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Back with a bang at SoBo’s Cooperage Bandstand

Manu Shrivastava | Mumbai

A newly-restored Cooperage Bandstand reverberated to the tunes of old Hindi classics, once again, after more than three decades. On Sunday, 28 October 2018, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) band performers, at first, started playing to an empty set of steps inhabited by just a young mother and her child and in no time had curious, bemused music-lovers trickling in to form a sea of delighted enthusiasts in no time. Cooperage’s Bandstand is back and...with a bang!

Cooperage Bandstand after restoration in its glory

The first band performance at Cooperage Bandstand after more than three decades

The iconic Cooperage Bandstand located in South Mumbai has an impressive history. Built in 1867, more than 150 years ago, by the Esplanade Fee Fund Committee, the Cooperage Bandstand hosted band performances. Up until the 1960s, the venue was famous for the Navy and Police band performances. Till a few months back, the venue was also popular among children, accompanied by their parents, arriving to partake in horseback rides despite a distinct court ruling to the adverse. An unfortunate accident later, this too was discontinued.

When the structure completed 150 years in 2017, the BMC decided to restore the heritage structure reduced to a dilapidated condition with wood having decayed to almost naught. After spending close to Rs 50 lakh on restoration and renovation, the venue was thrown open to pubic again after inauguration by the Mayor of Mumbai V Mahadeshwar on 10 October 2018.

In a bid to revive the band culture, which had become an integral part of the lives of residents and Mumbai’s iconic stature and was lost over the last thirty years, the BMC introduced live music by its own band which performed for the first time at Cooperage Bandstand on Sunday. The audience which comprised regular walkers, young parents who had brought their children to play in the nearby garden and some elderly – all of whom had no prior knowledge of the musical performance and were pleasantly surprised with the attendance of BMC’s khaki-coloured uniform-clad performers.

Restoration included complete dismantling of Bandstand to revive the original architectural elements of the structure such as octagonal wooden columns, beautifully decorated panel brackets, a strong stone base, sloping roof with a finely carved fascia board, etc. The circular wooden canopy was restored with original Burma teak wood and to maintain the curvature of the roof, aluminium sheets were used.

The restoration work, outsourced to conservation firm Vaastu Vidhaan, was no easy task. The change of space around the structure was determined through archival images and efforts were made to restore to the original structure and layout. The dismantling and subsequent excavation revealed that a major section of the structure, its plinth and steps, was also buried and had to be brought up to ground-level elevation.

The Cooperage Bandstand is now again ready to be the musical hotspot of the city. Day One of the re-introduction of band performances witnessed a reasonable gathering. After every song, the anticipation for the next one would grow and the children immediately took the spotlight as they started to dance to the tunes of some of the most memorable songs of Hindi cinema – Ajeeb dastan hai yeh, Pal pal dil ke paas, Socha kya jo bhi hoga, and more!

There’s something about music of the yore that has a distinct glory to it. A glory that transcends time. Probably, in the days of android and relations reduced to emoticons, the band is probably the best thing happening to SoBo.

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