NEW DELHI: From ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ chants to Michael Jackson’s moonwalk, Beating the Retreat ceremony this year looked and felt different. It had a completely Indian flavour with the use of Indian classical instruments and scores, while the post-event illumination was also done differently. Broadly, one could say it was a departure from tradition.
President Ram Nath Kovind arrived in the presidential car, abandoning the use of the horse-drawn buggy that President Pranab Mukherjee had re-introduced in 2014. There were 26 performances this year of which 25 were composed by Indian musicians. The only western tune played was ‘Abide with me’, a hymn that was a favourite of Mahatma Gandhi.
Once the President took his seat, a faint melody was heard that gradually grew distinct as the marching bands came from the Rashtrapati Bhavan end. The composition they played was called ‘Indian soldiers’. Over the next one hour, 18 military bands, 15 pipes and drum bands and the tri-services band kept the audience enthralled. Indian tunes like Tejas, Veer Gorkha, Sher-e-Jawan and ‘The Great Marshal’ drew loudest of cheers from the crowd. The jugalbandi between the ensemble of Indian soldiers playing classical instruments – a concept introduced in 2016- was perfectly executed with the discipline and order maintained by the bands even while they made circular, spiral and serpentine formations.
Thundering slogans of ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ by the soldiers participating in the ceremony after the ‘drummers call’ remained a curious topic of conversation among the audience. The adults in the audience tried to hum along familiar tunes like Vande Mataram, Saare Jahan Se Achha and Vaishnava-jan, children were impressed by the pomp and pageantry of the event. Yashasree Alankar (10) was fascinated by the camels while her father, Abhishek Alankar, loved the Michael Jackson-inspired moonwalk.
The Navy band presented ‘INS Nilgiri’, ‘Namaste India’ and ‘Jai Bharti’ compositions. They used ‘glowing drum sticks’ and the drums were decorated with white LED lights. With their special moves, the Navy drummers delighted the audience.
The post-event illumination was also different this time, which colour-changing LED lights replacing the usual sodium bulbs. Not everyone liked this change though. “It looks more like disco lights. Not something for such a solemn ceremony,” said Jalaj Malik.
The crowd loved it.