From offline to online: how this music museum is adapting to the coronavirus outbreak

The Indian Music Experience has put together an outstanding exhibition celebrating the 100th birth anniversary of Pandit Ravi Shankar. The exhibition can now be viewed in an online video, and activities like classes and talks are moving online as well.

Launched in 2014, PhotoSparks is a weekly feature from YourStory, with photographs that celebrate the spirit of creativity and innovation. In the earlier 465 posts, we featured an art festival, cartoon gallery. world music festivaltelecom expomillets fair, climate change expo, wildlife conference, startup festival, Diwali rangoli, and jazz festival.

In Part I of this photo essay, we showcased highlights from the centennial exhibition on sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar. It is being showcased at Bengaluru’s Indian Music Experience (IME) museum, to celebrate his contribution to music.

IME is an initiative of the Brigade Group, with support by government and industry sponsors as well (see highlights in Part I and Part II of our earlier photo essays). IME is also an institutional affiliate of the Grammy Museum, located in Los Angeles.

Born on April 7, 1920, Ravi Shankar pioneered a wide range of collaborations with international musicians. The exhibition, titled ‘Ravi Shankar @ 100,’ features 29 artefacts and nearly 100 photographs that chronicle the life and work of this celebrated artiste.

(Note: The photographs in this pictorial essay were taken before the national lockdown due to the coronavirus. The visit to the gallery was not in violation of any public safety guidelines.)

Event inauguration

The inauguration of the IME exhibition on March 7 featured a folk storytelling session in Rajasthan’s kaaavad style by Akshay Gandhi. There was also a concert at the adjacent MLR Convention Centre. The performers were Ravi Shankar's disciple, Grammy-award winner Vishwa Mohan Bhatt on the mohanveena, accompanied by tabla maestro Bickram Ghosh.

The exhibition and live performance reinforce the message of music as excellence, education and tradition. “Ravi Shankar was a truly international artist, at the same time firmly rooted in the Hindustani music tradition. We hope that our interpretation of his life will inspire people to engage more deeply with Indian classical music,” explains IME Director Manasi Prasad, in a chat with YourStory.

COVID-19 outbreak

Museums and national monuments play an important role as spaces for inspiration, education, cultural preservation, and upliftment of the human spirit. See our compilation of 45 inspiring quotes on World Heritage Day 2020, which is celebrated on April 18 each year.

Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus outbreak, IME and the Ravi Shankar exhibition are currently closed to the public. But an online video of the exhibition and opening ceremony is accessible.

“These are unprecedented times for everyone, and the arts and culture sector is also going through tough times. Our work, by nature is people-oriented and the lockdown prevents these interactions,” Manasi laments.

IME’s learning centre has moved completely online, and the diploma courses carry on. “We are also launching online summer primer courses in music for kids from May 1st,” she adds. A session on 'Sound healing with Tibetan bowls' was held online on the occasion of World Health Day (see YourStory’s quotes compilation for this special day here).

“We will also be conducting online our monthly musical storytelling for children, called Storygama,” Manasi says. Snippets are being uploaded from the artiste conversation series, ‘Up, Close and Unplugged'.

This evening, Manasi will be hosting an online discussion on ‘Social Media Strategies during Lockdown.’ The featured expert is Shreyanka Basu, a consultant on culture marketing and promotion for museums.

IME is also in the process of getting some parts of the museum up and running on Google's virtual museum platform, Google Arts and Culture. “This will allow audiences from around the world to experience some parts of IME virtually, irrespective of physical conditions,” Manasi explains.

“The big worry is that funding for the arts is under grave threat. Both artists and institutions are suffering, as whatever income we would earn earlier has completely disappeared,” Manasi observes.

“As a sector that in general depends on sponsorships, donations and patrons, it is worrisome that livelihoods are under threat. All of us in the arts sector are advocating that relief packages from the government should include support for artists and arts institutions also,” Manasi urges.

“The arts and society share a symbiotic relationship. Just as society needs art to add meaning to life, the arts need the support of society in difficult times,” she emphasises. See also YourStory’s compilation of 100 Quotes on World Art Day (celebrated on April 15 each year).

“We hope to open our doors after conditions improve, and go back to welcoming audiences into our portals. The Ravi Shankar exhibits will be on display for a few more months, so I urge everyone to visit as soon as we open,” Manasi adds. IME promises to take utmost care with regard to safety and hygiene.

There are also discussions in progress to take the exhibition to other cities in India once things normalise, according to Suma Sudhindra, Outreach Director at IME. “We are in talks with Casa de la India to do an exhibition in Spain,” she adds.

Suma too urges visitors to immerse in the museum once the situation improves, or follow its activities online. “These exhibitions will be an eye opener for visitors about the achievement of great artists and will go a long way in preserving and propagating Indian music among the public,” she emphasises.

Now, what have you done today to pause in your busy schedule and find new ways of honouring our cultural heritage in these troubled times?

See also the YourStory pocketbook ‘Proverbs and Quotes for Entrepreneurs: A World of Inspiration for Startups,’ accessible as apps for Apple and Android devices.