Bring on the Band Baja –
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Last week I had to hunt around for musicians to play at Anna Shetty’s wedding. Most Indian weddings have a live band escorting the groom’s party to the wedding venue and several early mornings have been disturbed by loud film music played very enthusiastically by outfits derogatorily referred to as the “Nankhatai Band”. Dressed in gaudy red coats trimmed with gold, wearing ill fitting hats and almost always quite drunk,these poor musicians have to be on duty at early hours of the morning after having been let off pretty late the night before.
But even if bands are not de-rigor at a wedding ,we felt that it may be a good touch to have some live performers playing the shehnai. So it was that I went looking for a suitable band. At a wedding last year I had picked up a card of the band of musicians playing the Shehnai and called them for a quote. I was shocked when I was told that they charged Rs 17,000 for one performance! Although the band was travelling from Pune, this figure was really too much . So I began hunting for local talent in earnest and was thrilled when Sonu the priest at the Shankarshett temple told me about another shehnaiwallah in Mulund who charged all of Rs.5000. With this more realistic figure, live music at the wedding function seemed more affordable and I realised that there would be some performers closer to home.
After scouting around, I came upon a whole host of them clustered in the area at Girgaon‘s Tatya Gharpure Road off the main VP Road near the Amboli Church crossing . They enthusiastically brought out photo albums of their past performances while I eyed their cupboards filled with stacks of different outfits. Thoroughly impressed by their professionalism I took their visiting cards to make the final deals from home after discussing with the rest of the family.
In conversation :
“Hello, is that XXXX Bandwallah?”
“Yes, it is”
“What do you charge for playing the shehnai at a wedding?”
“Well we charge per hour Rs. XXX for a two hour slot”
“Does this include the cost of transportation?”
“Yes it does”
“Any other hidden costs like tips?”
“No, but we charge more if you want us to play with clothes on.”
“What!!! you mean to say you play without any clothes?”
“No of course we play with clothes but not special clothes unless you pay extra”
“Oh I see”
I still have to get over the fright I got when I imagined the shenhaiwallas playing stark naked at Anna Shetty’s wedding!