25th Republic Day parade for IAF bandmaster

Warrant Officer Ashok Kumar.

Warrant Officer Ashok Kumar.  


Warrant Officer Ashok Kumar has kept up with the changing tunes.

Warrant Officer (WO) Ashok Kumar, 47, is a seasoned bandmaster of the Indian Air Force (IAF) band contingent. However, this year’s Republic Day parade on January 26, 2020 is a particularly memorable one as it is his 25th parade marching across the Rajpath.

He joined the IAF in 1994 and started playing the trumpet and bugle in the IAF band a year after. 

He has been the bandmaster for 12 years. To become the bandmaster, there is a six-week drum major course conducted by the Army Education Corps at Pachmarhi in Madhya Pradesh, which he completed in 2011.

“It is a matter of pride to honour the President of India while leading the IAF contingent,” he told The Hindu on Monday, recounting his experiences on the sidelines of a briefing on the IAF’s Republic Day parade participation. “Now the standards have changed. The tunes have also changed a lot,” he said. about what has changed over the years. “Our schedule has got a lot tougher.” In fact the changing tunes, of late adopting a lot from Bollywood, has been a matter of much debate in the last few years.

While the IAF marching contingent consists of four officers and 144 personnel, the band contingent has 72 personnel and three drum majors. The selection of personnel for the contingent is a very rigorous process. It is done by the Director Music, Officer ceremonials and the band leader under direction of Air Headquarters, Mr. Kumar explained and other than music factors such as marching, stamina and height are also considered.

The contingent starts practising on Rajpath about two months before the parade and the practise goes on from 4.30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. He is the bandmaster at the parade and Beating Retreat.

Praise from Michelle Obama

His most memorable moment was during the parade in 2015, when U.S. President Barack Obama was the chief guest. 

“When we were marching, First Lady Michelle Obama made a good comment and we were given an on-the-spot commendation from then IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha,” he recounted.

“The next day at Air Force Station, New Delhi, ACM Raha gave a commendation and highly appreciated the performance of the drill band,” he added.

To a question on what is in store ahead, Mr. Kumar said he had nine more years of service remaining and hopes to match the record of Honorary Sub-Lieutenant Ramesh Chand Katoch from the Navy who marched on Rajpath for 30 years and led the band for 20 years before retiring in 2018. Hon Sub.Lt. Katoch holds the longest record from any Service and Mr. Kumar is the second. “When we have a doubt we ask his guidance,” Mr. Kumar said about the veterans Navy bandmaster.

Mr. Kumar hails from Karnal in Haryana and has played music as a hobby much before joining the IAF. When asked about his family, he says with a smile, “I am a grandfather.” He has two daughters, one son and two grandchildren.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 10:11:21 AM |

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