Band for your Buck

Band for your Buck

They are the baraat’s boisterous friends — the brass bands,gleaming in red and cheap gold epaulets at night,the drumhead screaming the names Billu Band or Bharat Band...

They are the baraat’s boisterous friends — the brass bands,gleaming in red and cheap gold epaulets at night,the drumhead screaming the names Billu Band or Bharat Band,the horns meeting the shehnai in thunderous Bollywood numbers that startle the decked-up horse the groom is gingerly holding on to. But,then,like everything else in a big,fat,super-rich Indian wedding,the singers too look and sound different — and high-end — these days. When an industrialist group threw a seriously classy jazz-themed wedding at The Oberoi recently,they did not want bhangra,they wanted some Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra. In walked the three-member jazz and blues band Syncopation with their guitar,bass and drums and cranked out Over the rainbow,Sinatra’s Witchcraft and the surprisingly slow jazz standard Autumn leaves by Oscar Peterson. The one-and-half-hour performance came at a princely Rs 1 lakh.

“The avid fans know what they are getting,” says guitarist and vocalist Rishi Raaj Sachdeva. “We perform at weddings where people enjoy old standards. We have a set list and usually don’t take requests from the audience.” The band,which was formed last October,however,goes easy on their dress code: preferably tees and denims. And when there is no wedding,they will be playing at Smoke House Grill at Greater Kailash II.

Meanwhile,Drift,another young jazz band with three core members,has clocked about 250 weddings since it was formed in January 2008. You can have A Night in Tunisia and Miles Davis numbers “for a little under Rs 1 lakh” and from a band that turns up in black tie since “most hotels have a dress code”. Percussionist and song writer Reuben Narain says when the band requires a crooner or a violinist,they rope in other musicians and perform as Jazz Connection. “The elite crowd wants something different,” says Divya Gurwara,CEO of Bridal Asia,which provides a one-stop shop for weddings. “The jazz bands are brought to entertain guests flown in from abroad and are perfect for a laidback evening.”

But if lounge music is more your thing,call Jannat. Formed in September last year,the three-member band cranks out folk songs,original compositions and classical music for the city’s swish set. “Ours is a very laidback lounge music infused with classical instruments,” says Nikkhil Beri,keyboardist and composer. “We usually build up the base with soft Indian songs and go on to original compositions. Rajasthani folk numbers are much appreciated by the audience and we give them a twist by incorporating a sarangi.” The performance spans an hour and a half with a set list of 15 songs. The dress code of the band — sherwanis and kurta — matches their music. Jannat pockets Rs 1 lakh for a performance. Soundscape,meanwhile,rewinds to rock ’n’ roll,with Prateek Sen and his two friends turning Boyzone and Bryan Adams in a performance spanning two hours. The trio cost upwards of Rs 40,000.

But,praise the Lord,there is a band that does not cost half the earth and still sounds different. Impromptu have five members who would sing blessed hymns as well as The Beatles covers. In early July,the four vocalists,Sneha Sachar,Akane Ozawa,Reuben Israel and S Chidambaram ,with Emi Hayama on the piano,were at the Church of Immaculate Conception in Gurgaon,cranking out impressive and often improvised hymns,like Joyful we adore thee sung in a swing style. The bride walked in to the strains of Wagner’s Bridal March and each aspect of the ceremony was followed by a different piece of music. Finally,the bride and the groom,walked out,hand in hand,to the rousing strains of Mendelssohn’s Wedding March made popular by the film Four Weddings and a Funeral. “The music was appreciated by several. The priest,who conducted the service,was especially thrilled to hear Ave Maria,which he learnt as a boy,” says Israel. The charges of Impromptu are pegged at around Rs 10,000.

Contact: Syncopation,Soundscape,Drift and Jannat: 41435429

Impromptu: 41720230