There are scores of wedding bands in the city with their own unique style of performance and uniforms
Lahore: In Lahore, no marriage procession is considered complete if the groom comes to the house of the bridegroom for marriage without the wedding band leading the baraat (wedding party of relatives).
Though there are scores of wedding bands in the city including the army and police wedding bands, two traditional bands have managed to survive for more than a century and are still the first choice for any wedding. Jehangir (Alamgir) Band and Soni Band are well-versed in classical music and can play any raag or film song.
The demand for these bands is so high during the wedding season (November to March) they have to be booked at least two to three months in advance.
Wearing beautiful decorated uniforms they move gracefully in single file in two parallel lines in front of baraat. People shower them with money (notes of Rs10 to Rs1,000), which is collected by a couple of assistants.
Jehangir band is the oldest marriage band. Jehangir Khan laid the foundation of this band in 1860 in Amritsar. Now his great grandson Adnan Aurangzeb helms it after it was managed by his grandfather Ustad Alamgir, uncle Ustad Ali Khan, and father Ustad Shahjahan Khan. He is the fourth generation. The band moved to Lahore after partition of the subcontinent.
Adnan said Ustad Jahangir Khan was a master of the flute while his grandfather was a master of the clarinet.
“Pakistan awarded Ustad Gulam Hassan Shaggan numerous awards including Pride of Performance (Pakistan’s most prestigious award) and Sitara-e-Imtiaz (2000) (Star of Excellence).
“I remember the day when my father was awarded the Pride of Performance in 1988 along with a cash prize of Rs25,000 (Dh872).
“There is not too much money in this business as you see we have always had our office and practice room on rent. I would not wish my son to continue in this business, but it is his choice,” Adnan said. Today Jehangir Band has 16 musicians.
Gulam Muhayyudin, who has the same name as his grandfather now runs the other popular band called Soni Band. “My grandfather Gulam Muhayyudin laid the foundation of Soni band in 1939,” he said.
Muhayyudin said his grandfather secured a job in His Master’s Voice (HMV) a famous recording company when he was 16. “He was the only person in British India who could play five instruments perfectly. He was invited for recordings of film songs in Banaras, Bombay, Dehli and in Lahore.
“When he was leading his band from Lakshmi Chowk a director from All India Radio stopped his car and asked him to perform at Dussehra festival in Lohari Gate area. After that performance the Soni band never looked back and became the talk of the town.
“We are proud to say that we are the leading band in Lahore and are invited from different cities across Pakistan to perform in weddings. The wedding season is only for four to five months but has a large clientele. We earn in the season and are able to live comfortably even when there are no functions to perform. We earn for the whole year. I lead the band by playing clarinet like my father and grandfather,” Mohyyuddin said.
Music critic and promoter of singers and musical bands Zahid Khan said both bands are part of the rich cultural heritage of Pakistan.
“These bands play musical instruments which are all English but the music they produce is classical and traditional. All the musicians first get training in classical music. They begin training at the age of six or seven so that when they grow, they are perfect and can play any tunes. These bands have made their own compositions, which is their forte. They are true artistes and the government should promote them at the international level,” Zahid said.