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Changing traditions in Ganeshotsav: Brass bands struggle to keep pace with dhol-tasha troupes

Spelling the end of a tradition going back several decades, only three major brass bands have survived to perform during the festival this year

There was a time when devotees’ hearts and feet would quicken to melodies performed by traditional brass bands during Ganeshotsav. These days however, their growing preference for dhol-tasha troupes may spell the end of the tradition that spans several decades.

Brass band
Taking a beat-ting: The Darbar band, which has been performing for Dagdusheth Halwai Ganpati Temple for 109 years, added a Dolby sound system to its act to keep up with the changing times. Pic/Shashank Sane

Over the years, dhol-tasha pathaks have grown in popularity and numbers, eventually outnumbering brass bands in the city. This year, only three major brass ensembles survived to perform during the festival — the Darbar, Prabhat and Gandharva bands.

“Our troupe was established 76 years ago, and since inception we have been performing in front of Kasba and Mandai Ganpati. In the past, we used to perform for at least six Ganpati mandals. But in the last few years, devotees’ interest in the rhythm of dhol-tasha has increased and ultimately reduced the demand for brass bands,” said the owner of Prabhat Band, Ninad Solapurkar.

A similar story was shared by the owner of Gandharva Band, Balasaheb Adhav, who said that decreasing demand for brass bands was affecting the survival of talented musicians.

“Not just dhol-tasha, but the recent introduction of Dolby music systems and DJs at mandals has drastically reduced the demand.

Apart from wedding celebrations, Ganpati immersion processions are the only occasions we can earn income, but those chances are now also fading. This year, we performed only for the Tambdi Jogeshwari Ganpati mandal,” said Adhav.

It’s only getting worse each year, as more and more dhol-tasha groups mushroom in the city, shrinking opportunities for brass companies even further.

According to Parag Thakur, the chairperson of the Dhol-Tasha Mahasangh, there are around 150 registered and unregistered dhol-tasha troupes in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad.

“There are small groups that emerge every year, many even perform free of cost for the ‘manache Ganpati’ to earn some time in the limelight,” Thakur said.

But the Darbar Band — which has been performing at Dagdusheth Halwai Ganpati Temple for the last 109 years —has attempted to keep up with the times, and Iqbal Darbar, the owner of the company is convinced that the festival can only truly be enjoyed with the melody from a traditional band.

“Dhol-tasha can give you rhythm but not the melody which can be enjoyed only through a brass band. However, with the changing tastes of people, we have also introduced Dolby systems in our band, and therefore we are in demand in Thane and Satara districts. In Pune however, we were invited to perform only for Dagdusheth Halwai Ganpati,” he said.

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