This Bengal school band becomes India’s first to perform at Swiss Basel Fest

For these boys from the government-aided Kumudini Home School in north Bengal’s Kalimpong, performing at the Basel Tattoo musical festival in Switzerland was a dream come true. However, it was not achieved overnight
Members of the Kumudini Home School band are mostly from poor and rural family backgrounds.  
Pramod Giri, HT, Jul 24, 2022: The bustling hilly-town of Kalimpong in north Bengal is all set to give its little heroes a grand welcome when they return from Basel in Switzerland on Monday.

Twenty students from the government-aided Kumudini Home School recently mesmerised the spectators at the Basel Tattoo musical festival in Switzerland, becoming the first ever school band to perform at the festival. 22 bands from all over the world performed in the festival.

Only military bands from across the world had been taking part in the Swiss-festival for the last 15 years. The Kumudini boys have also become the top three bands to feature in the annual magazine of the world’s second biggest pipes and drums music festival in Switzerland.

For the boys, mostly coming from poor and rural family backgrounds, going to the festival was a dream come true. However, it was not achieved overnight.

“Every day the boys used to practice for long hours sometimes in empty stomach. This has been going on since 2019, when the school got the invitation,” said Roshan Bista, an assistant teacher at the school.

Sabin Rai, a resident of Kafer, and Alex Lepcha, a resident of 8th Mile in Kalimpong, both students of Class 12, could not believe themselves when they finally landed in Switzerland.

“Had we not received the invitation, free travel and accommodation, it would never have been possible for us to come to Switzerland, my dream country,” Rai told HT from Basel city where the festival will continue till Saturday.

“Returning home late, walking two hours from school, had been a regular affair since 2019 as we stayed back for practice . Though my parents supported me, they were worried about my studies,” said Alex.

In Switzerland, it was very difficult to cope up with their timing, both of them said.

Rohit Kumar Chettri, a mason by profession and the father of Subham Chettri, a member of the school band, said his son telephoned from Switzerland at 10.30pm and again at 3am after the school’s performance.

Originally from the remote Nok Dara village, 40 km from Kalimpong town, the Chettri family shifted to the town just to give wings to Subham’s dreams.

“Now he has made all of us proud,” Rohit Kumar said, adding that the family had not been sleeping properly since Subham went to Switzerland. Subham plays pipes and performs Khukuri dance.

“What impressed the festival organisers and the audience most were the traditional Nepali or Gorkhali songs and Khukuri dance the boys played,” said Pridarshi Lama, the mentor of the boys.

Lama an assistant-teacher, who is accompanying the students, single-handedly prepared the boys.

This is the first time in the history of the Basel Tattoo festival that any school band was invited and the boys have become the first ever band to represent India in the festival.

“Despite old and poor-quality instruments and old uniforms, the boys mesmerised the audience with their spectacular performances,” said Lama.

Talking to HT from Switzerland, Sabin said: “The challenges to perform our best were equally burdensome for us as we have poor and old quality of musical instruments.”

“Our daily practice in Switzerland lasts for 12 to 14 hours. But this did not deter us from performing as we want to give our best and make India proud,” said Alex.

“The organisers had been tracking our performances for years and I think they liked the typical Gorkhali uniforms, Birkhey topi with Khukuri,” Lama said.

For the boys, their best tunes are ‘Yo Nepali Sir Uchali’ and ‘Laurey Ko Relimai Fashionai Ramro, two of the all-time favourite Nepali songs. The videos of their performances have gone viral on social media.

Among other bands performing there are Swiss Army Central Band, His Majesty The King’s Guard Band, Drill team from Norway and the Band of Her majesty Welsh Guards from Great Britain.

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