I am the Brass Bandmaster. We only play the wedding song tunes with the musical organs and instruments; military bands also perform steps. We have three kinds of programs – turbaned Punjabi band, Folk Punjabi band in Bhangra dance attire, and Pahadi band. We try to recreate the bygone atmosphere. I am the master, so I take the lead. First, I note down the current popular songs, then I create the tunes. Then we rehearse the tune at home. We perform a tune at an event after testing it on our instruments and singing along with the tune. Our net income is 2000-2500 per event. If we do it better then we can even earn 4000.
I have been in this profession since I was 13; now I have a grey beard, I am 50. I have started marrying off my children. My family was also in this profession. We were eight siblings, five sisters, and three brothers. No one was there to help my father. As I came of age, I started helping my father. I started off independently after the eight were married off.
We were living in Ludhiana when I turned 23. I worked there for 10 years. Father and uncle worked there as well. I could not study. I wanted to study but circumstances did not allow. My children do not like this work. If I take them along sometimes, they say ‘Why are you making us walk in these absurd uniforms.’ My point is that they should know what their forefathers did all their lives, and how it is done. They are working in factories now which does not pay as well as a brass band. I afforded education for my children and married off the daughter. The household is going fine.
We are five members in the band. Extra workers join us from outside. Some come from Jalandhar, some even come from Kapurthala or Hoshiarpur. My entire neighborhood is into this profession. We take them along too if the need arises. Our season starts in November – December and lasts till April. We make bamboo baskets rest of the time. A single profession is not enough these days.
My father could have been an officer in the electricity board in his time, but our elders did not let him. They said it is better to eat half a plate than eating a full plate outside, you should live the life we have been living. My father still earns his living. But this profession won’t last long. DJs have arrived. The young generation has started getting married in the courts. It is not possible to play a band there. The times have changed. Our generation used to work alongside our parents; today everyone is self-consumed.
Interview and Photos: Gurdeep Dhaliwal
Text: Jasdeep Singh
Edits: Sangeet Toor