When was the last time you saw a shehnai vaadak (player) playing at a wedding?
While the instrument has always been considered auspicious at Indian wedding ceremonies, its tunes have faded out over the years. Many feel that the DJs and loud music have replaced it at most functions now.
Ahead of the wedding season, we met some city-based shehnai groups and asked them about the work they get, and the future of their craft.
S Padmakar Instrumental Orchestra: S Padmakar, a member of the group comes from a family of shehnai vaadaks. He has been playing the instrument for the past 20 years. While his group continues to get invitations to perform at weddings, he says the number of the performances in the wedding season is uncertain nowadays.
"On an average, we get to perform at about 20-25 functions per season. For me, my art is the biggest asset, and I don't care about the money. I even got a job at a bank because a senior official liked my music. We perform largely at Punjabi, Muslim and Gujarati weddings," he says.
Yashwant More And Group: Sanjay More, a member of the group, says that the shehnai-playing tradition in his family started with his grandfather 60 years ago and he has been a shehnai player for 10 years.
"While our art is appreciated by the listeners, the demand has fallen ever since DJs have emerged. We used to get a lot of work about 10-15 years ago. But now, we perform at about 10 weddings per season," says More.
His group often compromises on their fee to get work. "Our fee varies depending upon the timing, and sometimes, we also compromise on the amount to get work. Sometimes, we perform for as little as Rs 3,000," he adds.
Yogesh More And Shehnai Party: Yogesh More, the lead member of this group, says they performed at Ahana Deol's wedding. But that doesn't mean they get numerous invitations to perform.
"I have been playing the shehnai for 18 years. Earlier, we used to play at about 15-20 weddings in a month, but now, we hardly get to perform at about five per season. I think there is now a monopoly of DJs," says More.
Vijay Belbansi And Group: Vijay Belbansi has been playing the shehnai for 12 years and he feels that the demand for the instrument has gone down because of the changing tastes of people.
"Logon ki nayi pasand ho gayi hai (People have newer choices now). The trend now is of DJs and loud music. Par acche bajaane walon ko kaam mil hi jaata hai (Artistes who play well manage to get work somehow). But we dread the future of the shehnai" says Belbansi.