POHIR, Sangrur district: Punjab loves the big, fat wedding. And longing for the glitzy band-baaja that accompanies every baraat is sweet music for a village, about 25 km from Ludhiana town. Pohir village of Sangrur district has around 30 pipe bands. And the number is growing, just like their reputation, across the north Indian state .
“It is perhaps the only village in Punjab with so many military-style bands. Our village is popular across Punjab due to these musicians. Out of a total population of 4,500, more than 300 villagers are into this profession,” said Sukhdarshan Singh, sarpanch, Pohir.Music is now Pohir’s USP. The bands have catchy, colorful names: Muskaan Fauji Band, Heera International band and the likes. One of the groups, Lovely Khalsa Pipe band, was also invited to perform at the tercentenary celebrations of the installation of the Guru Granth Sahib as the Sikh Guru at Takht Hazoor Sahib in Nanded (Maharashtra) in 2008. They also performed during the 350th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Gobind Singh at Patna Sahib (Bihar) in January this year.It all started about 30 years ago when one Gurdeep Singh retired from the Army and came home. He was a member of a regimental military band and became the village’s pied piper. Literally. He trained the villagers to play the instruments and formed Pohir’s first pipe band. “My band has performed at 125 marriages in the last seven months, and that includes weddings in cities like Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Chandigarh. We charge Rs 6,000 per day,” said Manjinder Singh, manager, Lovely Khalsa Pipe band.Gurdeep, 61, says that he joined the army in 1973 and learned to play the pipe from another Punjabi soldier Gurmeet Singh Maala Chaliyan. In 1997 I put together a band with 10 villagers. It took me around four months to train them. Punjabis love royal weddings. Soon my business picked up.Since then we have performed in Rajasthan,Pradesh,Haryana, apart from the cities and towns of Punjab.Their success inspired other villagers with an aptitude for music to learn the skill and has led to a proliferation of such bands. Musicians said that playing at weddings is a profit table side business for them. I was into life insurance but I wanted to earn more to support my big family: parents, wife, daughter and two sons. That’s why I joined the band in 2003, said 44-yearold Beant Singh who has played at over 1,000 weddings. I earn 500 per day for during the wedding season: October to April.
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