“It is said that the Army marches to a tune” and the visuals of a Army parade with the marching band or the tune floating along with the marching contingent immediately come to mind and its no coincidence with the Republic Day week we should be doing this article. Well ! after all, they are our brave Unsung Music Men.
Ottoman military bands are thought to be the oldest variety of military marching band in the world, dating from the 13th century. But then Napoleon had them, all our Maharajas had them and so did all the ancient armies and all National Armies still have them. Infact some of the bands have now gone beyond what was supposed to be their primary call of duty viz. to pump the morale and instill in the fighting men a loyalist fervour through their tunes.
The military band should be capable of playing ceremonial and marching music, including the national anthems and patriotic songs of not only their own nation but others as well, both while stationary and as a marching band. Military bands also play a part in military funeral ceremonies.
There are two types of historical traditions in military bands. The first is military field music. This type of music includes bugles (or other natural instruments such as natural trumpets or natural horns), bagpipes, or fifes and almost always drums (see military drums). This type of music was used to control troops on the battlefield as well as for entertainment. Following the development of instruments such as the keyed trumpet or the saxhorn family of brass instruments, a second tradition of the brass and woodwind military band was formed.
Bands from various Armies, Airforce ,Navies and other Paramilitary forces of the world are more or less a complete orchestra and give commanding performances. Our very own Indian Defence Forces bands have performed in so many countries including the UK, Russia, Japan. The Navy Band (India) has built a repute for its originality when it comes to its style of music.
Martial Band comprises of a group of personnel who perform musical duties for military functions, typically consisting of wind and percussion instruments. The band conductor usually bears the title of Bandmaster.
A closer look at these Music Man behind the scenes shows it not easy. They are soldiers first and this means they have their task cut out for them. Exercise, drills, fighting-arm & combat training, Roster Duties are what must come first. In addition to this they also play…play Music that is. They are trained through a disciplined manner by their Ustaads before they get inducted as the Piper, the Drummer, The Jazzman etc. They form an integral part of any official ceremony be it the parades, the sports, the protocol events or even the official Mess gatherings.
What also makes these Bandsmen stand out is their presentation. From their attire to the rhythmic yet synchronised movements they are a class apart. If you can combine the grandeur of the Defence Personal with the aura of a musician and throw in a dose of beautiful soul-touching melodies – that’s when you get a Martial Bandsmen.
While most of their performances may be hidden from the public at large unless the one function where they get to demonstrate their play is the Beating The Retreat Ceremony held on the 29th Jan each year. This is where it all comes together. Marching in unison, playing in unison at the highest Martial levels. While the ceremony has been a regular affair for many years there have been additions and firsts slowly coming in. For example in 2016, Beating The Retreat Ceremony for the first time got a “Classical Touch” when the Martial bands were seen playing on the Sitar, Tabla and Santoor. Well ! we are still a day away from this year’s 29th Jan. So Catch them in action is what we would recommend.
So next time when you hear the “Sweet” yet “Kadak” melody of “Kadam Kadam Badhaye Ja” and your feet want to march to the beats picture these brave , talented , Unsung Music Men who win our hearts everytime they take to the stage and play their instruments. Our Salute to them.
For part A read the article
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