The Beating Retreat on Indian notes


With shehnai matching the shrill legato music of the bagpipes, the roll of the drums creating emphatic rhythms and a host of trumpets, horns and trombones playing in unison, the curtain call was made for the 64th Republic Day celebrations on Tuesday with an exquisite Beating Retreat ceremony in the capital.

Flanked by the North and South Block on either side with camel regiment station on the terraces and the majestic Raisina Hill as the backdrop, Vijay Chowk witnessed a host of Indian and western martial tunes creating an altered state of consciousness, which will be remembered by those who witnessed the evening.

The ceremony did not sound like a colonial remnant, but was an hour of nostalgia with some of the finest musicians dressed in fatigues. Fourteen military bands and 17 pipe-and-drum bands from a number of regiments and battalions, and Indian Navy and Air Force bands performed to a semi-packed house.

After President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chief Sonia Gandhi and the three defence chiefs arrived at the venue, the trademark bugle call a regular when honour music for a distinguished gathering is played was made. This was followed by a compound quick march forward to the popular patriotic tune Kadam kadam badhaye ja by the massed bands.

The pipe-and-drum bands followed with a host of tunes, all by Indian composers. "All of them are extremely creative boys and add a lot to the choreography," said Lt Cdr S K Champion, principal conductor of the ceremony. He said over the years, the strict military bands have become more flexible about the music at the ceremony.

"It used to be extremely sedate, but this year's ceremony was more upbeat. People like it that way," Champion said.

A lot of Indian martial music is based on and inspired from British tunes as it is more harmonic and energetic than others. "These tunes are extremely dynamic. So most Indian martial tunes work on the British format," he said.

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