From leading a 20-strong musical troupe ahead of a marriage procession during wedding season to idly turning the pages of an ill-kept register, Mahendra Khanna, a brass band shop owner, has seen the best and the worst of wedding band business. He speaks about the golden period and the current challenges to LokMarg:
The wedding season used to be the busiest time for us. In the mornings, we would all gather in my office, putting the uniforms together, ironing them and getting the gear ready for the evening. The sounds of tuning the musical instruments – drums, trumpets, clarinets, cymbals – filled the air. Sometimes, the band would break into an impromptu performance. Their happiest moments were when they had mastered a new tune.
In the evenings, I would lead the band troupe (this could range from 12-20 players) and walk like the captain of a battalion with my head held high. There would be another part of the team of about 15-20 daily-wagers who carried rows of chandeliers to keep the path illuminated. The wedding processions would look royal because of us.
Our patrons were quick to recognise the talent of the band members. They were showered with cash rewards and praises when they played music on demand.
The musicians were hired on the basis of an annual contract as it was difficult to find musicians during the wedding season. Although they were not paid much, they remained loyal to the brand they worked for. This was probably the best platform for them to showcase their talent. Our schedule used to be jam-packed during the wedding season – with hardly any ‘lean day’.
But this was 12 years ago. Now almost all our days are lean.
The wedding season is just around the corner but we hardly have any bookings. We still have a dedicated trained staff who have mastered the drums, trumpets, clarinets and cymbals but they are left with no other option to look for other jobs.
Indian weddings have changed. New and cheaper ‘DJ bands’ have eaten into our business. Now, anyone, who has a bit of money can jump into the business with a small one-time investment. It doesn’t matter whether you have the ear for music or not. You hardly need to know the technicalities. All you need is a trolley that can carry huge speakers, a good music system that can play songs and a collection of music on a laptop. The DJ just needs some basic knowledge about running a music system. Nowadays, they can even play music through their smart phone and connect it to speakers!
My brass band team is now jobless and they do not fit anywhere with this new avatar of celebrations. Once, I thought of including this new trend into my band but the mere thought was horrible. It would have left my talented bunch of musicians without any work, walking like dressed-up puppets along the DJ bands.
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