Musicians of the Indian Military

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India's military musicians play everything from jazz to film hits - performing across the world. What made martial music change?

July, 1986. A guided missile frigate of the Indian Navy called INS Godavari docked near the Statue of Liberty at New York City. 15 years ago, a United States Navy aircraft carrier had steamed into the Indian ocean – threatening India for its action against Pakistan in the 1971 conflict. Years passed, and the first Indian naval ship to reach the US coastline was finally ready for its own performance.

It wasn’t missiles they fired off, but a rousing rendition of jazzy tunes, conducted by Manjit Singh Neer – the Navy’s most venerated musician. The naval ship was in New York as part of an International Fleet Review to mark the statue of Liberty’s bicentennial year, and few things build international camaraderie as well as music. Musicians from India’s armed forces have since played across the world – making music a viable career prospect within the military.

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