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Indian Army "Bandwalas" bajao

Monday, July 10, 2006

Pachmari (UNI): Down the ages, music has been used on the battlefront to inspire men to fight and to convey orders or commands. Indian military band has earned an international recognition due to the five-decade-long penance at an institute in this hill station Pachmarhi nestled among Satpura ranges. The Military Music Wing of the Army Education Corps Training College at Pachmarhi has played an important role in imparting training to bands and military musicians from Sri Lanka, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Fiji, Ghana, Kenya and Mauritius among other countries besides bands of three services and paramilitary forces of the country. It was under the guidance of this institute established under the patronage of Field Marshal K M Cariappa on October 23, 1950 that Indian Armed Forces entered the Guinness Book of Records for playing 'Amazing Grace' with 4,459 musicians forming the largest military band under one conductor.

Instruments such as sitar, sarod, santoor and tabla are an integral part of training of all the regiments of Indian Army, and it is being enriched with classical music. Performances by military band during concerts are quite enchanting, while albums and compact discs (CDs) are being prepared. Fusion of Western and Indian musical traditions has been quite successful at the MMW. The repertoire of patriotic songs for military band has been 'Vatan ki rah pe' composed by present MMW director S R Kandpal, while Naik Nathu Singh's music piece based on Raga Bhupali is played on 'Jaltarang'. Mr Kandpal said the MMW runs 10 courses including regimental music course, young bandsmen course, drum major course, pipe major course, piper course, potential band master course and pipe drummer course. The course duration ranges from three months to 148 weeks, while maximum number of seats has been increased from 264 to 364 seats.

Several musical instruments and equipment has been arranged in the past years, while affiliation was obtained from Prayag Sangeet Samiti, which is recognised by the UGC, and Pachmarhi was made examination centre. All the 357 candidates passed the examination. Besides developing practical skills of more than 22,000 candidates on playing for a military band, the MMW has imparted effective training in various aspects of music. These jawans create an ambience with their melodious tunes at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, Amar Jawan Jyoti and on the Republic Day.

More than 150 musical instruments and equipment kept at the MMW museum are reminiscent of an old era of music. Necessary changes have been made in the costumes of bandsmen and cultural traditions as the concept of military band is a legacy inherited from the British. The MMW has named its headquarters at Pachmarhi as the 'Kneller Hall of India' after the London-based 'Royal Military School of Music - Kneller Hall'. AEC chief trainer Colonel Bhanwar Rathore said former MMW director Harold Joseph was awarded padmashri, while two other former directors Major S S Nagra and Major N Hussein were conferred 'Vishishta Sewa' medals. Subedar Major Adarsh Kumar, who received appreciation letter from the Army Chief, travelled England, France, Italy, Nepal and Bhutan.

The charm of the institute is such that several armymen came here for training but got stuck with the place and became trainers themselves. Upon retirement, many of them found jobs in public schools. People associated with the MMW said a lot of changes come in the situation due to the initiative of the then Army Chief General Shankaray Choudhary and a change had come in people's mentality towards them hitherto mocked as 'bandwala'.

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