Picture this, you’re driving/riding back home after a tiring day at work. The traffic is terrible and you can feel there’s a massive clog up ahead.
You get down to inspect the ruckus and lo and behold. There’s a barati there, dancing away to glory to the tunes of the Band Baaja.
All the chachas and mamas showing their best broken dance moves while inching forward and the band playing its tunes with full galore.
What do you do? Yes, admit it, you break into a jig like it’s your own cousin’s wedding, forgetting about the excel sheet you’ve been working on all day!
That’s the charm of the typical biye bari band baaja!
But wait a minute, who are these mysterious, uniformed musicians? Where do they come from? How are they so disciplined? Where are they trained? Here’s all you need to know about the band baaja walas of Kolkata
It so happens that the bulk of the Band Baaja shops are dotted all across M.G Road. While most of the shops have been there from before the country’s independence, some have shut down while others are run by the fourth or fifth generation of the family.
Not Just Band Baaja
Now if you imagine that the Band Baja members just play alone to random tunes, think again. From trumpets, trombones, brass horns, saxophones, side drums, dholkis, hand cymbalsn and sousaphones, the band baaja wallas use a variety of musical instruments to create the perfect tune to make your dancing pants come on.
“The advantage is that the entire baraati is elated when we head to a wedding, so all that is needed is a slight pumpy tune that sets the pace. But however easy it may appear, it still is a Herculean task to keep the mood jolly till we reach the venue” said Ashraf Raza, a band member from one of the shops on M.G.Road
The Party Must go on
The band baaja walas carefully maintain their ever-sparkling instruments and meet up for riyaz (practice sessions) almost every week. All the band baaja walas undergo rigorous training procedures by their head- the band master before they come on board. It is interesting to note that most of the band baaja walas come from UP and Bihar and go home after the marriage season is over.
November end to March being their season, they live in temporary cramped houses near M.G Road. But there are others that have rented homes where they practice and live. The number of people in a band varies from 20 to 100 depending on the requirement of the booking
Yesterday’s glory only?
Earlier there were more than 50 shops on M.G road, now there are only around 25 of them
“Even though you have the internet to play your favourite music and a DJ to make you move to the tune, nothing can beat the rush of a live orchestrated performance” said Sajil Hussain, a young band baaja member of one of the groups at M.G Road
Off late, the trend of elaborate band formations and props has seen a downward trend with portable loud speakers and lighting set ups getting a trendy preference.
In all, there is no denying the fact that the practice of the grand band baaja leading a barati is dying a slow death, but there still is a long time before they are seen no more.