 1923, he brought Otto Schmidt from Indore Presidency to add more instruments and create an orchestra capable of symphonic music. M. Pereira, a homegrown Goa violinist, succeeded Schmidt – as the Band Master and Director of Music from 1945 onwards.
A separate Band House was constructed in Nazarabad, the present-day office of the Mysore Police Commissioner. A Band Stand (with a stained-glass roof) was also built at Neshat Bagh, now known as Kuppanna Park, specifically for their performances. The Band would also perform at the gardens of Lalbagh, Cubbon Park and the Market Square in Bangalore on certain days to entertain the public. They were deputed to play at the Garden Parties of Their Highnesses the Maharaja and the Yuvaraja at Bangalore, Ooty, etc. On special occasions like the visit of the viceroy and other high officers of the Government of India, the Rulers of Indian States, etc., this band was deputed to entertain the guests and gatherings. Stalwarts like Vidwan Veena Venkatagiriyappa and others worked towards popularizing the Carnatic Band.
After India became a Republic in 1951, the Palace Bands (both Westerns and Carnatic) were integrated into the Police Department, and called the Mysuru Police Band, and later renamed as Mysore Government Orchestra.
This Band plays at Government events and Mysore Palace functions like Dasara and Janmashtami. The musicians are recruited from reputed music schools and some of them proficiently play more than 3 instruments.
The Palace Band, which had earned a unique place in hearts of the people of Mysore through its glorious past, excellent training and proficiency, came to be attached with required strength to the new unit of Mysore Armed Reserved Police (MARP) Palace Guards and placed under the control of the Superintendent of Police of that unit, and under the overall authority of the Inspector General of police from 1951.
Source: Karnataka State Police