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May 2003

Sound Investment

- by Abha Prakash

Auroville's first music complex about to open its doors


Kalabhumi's old music studio will soon be defunct. The new music complex which combines studio facilities with high-tech acoustically engineered performance space is due to reach completion in July and will replace the underground generator room which had been functioning as the makeshift (and noisy) studio for the past several years.

Matthia in session in the old rehearsal room

The idea for a new studio materialized when Franco, an Aurovilian from Italy, as the executive of Mereville Trust gave twenty lakh rupees (approximately 40,000 euros) in donation for the project. Convinced that "Music could draw people together in a way more congenial than any usual meeting or political issue," Franco wanted to offer Aurovilians an open-air auditorium for the enjoyment of music concerts or any other artistic performance and, at the same time, give Aurovilian musicians a decent place to practise and perform. The idea was welcomed and supported by all, particularly the Cultural Zone Group and the residents of Kalabhumi, a community dedicated to the arts, who will participate in the management of the complex once it starts functioning. Given his dedication to music, a young Kalabhumi resident, Matthew, has been appointed caretaker of the studio, with the support of Rolf, another resident musician.

The first sound-proof building of its kind in Auroville, the Kalabhumi music complex's spacious interior consists of a music studio for rehearsals, a dressing room, and an equipment storage room. From a practical point of view, the complex is innovative in its design and concept. By merely swinging open the twin doors at the back of the studio, musicians can enter a partially-covered stage facing an amphitheatre capable of seating almost 500 people. The transport of music equipment to performance locations that had been a bothersome and sometimes dangerous proposition in the past can now be safely avoided. Weatherwise too, the hall is versatile. During the monsoon, for instance, the wood-floored indoor space can be used as a small auditorium with a seating capacity of 150 people. While most activities at the hall will be music-related, the amphitheatre could also be used for staging dance performances, theatre, movies, and art exhibitions. Needless to say, visiting artists and guest musicians in Auroville would greatly benefit from the range of opportunities and facilities that the Kalabhumi music complex will offer.

The back entrance and part of the amphitheatre

Planned by architect Paolo Tommasi, and Didier, the sound engineer, the project aims to enter its second phase if finances allow. This part of the project will focus on a video-audio library exclusively relating to music, and a cafeteria that would, among other things, provide an informal social platform for musicians of all ages and backgrounds. The aesthetic landscaping of the surrounding area will be carried out as soon as the first phase of the complex is ready.

But does the quaint old music studio with its rugged floors and graffiti-strewn walls really have to go? Matthia, a young drummer, strongly hopes not. For teenage Aurovilian musicians, the small, sunless studio, despite its humidity, is like their second home, a place where they hang out and practise. Furthermore, if the old studio is allowed to go on, more than one musical band could practice at any given time. On the other hand, the outward structure of the old studio badly needs a face-lift, and internally too, it is not wholly suitable for maintaining the condition of delicate musical instruments.

The final decision regarding the fate of the old studio lies with the Kalabhumi residents themselves. Possibly the two studios, a stone's throw from each other, will coexist and jointly benefit Auroville's diverse music fraternity.


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