The month-long ‘shaadi’ season came to a grand end on December 13, with the boisterous ‘baaraats’, the flash and the bling, as well as colourful self-indulgence intact. With it, came the end of another maddening and overworked stretch for Mumbai’s brass bands, most of which catered to more than 50 weddings in a single month.
The big fat Indian weddings have only grown fatter with every season, and the underrated brass bands have played a significant part in the revelry and celebrations. A plus-size Indian wedding isn’t complete without a noisy ‘baaraat’ dancing away to glory, and the brass bands undertake the responsibility that the ‘baaraatis’ don’t have a moment to catch their breath.
Even though singers have been banned from brass bands, due to police norms and the noise pollution they are supposed to cause, not much can dampen the spirits of these bands. Season after season, they dutifully play the most popular and cult Bollywood ‘shaadi’ songs in every wedding, and no matter if it’s a high-brow flashy wedding or a modest, middle-class ‘shaadi’, a fixed list of songs never fails to get the crowds going.
“The moment the ‘dulha’ comes out and sits on the ‘ghodi’, it’s the brass band’s obligation to play Aaj mere yaar ki shaadi hai,” says Vinod Bapukshisagar, of Chembur’s New Brass Band. “It’s the default opening song for a wedding since the past 25 years or so now.”
Several other old songs have an evergreen charm to them. No ‘baaraat’ is complete without songs likeMehendi lagake rakhna (Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge), Bholi surat (Albela), Teri rab ne bana di jodi (Suhaag), Raja ki aayegi baaraat (Aah) and Le jayenge le jayenge (Chor Machaye Shor).
The most popular songs that get the crowds dancing may have nothing to do with the occasion of a wedding, but it’s now an unfailing brass band ritual to play these songs. “Yeh desh hai veer jawaano ka (Naya Daur) is surprisingly the most popular bhangra dance song, followed by the naagin tune of Tan dole mera man dole (Nagin),” says Nanasaheb Kishore, of Thane’s Prabhat Brass Band. “Songs like Mera naam chin chin chu (Howrah Bridge) and Tequila are also requested a lot.”
Every year, before the marriage season begins, the brass bands spend a chunk of their time in learning some of the chartbusters of the year, so they can play them if the public requests. The top song of 2009, that is unanimously being played by most of Mumbai’s brass bands is Dev D’s Emosanal attyachar since the song itself was composed with the help of a brass band.
“From the very first wedding of this season, we started getting a ‘farmaaish’ for Emosanal attyachar, and we spent three days mastering it,” says New Brass Band’s Bapukshisagar. “I think the reason it works is because it has the brass band flavour and is a fun song. And since the songs are played without words in Mumbai, it doesn’t say anything negative about the wedding, and the crowd always enjoys it.”
Wanted’s Jalwa and Kaminey’s Dhan te nan follow close behind, but there are hardly any other songs this year that have impressed brass bands much. In fact, most brass bands aren’t too happy with the songs being churned out by Bollywood in the last decade.
Sighs Sheikh Naushad Chiragdin, of Pydhonie’s Bombay Native Band Panjabi, “The trend of using electronic instruments in Bollywood is spelling doom for the bands. Unlike the old days, hardly anyone makes simple music that can easily be adapted by brass bands. It’s tough to get the sound that the electronic instruments create.”
Vinod S More, who owns two bands Tansen Band and Vardhaman Band with Jagannath A More, and was once a part of the troupe of composers Laxmikant-Pyaarelal, RD Burman and Bappi Lahiri, has more grievances with today’s composers. “None of the songs are good enough to last in public memory. Plus, since there hardly any acoustic songs composed today, it’s not easy to play them.”
Over the last decade, only a few songs have made it to the repertoire of Mumbai’s brass bands. According to Pradip Khedekar of Super Melodies, Apna Sapna Money Money’s ‘Dil mein baji guitar’ is the most popular song from the last decade. “It is requested in every single wedding we have played.”
Gadar’s Main nikla gaddi leke, Bunty Aur Babli’s Kajrare, Om Shanti Om’s Dard-e-disco, Partner’s Dupatta tera, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi’s Chance pe dance, and Singh is Kiing’s Bhootni ke are some of the other songs of this decade that have repeat value.
Life of the party
“But most of these songs are hardly played since ‘baaraats’ are only 15-20 minutes long these days,” complains Tansen Band’s More. “On top of that, there are silent zones that have cropped up everywhere, we need police permission at various places to play and we also have to keep the sound levels to a certain number of decibels. These problems have compounded and brass bands are slowly losing their sheen.”
“Even then, the fact remains that Indian weddings cannot do without brass bands, since we are the life of every party,” says Super Melodies’ Khedekar optimistically. “Even with the arrival of hot shot DJs, I don’t think brass bands will ever become obsolete. We are a tradition as old as the Indian