House of rock!

Save for a smattering of makeshift platforms at a few perky coffee shops, the city lacks a decent concert venue.
Floyd Libera and George Peter of 13AD during their comeback concert at IMA House in January.
Floyd Libera and George Peter of 13AD during their comeback concert at IMA House in January.

KOCHI: Kochi — the city that spawned legendary bands such as 13AD, Motherjane, Avial and more recently, Thaikkudam Bridge and When Chai Met Toast. One would presume that the place would be brimming with music hubs. Alas, that’s not the case.

Save for a smattering of makeshift platforms at a few perky coffee shops, the city lacks a decent concert venue. When the administrators of IMA House, an unassuming building in Kaloor, decided to sonically augment their performance hall in 2019, their intentions were, quite frankly, not to provide Kochi the concert venue it rightly deserved and very badly needed.

“The renovation marked the 10th year of IMA Cochin working out of this building. The decision to upgrade the hall was based on our decade-long experience of conducting events,” recalls Dr Sachidananda Kamath, the convenor of IMA House.

“We got acoustic engineers to curate the hall to be inclusive of all types of sound and augment the experience of attending programmes here.”

Since 2010, IMA House has been holding a fair share of ganamelas, but not enough to shake off the label of a ‘press conference venue.’ There were also many who saw the place as one reserved for just medical professionals.

Dr Roshan Thomas
Dr Roshan Thomas

“About the same time as the renovation, the then senior team, including Dr Kamath, floated a series of proposals to inculcate arts and culture within the fabric of IMA Cochin,” recalls Dr Akhil Manuel, joint secretary of the organisation.

“One of the proposals included starting a doctors’ band. Initial discussions alone revealed that there were many talented musicians among our members. The spark was lit.”

However, all the plans had to take a backseat as Covid struck. IMA Cochin turned into a pandemic war room. “The very mission of IMA is, as you know, to help the public. During Covid, this was the control room. The software we conceived within this hall is currently used in over 200 hospitals across nine states,” elaborates Akhil.

The same was the case during the time of the flood. IMA Cochin’s location is strategically advantageous. It is precisely this that’s now helping the centre become the cultural haven it yearns to be. This desire is also emblematic of how the area around IMA House has evolved over the years. Once a deserted stretch, it is now a thriving corridor of food, fun and football.

Though plans were mooted as way back as 2019, IMA Cochin’s in-house band, Antidote, came to be only last year. “Our first performance was in November. Though our experience with musical engineering was very little, it sounded great. We then did a New Year show as well,” says Akhil, who is also the drummer of Antidote.

Dr Haneesh Meerasa, the organisation’s president, says: “IMA Cochin has always been at the forefront of bringing out innovative projects. One of them was to create a rock band of doctors — Antidote. The band has already performed four shows. It provided confidence for other bands to perform at IMA House,” says

Indeed. It is following the success of these performances that legendary music band 13AD held their comeback show here in January. This further cemented IMA House as a music concert venue. This past weekend, Kochi’s budding singer-songwriter Dr Lincoln performed his first solo gig at the venue to a roaring crowd.

“It is encouraging to see many enquiries come in from other bands as well,” Haneesh adds.

Furthermore, the success of Antidote has even prompted the state IMA to consider starting bands in all its centres.

“When we began, our focus was on making the centre more culturally visible. We never imagined it to get this big. Now, IMA House is the most happening place in the city,” says Dr Junaid Rahman, IMA Cochin treasurer.

This is a big win, not just for IMA House but for Kochi as well. Without pulling punches, the traditional cultural centres in the city are in a state of decline, either out of neglect or refusal to keep up with the times. At this juncture, it is imperative that new organisations don the mantle of cultural agents, become the torchbearers for tomorrow.

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The New Indian Express