For the past six months, 149 naval officers on board INS Kunjali in Colaba have been perfecting their musical notes for an orchestra performance on Thursday.
The officers, who are taking music lessons at the Indian Navy’s School of Music, will perform tunes ranging from Indian devotional songs to Western fusion and jazz at the Indian Navy Symphonic Orchestra concert night at the Nehru Centre in Worli. The concert is a part of the Indian Navy Day celebrations, which commemorates India’s victory in the 1971 war against Pakistan on December 4.
“We refer to ourselves as a ‘wind orchestra’ because we rarely use string instruments, except in certain concerts. We use them during practice, and replicate the sound of the violin and the guitar on wind instruments such as trumpet and flute,” said lieutenant commander SK Champion, who is the director of music at the Indian Navy.
While rehearsals for the concert orchestras began months in advance, the musicians on board have never been out of touch with their music. “We perform at official ceremonies and receptions throughout the year. If the orchestra members are not performing, they attend lectures on the physics of sound and harmonics and other theory at the school of music,” added Champion. While the naval forces of Nepal and Burma include women in their band, the Indian Navy Band is an all-male one. “There are very few applications from women across the country and hence, we decided to train an all-male troupe. The majority of the applications come from rural areas, where the men have already been performing in local marriage bands and groups,” said Champion. “We receive thousands of applications in April, from which only 20 new recruits are chosen,” he added. Those selected join the sailor cadre.
On Thursday, the orchestra will begin with Brass Mello Strings, Woodbins and Glocknspien and will end with a carnatic fusion in Ragam Shanmugapriya “The 45-minute performance will also include Hindi devotional songs and folk songs of Gujarat and Goa,” said Champion.
Commander Manmohan Singh from the Indian Navy said: “The band is the best in Asia. The American and British bands are ahead of us in terms of performance and skill. However, the Indian Navy Band is merely 60 years old and is catching up with the West”.