Sunday, January 8, 2023

The more things change...

If Wallace Misquith was to time-travel from 1842 to the current day, he would not give a second glance to this display in the foyer of the Sathguru Gnanananda Hall on TTK Road. His firm, set up in 1842 in Coonoor where he had some good business as a piano tuner, was styled Misquith & Co. The idea was to import 'music saloons, pianos and organs' to supply those who were partial to western music - and there would have been many even in those days. From Coonoor, Misquith branched out to Madras, and then to 14 other locations, including Bangalore, Vishakapatnam, Mandalay and Penang. Wallace died in 1888 and his son Wille took over the business. A spell of ill-health seems to have sent Misquith & Co., into a spiral (it must have been several years after its founding) and we see a Frenchman, (Edgar Allen) Prudhomme buying out the Madras branch sometime in the 1920s.

M. Prudhomme was not a musical person; but he seems to have been a shrewd businessman. His first task was to rebrand the firm as Musée Musical. He then got on board Mrs. Amy de Rozario, a British lady of Spanish origin as a Director. Mrs. de Rozario was the music teacher at Doveton Corries and Church Park at the time. I daresay she had a captive market for the instruments being imported - business boomed and a third partner / Director was brought in - Mr. M.Giridhar Doss, with a diploma in accountancy, was soon taking most of the load of running the business and servicing customers which by now included even the Governor or Madras. 

As we get into the 40s, we see Mrs. de Rozario preparing to go back to England; of M. Prudhomme's clan, there is no news. Musée Musical is now with Mr. Giridhar Doss, who brings in his son Haricharan Das to help him with it. Though trained as a lawyer, Haricharan moved completely into running the business after his father passed away in 1966. The business had also diversified. All kinds of music instruments were available here, and its partnership with the Trinity College dates from the early 1900s. Today, Musée Musical counts Veena Balachandar, L Subramanian, Karikudi Mani, GV Prakash and the Grammy + Academy Award winner A.R.Rahman among its alumni. And so, the only thing that Wallace Misquith might recognise in this display is the city's name - but even that is an anachronism!

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