Music is said to have a healing touch, as it can evoke emotions, affect one’s mood and help one unwind. Perhaps, this is one of the reasons why military music was born. In the past, during wartime, martial music was played to uplift the confidence of the troops in moments of stress. Even in times of peace, music is known to set the pace for action and gearing up one’s body for various activities involved in the army life. Thus, from the time of reveille to retreat, a soldier’s activities revolve around music in its varied forms.The members of the military band are now gearing up for the Military Band Concert 2019 that is slated to take place today at the James Prinsep Ghat. Every year, the concert is open to civilians and is an audio-visual treat for the audience.
History of the military music wing
When the British left India in 1947, the need was felt to set up an institution of military music in our country on the lines of Kneller Hall, London, which houses the Royal Military School of Music and trains musicians for the British Army. It was decided that an institution of military music will be instituted to give a new direction and dimension to the music of the Indian armed forces. And Pachmarhi in Madhya Pradesh was considered to be the apt place for that. The fresh and unpolluted air of Pachmarhi is a boon for the musicians, especially for the woodwind instrument players. Here, their lungs of the musicians can be exercised to the best of their capabilities. Field Marshal KM Cariappa, OBE, was the founder of the military music wing in 1950. The wing was tasked to train band masters and instructors for all the armed forces of the country.
Parameters for choosing band members
Music provides recreational support to the soldiers who spend months away from home. The present day martial music of the Indian Army has its roots in the period when British troops spearheaded the imperial conquest of India. The quest for Indianisation of martial music started with Independence. Capt D Prabakaran, Inspector of Army Bands, HQ Eastern Command, who has been associated with military bands for the past 30 years, shared with us the basic parameters of selecting the members of the bands.
“First and foremost, the person needs to have a knack and inclination towards music. Then we check how proficient he is in playing the blowing instruments, his singing skills, knowledge in western and classical music, and sense of rhythm,” he said. The basic training time needed is one year and is known as the Young Band’s Man course.That, of course, doesn’t mean that the band members are non-combat personnel. They too undergo their basic military training and undertake refresher courses on an annual basis to stay prepared for combat duty.
Types of bands
A military band has three divisions. One is the brass band, second, pipe and drums band, and the third is the Jazz band. “The pipe and drums band plays an important part in a soldier’s life. The bagpipe is one of the most ancient musical instruments in use. They were used in the Roman Army before they reached England and Scotland. Though it’s not known when the pipe came into the Indian Army, but the British Army first introduced the pipe and drums band in Sikh, Gorkha, Pathan and other regiments in the late 19th century,” added Capt Prabakaran.
Instruments of a military band
A band consists of woodwind, brass and percussions instruments. The woodwind instruments are made of ebonite and or metal for tropical countries and include piccolos, flutes, oboes, clarinets, saxophones and bassoons. While the brass instruments are French horns, cornets or trumpets, trombones, euphonium and basses. Instruments such as the side drum, bass drum, timpani and cymbals come under the category of percussion instruments. Some of the instruments that are used in symphony orchestras are violin, cello, guitar, double bass, piano, synthesizer and metronome.
Music played by military bands
Capt Prabakaran, who is also the conductor of the Army Band, HQ, Eastern Command, informed us that the three sections of a performing band are melody, counter and rhythm. And the band plays over 50 types of tunes. “Some of the most famous and common types of music presented by the military band are slow march, quick march, waltz, overture, orchestra, selection, patriotic, folk, troop, serenade, fanfare, rhapsody, tango, raag, opera and symphony, among others,” he said.
They also perform compositions of well-known musicians like Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Gioachino Rossini, Franz Joseph Haydn, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and others.
Occasions when military bands perform
The bands perform during all the ceremonial events like the Republic Day Parade on January 26, Independence Day parade on August 15, Army Day on January 15, Vijay Diwas and Kargil Vijay Diwas in Drass. They wear their ceremonial attire during these occasions. Apart from these events, the band plays during the passing out parade, during any guard of honour, guard mounting or change of guard. Indian military bands have jointly performed with the amred forces of South Africa, Chile and Sweden.
The Military Band Concert that happens every year is part of the Vijay Diwas celebrations organised to commemorate the victory of India in the Indo-Pak War of 1971 and the liberation of Bangladesh. Apart from marching tunes, patriotic songs, Bollywood retro numbers, Bengali and Bangladeshi songs will be presented by the band members. City-based singer Madhumanti Mukherjee will also perform for the first time with the band.
1. The military band was founded by Field Marshal KM Cariappa, OBE, in 1950
2. The band uses woodwind, brass and percussions instruments
3. A pipe and drums band has 19 members
4. A brass band has 34 members
5. The military band plays slow march, quick march, waltz, overture, selection, patriotic and others
6. Mention in the Guinness Book of Records: On December 16, 1997, in New Delhi, 4,459 musicians from the Indian armed forces played the tune, Amazing Grace, forming the largest military band under one conductor
Source: Times of India