Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Denver Post | India's Brass Bands

Photo © REUTERS/Mansi Thapliyal- All Rights Reserved

The photograph of the Indian brass band at the Kumbh Mela prompted a quick search on the 'internets', and I landed on the recent Denver Post photo blog with a whole photo story on an Indian brass band.

It seems the proper name for such bands is Baja, and they have become part of the Indian culture. These bands play an essential role during high (and low) profile events such as weddings, religious festivals, elections and so forth. They can be seen marching through towns and villages dressed in ill-fitting military outfits...the gaudier the better.

There are usually two trumpeters in each band along with drummers and musicians who play wind and pipe instruments. The best time for the Baja bands is the wedding season in India... particularly in the large cities, whether Delhi, Mumbai or Kolkata. Moreover, the annual religious festivals such as the Kumbh or animal fairs in Pushkar offer gigs to these musical bands, whose members usually have another job for the rest of the year.

Interestingly, there are (or used to be) similar bands with the same purpose in Egypt...and they're called hassaballa. They also wear ill fitting gaudy military outfits, with tarnished gold trim, gaiters over sandals or old shoes, et al. They would play at weddings, birthdays...even during religious holidays. 

But back to the Indian Baja bands...the photographs on the Denver Post photo blog are by Mansi Thapliyal. Mansi attended the Chiang Mai Foundry Photojournalism Workshop in 2012.