Who would have thought, that the business district of Mount Road would be a repository of musical instruments dating from 2000 years ago to today and into the future? The three places city historian Nivedita Louis took us to on a rainy evening, put us in touch with this strand of musical history - of the inventive genius behind ancient instruments, how technology took music to the masses and how we have assimilated western instruments into our traditions.Sangita Vadyalaya, Vasan StreetSangita Vadyalaya, the little-known research centre for music tells you how our ancients used leather, string and pure air to create rhythm and melody. Established in the 1960s, it houses 200-odd "recreated" instruments - "the result of the pain and sweat of over 70 artisans who toiled for years to bring them all to life," said Louis. Mentored by musicologist Prof. Sambamurthy, it has 15 varieties of yazhs, the harp used by Samudra Gupta seen embossed in his gold coin of 4CE, the rare tribal thanthi-paanai, saz-e-Kashmiri (mentioned in 10th C AD by theorist Al Farabi), tuntina - played with Ã©lan by bhil/kukhna/worli tribals, pranava ghanta, the walking-stick violin, tenth-century chola kudamuzha whose 5 faces are played at the Thiyagaraja Swamy temple, Indonesian violin with coconut shell, surya-chandra parai, Andhra's single-stringed Jamudikathe, thirteenth-century sarangadara, the kinneri, the three-faced mud drum that has a distinct "boom", the Mizo darkhuang dar (gongs), swarnamandal (Indian harp) that set the tune for the Beatles number Strawberry Feels Forever, udumbu-skinned kanjira you heard in Paartha gnabakam illaiyo, vichitra/rudhra/narayana veenas and the villadivadyam used in villupattu performances. Two of Prof. Sambamurthy's prized possessions are here - his radio-sruti box and the revolving tanpura designed by him. Both work perfectly!Land for the centre was donated by Tadepalli Lokanadha Sharma, once Director of the Vadyalaya, said Louis. Sharma recreated and played the Kudumiyanmalai music inscription on the veena. It had 40 researchers, but is now cared-for by the lone S. Gopal (9962907248), who takes the mini-instruments for workshops in schools.TorvinWiry, soft-spoken M. John Thankachan has been designing, developing and servicing audio systems for 32 years now. "Technology has made music accessible to all," he observed, pointing to the effect Edison's phonograph had on the musical world. Audio systems have evolved from gramophone to blue-ray-enabled phones and Thankachan's research, development and servicing unit has been part of this tech story. He can fix and customise any audio system you bring to his store. "Have followed 'Make-in-India" for four decades," he said.But we are here to view his interesting collection of unusual, rare, unheard-of audio systems that he keeps locked in a backroom. You'll see valve-based working audio amplifier, pumpkin-sized microphones (about 60 years old), Bush Station Master valve-radio with names of stations (instead of frequencies) printed on the dial, spool tape-recorder, turntable that produces sound without electric power, laser disk-player. "Add the vinyl records and audio-cassette ensemble - this place is crying to be converted to a museum," said Arulnambi, MA, the techie in the group.MusÃ©e MusicalTwo things catch your eye when you enter the MusÃ©e Musical yard: the huge tree against the wall and the height of the ceiling. Not much is known about the tree, but the ceiling hides a story.Portuguese piano-tuner Wallace Misquith opened his shop on Mount Road in 1842 for servicing pianos and organs. Misquith and Co. grew popular enough to open 16 branches in a short span. Unfortunately, he fell ill and closed down all stores except the one in Chennai. Wallace died in 1888, leaving the company to his son Willie, who taught and mended pianos. Records talk of the first floor being used for Chun King - first Chinese restaurant in Madras, and a Cohen showing movies in 1907. In 1930, the French owner Edgar Prudhomme named it MusÃ©e (treasure house), and after him the place became the stable for the Parthasarathy temple elephants, which explains the high ceiling. MusÃ©e Musical relocated into this building sometime in the 1930s, when Amy de Rozario, a piano-teacher-turned-director was in charge.Giridhar Das, a director of the company since 1920, took over from Amy de Rozario in 1942. In 1956, his son Haricharan Das inherited it. MusÃ©e Musical, which sold pianos and organs expanded to manufacture, service and sale of pianos, violins, guitars, and drums, before adding Indian instruments. With their pianos adorning Rajaji Hall, Raj Bhavan and most churches, library of vintage music and their work with the Madras Musical Association, MusÃ©e Musical has established strong bonds with Chennai's western music scene. Their tie-up with the Trinity College of Music, London, which began in 1901, has seen annual enrolment grow exponentially. AR Rahman, GV Prakash, L. Subramanian, Veena Balachandar, Karaikudi Mani - the list of celebrities MusÃ©e Musical has fostered is endless.The place is worth a visit for its stunning restoration alone. The sweeping staircase and carved-wood catwalks highlight the three floors of exhibits - among them a free-reed English concertina made-to-order in 1888 for Misquith, the banquet table used by QE II, a wooden duct-flute recorder, march-drums, sliding/valve trombones, antique violins, double bass, rebec, and the fiddle mentioned in the pioneering handbook Epitome Musical. From veenas to coconut-shell kapas, brass castanets, shakers, pambais, cuban bongos, esraj (variant of dilruba), cajon, the west-African Djembe, rainstick (invented by Mapuches of Chile), there isn't much you will not find here.Nivedita Louis on the proposal to shift Vadyalaya to Delhi."I can't but feel anguish over the 200-odd musical instruments being carted away to the capital. I have been a regular visitor to this place and it now seems the move is imminent. Here lies our link to the musical past, under constant threat of eviction from the very city that created it. It is the bounden duty of the music fraternity to sit up, take notice and ensure it stays in the city."