HYDERABAD: The ability to make someone happy is nothing short of a superpower, and to make thousands dance to your beats in gleeful abandon must top the list of all superpowers.Spreading such cheer for decades are our brass bands, or our ‘Teen Maar Bands’, as they are known in Hyderabad. Be it a marriage, the birth of a child, Ganesh Chaturthi, a politico winning an election or even a funeral, Teen Maar bands have been an integral part of these life events.
The biggest achievement of these bands is that they have not lost their appeal over the years, but have, on the contrary, grown more popular.Yuvraj Kade of Natraj Brass Band located at Ghode Ka Khabar, says: “Though we have seasons when we receive a high number of invitations, we keep getting them all year round. I have been playing Dhol for 15 years now, and it has been a family profession. Earlier, it was primarily the Marwaris who would call us to play at their weddings, but now, all communities including Telugus, Marathis and Muslims call us.”
So why are these bands called Teen Maar bands? Yuvraj explains: “It’s called so because of the Teen Maar beat in which we produce three kinds of sounds in one beat. This is a beat typical to Telangana. It’s played even in religious festivals like Bonalu and Bathukamma.” The recent endeavours by the Telangana government to rejuvenate and make more people aware of the culture of the state has helped Teen Maar bands come back into spotlight.
Band Baaja Baarat
The importance of music bands in our marriages can be gauged from the popular adage “Band Baaja Baarat”, in which marriage and ‘Band Baaja’ come together. With cross cultural influences trickling down through social media and movies, it is no surprise that Hyderabadis too have embraced these crowd pleasers clad in red and white in a big way. Pointing out another reason for the increase of popularity of these bands, Viswanath from Mahalaxmi Band says: “Our demand has increased after police banned the mobile DJ system in Hyderabad. The DJ system produces sound of very high decibels that affect heart patients and the elderly.”
As in every other sector, brass band companies have been influenced by advances in technology. Gone are the days when brass bands used to be a cavalcade of a few men marching on. Now they have Pad Systems, which are small cars in which a synthesiser and a pad instrument are lodged. They are accompanied by the other musicians who walk with the vehicle. Similarly, they have Omni 8 Speaker Brass Band, Pad System Chatalu and others. Apart from piano and pad, other instruments played in these bands include Sheri Dhol, Maratha Dhol, Tasha Dhol, trumpet and saxophone.
Elaborating on the number of persons in each band, Jaganmohan Rao of Anuradha Band says: “The number of persons depends on the customer’s budget. We can have 12 members or 16 members. We get paid between `20,000 to `25,000 for one order.”
All is not well though
Despite the increase in business, it is not consistent all year round. It is at best a seasonal activity which thrives during the marriage season (December to April) and Ganesh Chaturthi (September), but in the remaining months, they are left to fend for themselves.
Yuvraj from Natraj Band goes back to farming in his home town Nanded, while his colleagues take up odd jobs like painting and driving auto rickshaws. Some lucky ones are called for film shootings, but business remains sporadic throughout the year. Ullesh from Jyothi Brass Band in Moosapet says: “We are a team of 40. It’s fine during the peak seasons, but we struggle during the rest. We take up jobs like tailoring to pull on.”
Yet another restricting raining on their parade is the ban on musical processions in the city after 10 pm. “This has brought down our business a lot. People have to get special permission to play beyond 10 pm. Sometimes they have them, sometimes they don’t,” said Suresh of E Sudhakar Band in Nayapul Darwaza.
“Once, we had gone for an order to Sithaphalmandi, but since the party had no permission from police, we had to return without getting paid,” said Ullesh. Speaking on the rule, a senior police officer said, “We are following a Supreme Court ruling that banned loud music between 10 pm and 6 am. We have even booked band members after receiving complaints from residents. We make exceptions only in the case of traditional processions which have been there for 40-50 years. Otherwise, the rule is strictly followed.”
Marfa – The Arab influence
Hyderabad is a melting pot of cultures, and no wonder its music too has been enriched by foreign influences. Marfa is a small hemispherical drum of Afro-Arabic origin. Marfa bands, which typically consist of musicians playing Marfa, Dhol and steel pots, are a big hit in celebrations in the city. These bands, which are said to have been around since the Nizam’s time, are best played by Siddis, an ethnic group from Africa.
Speaking about the beauty of their music, Khayyum Bin Umar, whose ancestors hail from Yemen, said, “We hang the Marfa drum around our neck and play. We have our slow beats (Shara) and fast beats (Sawari). When we play Teen Maar, we say, “Yabu Bakr Yabu Sala, Hazaraka Youmba”, which translates to “we have come, show your happiness”. We have played in marriage processions, in sports stadiums and even temples. Ours is hard manual work, but when we see the happiness on people’s faces, we just want to play on.”So next time when you come across a Teen Maar or a Marfa band playing, shake a leg to cheer for Hyderabad’s own music tsunamis.
— Kakoli Mukherjee