Sunday, 12 October 2014

Protest pipers - Brass bands raise din about poll rallies

Stingy Netas Delay Payment, Say Musicians

The bike, the Aviator shades, the wrist watch and the poster of his brass band everything is black and gold. Nitin Jagtap's world, however, is black and white. It has good people and bad people. The bad people wear white, make grand promises embellished by Jagtap's music and then refuse to take his calls. Currently , such people owe him around Rs 7000.


"That's why I don't like playing at rallies," says Jagtap, the moustachioed owner of Shreshtha brass band in Chembur whose members are still waiting for their dues from a BSP campaign rally in April this year. It wasn't an easy gig. "It's no joke carrying all those instruments and following the candidate around for three to four hours in the heat," says Jagtap. "My labour comes from the interiors of Maharashtra and I am accountable if their payment doesn't come on time," adds the bandmaster, who faces no financial trouble from his wedding clients.


Soon, Jagtap would be getting enquiries from vari ous party workers looking for some lucrative noise in their constituency , would politely turn them down.


Strangely , that's the instinct of many bandwallahs in and around the city who were once a staple at election rallies. With a month to go before weddings begin and with affordable Nasik dhol troupes eating into their election-season demand, you would expect bandwallahs to leap at any opportunity for extra work. However, disgruntled by bitter experiences and other dynamics of political rallies, many say they would rather politely refuse than regret.


"Parties break into fights with each other," reasons Bhupesh Chowghi, owner of a Koli brass band in Sion, who has observed this trend back in his village Bhusawa in Koliwada. "One gets angry if we play at another's rally. That's why none of the Koli bands in my area perform at election rallies," says Chowghi, who used to play at such rallies in his village till two years ago. In fact, the fear of incurring political wrath is so strong that Vishnu, a wedding band organiser only stops short of folding his hands on the phone. "Weddings anytime, anywhere.Please spare me the wrath of politics," he begs.


Besides, "we get confused what to play ," says Haresh Alat of Maharashtra Dosti brass band and musical group. "For how long can we play the same patriotic songs?" Also, the money simply doesn't compensate for the the amount of work and time, they say . "We can finish two to three weddings in one day but for an election campaign, we have to devote one entire day ," says Alat. "It is very difficult to get a handsome amount of money from politicians," says Pradeep More, owner of New Gandharv brass band in South Mumbai, which recently did a rally for Congress's Amin Patel. "You have to have a lower pitch," More says, adding that they can't run the risk of burning bridges with the candidate. "What if he is elected," he reasons.


Rapport is of essence in the business. This is perhaps why Chirag Ali Baksh of Bombay Native Band chooses to send a few band members as soon as he gets a whiff of an impending rally in the area. But then there's also a deeper reason to volunteer.Gaurav Wadekar of Swar Zankar brass band of Pune agrees to perform at rallies for the prospect of publicity .Associating with a party adds to their street credibility. "This becomes a great advertisement we don't have to pay for," says Wadekar. And it is better than blowing his own trumpet.



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