New tunes jostled with old
There was no competition between the tunes introduced this year and the time tested old ones. They were easy on the ears. The viewers and listeners tapped on the tunes they had heard in years gone by and at the same time their ear to ear grin told the tale of new tunes going well with the old and young alike.
The arrival of different segments of bands was so well arranged that the agonizing time gap was just not there. The 14 Military Bands of the Army and their 17 Pipes and Drums stood together cheek by jowl whereas the four military bands each of the Navy and Air Force stuck together throughout their performances and breaks. Besides these, there were 85 buglers and 14 trumpeters who contributed their share in making the spectacle, Beating Retreat, a memorable one.
The fan fare sounded right at the beginning and that prompted all eyes to turn to the slope on the Raisina Hills where the combined bands of the three services stood to attention raring to go. Squadron Leader G. Jayachandran, as the Conductor-in-Charge, had taken permission of President of India, Chief Guest, to commence the ceremony and signaled to the bands to march down the slope between the North Block and the South Block to the Hindi tune Jahan Daal Daal Par, composed by Hansraj Behel and arranged by Major Mahendra Das.
The Pipes and Drums of the Army held the centre stage now and opened their repertoire with the lilting music entitled hey kancha composed by Subedar Jaman Singh. It was followed by a Kumaoni Geet by the same composer. Both the items were received well by the vast multitude of men and women from all walks of life.
The Scottish Tunes were awaited by one and all. After all the Pipes and Drums are from Scotland and if they do not the tunes from the place of origin, more than half of the fun is gone. Never mind if the Indian bandsmen do not wear the Scottish Kilt but they are delighted to play the tune “Kilt is my Delight” composed by W. Ross and Reel. Another tune “The Marques of Huntley” played a little earlier went well with the multitude who had little knowledge of the Scottish lore.
Came the much awaited bands of the Navy and the Air Force and brought a whiff of delightful change. Skylord, the Fanfare composed by Sqn Ldr G. Jayachandran signaled the change of military music and the ambience. The same composer gave the audience the next number entitled appropriately, Brave Warriors, a quick march.
Jayachandran remained on the scene with his next number, a slow march, Stride. It was immediately followed by a quick march by a Navy musician, Lt Commander SK Champion, named appropriately The Western Seas. After all the bulk of the Indian Navy including the latest acquisition, an aircraft carrier Vikrant is deployed in the Arabian Sea.
Back to the Hindi numbers by the Military Bands of the Indian Army. The Fanfare entitled Swarnim Desh composed by Major Girish Kumar walked away with the cake as far as the Fanfare domain was concerned. Among the evergreen tunes were Amar Senani composed by Capt HK Thakur; Dhwaj Ke Rakshak composed by JHD Simeon, a former Director of the Military Music Wing, AEC Training College and Centre, Pachmarhi.
A long lost tune composed by the first Indian Director of Military Music at Pachmarhi, Harold Joseph who looked for native tunes among high hills and picturesque dales in remote areas far removed from metropolitan cities, was Gagan Dhamma Bajio. It went down very well with the lovers of folk lore and songs tuned to military music.
Came the traditional Drummers Call, always a popular item with the young and old alike. The beat of the drum was followed by the spiritually emotional tune Abide With Me, composed by WH Monk, and a favourite of Mahatma Gandhi. Even those who are not conversant with the finer points of military music love to hear this universally popular tune, especially its echo produced on tubular pipes from the unseen corners of high Roman pillars of the North Block of the Central Secretariat. Indeed it was a divine feeling that possessed the audience and they said that time and money were well spent even if they had listened in to Abide With Me.
Dot at 6 pm, with the fading light of the Sun denoting that it was about to set, came the sound of Retreat from numerous buglers placed at vantage points for sight and sound. The National Flag was slowly lowered and wrapped by trained service personnel. The combined Services Bands marched back to the Raisina Hills and the President’s Bodyguards on their majestic mounts lined up for the National Salute.
With the last strain of the National Anthem played aloud on the public address system all eyes were focused on the Central Secretariat, the Rashtrapati Bhawan and the Sansad Bhawan for a spectacular mass lighting of magnificent buildings in sand stone.
Lo and Behold; it was lights, lights and lights. The entire area was well illuminated; not even a speck of darkness. Our prayer was answered when we said: Tamso Ma Jyotirgamay: Lead us from darkness unto Light.