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Royal Air Force connects to India with 'Chammak challo'

By FnF Defence Correspondent | PUBLISHED: 10, Mar 2012, 15:46 pm IST | UPDATED: 10, Mar 2012, 15:46 pm IST

Royal Air Force connects to India with 'Chammak challo' New Delhi: A Royal Air Force band forged an Indian connect by adding popular Bollywood track "Chammak challo" from Shah Rukh Khan-starrer "Ra.One" to its repertoire during its recent tour of the country.

The band, which performed in the capital in a pre-Holi concert along with the Indian Air Force Wednesday, came upon the track three weeks ago when its director, Flight Lieutenant Matthew Little, who wanted to include a popular Indian number on his playlist, was given a CD containing the song by his driver.

"Matthew came to India three weeks ago and was looking for a easy-to-play Indian number. The band usually picks up one native number from the country it tours to add to its repertoire. His driver gave him a CD with the song. Matt and his team listened to it for a night and wrote the music for the band - with a little improvisation to suit the brass section of the orchestra," Sean Young of the British High Commission, who coordinated the tour, told FnF.

"For India, the band decided to listen to Bollywood music to pick up a track for the Indian audiences", Little said.

The peppy "Chammak challo" struck a chord with both the Band of the Royal Air Force Regiment and the audiences in the capital and Chennai - the two cities it toured.

The Band of the Royal Air Force Regiment provides musical support to the Royal Air Force during its official ceremonies and also tours the world as a classical and contemporary ambassador with a kitty of marching tunes, swing music and popular pop instrumentals.

It is one of the three bands that perform under the banner of the Royal Air Force Music Services. The other two are Central Band of the Royal Air Force - which also includes a Salon Orchestra - and the Band of the Royal Air Force College. Together, they comprise 170 high calibre musicians.

The Band of the Royal Air Force Regiment, based in the garrison town of Cranwell, is an example of the changing face of military bands, its director said.

"Military bands have evolved over time. Much better musicians are coming in now because military bands are stable. Our band allows the musicians to play their music and get paid. It helps because music is an uncertain vocation," Little told FnF.

The members of the band are trained for one to three years before they can perform, said Little, an accomplished vocalist who has sung playback for movies like "Troy", "Lord of the Rings", "Cats" and "Phantom of the Opera".

"We have nearly 260 engagements a year and of the three armed services, the musicians of the RAF are of the highest standard. We are all professional musicians," he said.

The band was raised in 1942 during World War II and was earlier known as the Coastal Command Band.

It will be one of the key performers at the forthcoming diamond jubilee celebrations of Queen Elizabeth in June. It regularly performs at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, a 15-day festival of international military music at the Edinburgh Castle.