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Inspiring courage and valour with martial music

Last updated on: October 26, 2011 19:14 IST

Armed forces all over the world have deep-rooted martial music traditions. Martial music is one of the many forms of music particularly composed to create 'Veer Rasa'. The essential qualities of martial music have been described in great detail by Bharat in his Sanskrit treatise on music titled 'Natyashastra'. He described music as God's creation, capable of touching the heart and soul, thus, arousing emotions. Music aided by words and beats becomes a very potent and pertinent medium for rousing emotions.

In olden times, martial music roused and inspired feelings of courage and valour amongst soldiers in the battlefield. The present bands are evolved from such old and venerated traditions of martial music. Even though the military band is ceremonial in its function, it plays an important role in instilling a sense of pride and motivating men to accomplish deeds of excellence, be it in operations, the field of sports or other functions of regimental life.

These bands are part of ceremonial attestation parades, official functions, and officers mess parties, regimental dinner nights, unit celebrations and drill parades. They play regimental tunes, traditional marching tunes, folk tunes, making these functions more colorful and enjoyable.

The main objective of martial tunes for the infantry is to promote orderly marching, enliven the spirit, and minimise fatigue and boredom. They also inspire the troops to fight and carry out orders and commands. The war songs of the primitive societies when sung by fighting members of a tribe, raised the morale of troops and, on the other hand, instilled fear in the enemy. Vocal music along with the instrumental music also contributed to the cause.

A military band has woodwind, brass and percussion instruments blended together according to certain internationally accepted conventions. The brass band has only brass and percussion instruments and is known in India. A proper balanced military band consists of a band master and 33 musicians.

All infantry regiments of the Indian Army have pipes and drums, thus playing an important part in a soldier's life. Generally speaking, bagpipes have always attracted all the strata of society, particularly the officers of the armed forces. A properly balanced pipe and drums consists of a band master and 17 musicians.

It is interesting to see that music in the armed forces of the world have striking resemblances and common factors. The instruments that are in use by the bands of different countries are very similar. The kind of music that is played by these bands has a great deal of similarity since it is largely western in origin, though international in practice and appreciation. Countries like the USA, Russia and China are far removed from each other geographically, culturally and politically and yet, in matters of music, have a great deal in common in the type of music and instrumental combinations.

The military bands were invited to give pubic performances during the Napoleonic period. The origin of 'massed band' can also be traced to this period when loudness of music had to be ensured to drown the ambient noise levels of large audience which gathered near parade grounds or city squares.

In the late 18th, and 19 centuries, the advent of mass armies gave rise to the patriotic war song, of which 'La Marseillaise' of revolutionary France was the prototype. In Germany and Japan in particular, military authorities made sure that singing was a regular part of army life as a means of improving the martial order of their conscripts. In the American Civil War, songs such as 'The Battle Cry of Freedom' lifted the spirit of union soldiers on the march and in combat.

The improvement in metallurgical technology helped musicians like sax and others in 19th century to improve the shape, strength, design and tonal quality of musical instruments. Clarinets performed a major role in playing the martial tunes with their distinct sharp and creamy tonal quality. Another notable aspect was that these instruments could be played while the bandsmen marched with the troops.

The Indianisation of martial music actually began with Dr Harold Joseph who was an Officer on special duty military music, ministry of defence, for more than a decade. He broke new ground by composing a number of quick march tunes based on Indian folk melodies. Later, some tunes were composed based on ragas. Indian folk melodies. Indian musical instruments such as santoor, sitar, bamboo flute, tabla, dholak, violin, dilruba, and Israj have also found a place in band concerts.

Nowadays, this fusion style has become famous. This has brought a new taste of music in human life. The soothing sound of these instruments is used to heal and cure even severely ailing people. It has brought the revolution in the history of music. People are taking more interest to learn these instruments. It is little bit hard to synchronise with the military band but hard labor and interest of musicians has brought success in the history of music. Gradually this has become popular not only in India but also in Western countries, European countries are demanding these tunes to which one can only say, 'Jai Ho'.

Vimal Joshi
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