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Martial music to our ears, fused with a dash of state history

Army band during the ceremony of multinational field training exercise. (Source: Express File Photo)

THE MARCHING song ‘British Grenadiers’ or sounds of military instruments like drums, pipes and saxophones have exhilarating and enlivening parallels in Maharashtra’s martial history. Be it the Powadas – or narrative ballads from the history of Maratha kings or the motivating song Mard Aamhi Marathe Khare written by great Marathi poet GD Madgulkar or the instruments like Halgi, Dholki and Tutari, which even today give a sense of high to the listeners, the experience of listening to them is surreal.

Bringing this piece of history to stage, 70-year-old Lt Col Shashank Umalkar, who retired from the Corps of Signals in 1995 and is also an active contributor to the All India Radio, has conceived and written the script of a programme on the martial music of Maharashtra that will trace the history of this genre specific to the state. The military band from the Bombay Engineer Group (BEG) will perform live for the first staging of the programme, which will be held on July 9 at the Dhanwantari Auditorium of the Armed Forced Medical College at 6 pm.

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The visibly-enthused Lt Col Umalkar, who is all busy preparing for the programme, said, “Military music is an integral part of history and the Maratha era stands out in the martial history of entire India. The martial music, which is popularly known, is limited to Western and particularly, British tunes. However, all the regiments of the Indian Army have their own songs and marching tunes although they are generally limited to their units performances within the Army. This programme is an effort to present the music with a dash of history.”

The programme has received support from the Southern Command and the Dakshin Maharashtra Sub Area. The first part of the programme is an audio visual commentary named Itihas ke pannon se or From the Pages of History. The section talks about the evolution of martial music, right from various dynasties from Indian History, which influenced the geographical area where Maharashtra is located.
The second part talks about the period from 1000 AD to 1947 and post independence evolution of music of Army units.

This section talks of the Maratha history and also raising of Maratha Light Infantry (MLI) and Mahar Regiment in the British era, accompanied by live performances of their old and new songs. These performances by the BEG band will include MLI’s Mard Aamhi Marathe Khare and march tune Sinhagad named of iconic fort of Chhatrapati Shivaji, Mahar Regiment’s song Deshon Ka Sartaj. BEG band will also play the the tune British Grenadiers of the Artillery and ‘BEG ke Sainik Hum’.

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