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Glimpses of street brass bands from cities across India

New Delhi: They could be migrant labourers, rickshaw pullers, farm labourers or waiters, all united by a common love for music. Stories of such ragtag group of men who comprise street brass bands have been captured in photographs.

Six photographers have collaborated to document the lives of the ubiquitous ‘bandwallahs’ across various cities in India and the results are being showcased in an exhibition titled – “Bajaatey Raho”.

Curated by photo historian and archivist Aditya Arya, the show tries to encapsulate the glorious past and the gloomy present of the ‘bandwallahs’ who can be typically seen livening up wedding processions or baarats with their trumpets, pipes, clarinets, drums and other music instruments.

“I am a firm believer that an essential role of photography lies in the genre of photo documentaries. It is imperative and a social obligation for every photographer to document and share such bodies of work,” says Arya.

“These six photographers have not only encapsulated a very intimate relationship shared by these bandwallahs but also the ironies and lonely existence,” he says.

While many of the images are from public performances, larger the more interesting body of work has emerged from the personal and private spaces of the performers.

The exhibition includes works from 6 photographers namely Nirvair Singh Rai, Raj Lalwani, Richa Bhavanam, Sujatro Ghosh, Sujata Khanna and Vinit Gupta.

While Raj Lalwani documented performers in Goa, Nirvair Singh Rai captured those from Punjab, Richa Bhavnam clicked pictures in southern India and Sujata Khanna and Vinit Gupta brought forth pictures of bandwallahs from Delhi.

About 50 to 60 pictures focus on the attire, props and the instruments rather than the faces of the ‘bandwallahs’.

Photographer Sujatro Ghosh documented Kolkata’s Mehboob band among the other bands whose existence dates back before independence. Divided into seven shops at the Mahatama Gandhi Road of Northern Kolkata, the band has two-three wings and approximately¬† four to five sets of dresses which they use during peak wedding season.

“Documenting band parties was a new experience all together. Staying with them for weeks, sharing their food, experiencing their lifestyle, knowing the happy and dark secrets of their life was all a part of it,” says¬† Sujatro Ghosh.

The performers, he says often live in shabby rooms or thatched single room huts, the costumes they wear during the performance weigh approximately 1.5 kgs because of the heavy ‘zari’ decorations on them which causes skin irritation.

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