New Delhi: After completing a course and attaining the acclaimed position of a drum master in 2008, Warrant Officer Ashok Kumar started leading the band contingent in 2009

Warrant Officer Ashok Kumar who has been leading the Indian Air Force band contingent for the last 13 years is on the brink of making history. He will be marching on Rajpath leading a band contingent playing martial tunes to which crisply turned out air warriors dig in their heels every Republic Day.

This is the 26th consecutive year when Kumar will be making his appearance, inching closer to a feat achieved by an Indian Navy personnel till now who participated in the parade for 27 years.

With eight years of service to go, the warrant officer is hopeful of going past the feat of Master Chief Petty Officer Ramesh Chandra of the Indian Navy who has retired. While Kumar in years to come will set the new record, the closest competition to go past him is his own brother.

“My brother has been part of the band for 23 years and he still has 10 years of service. So he might break the record,” he says with a wry smile. But is quick to add that his record of leading the band contingent might be a tough one to go past.

After completing a course and attaining the acclaimed position of a drum master in 2008, he started leading the band contingent in 2009. His brother in the Air Force Sergeant Anil Kumar isn’t the only one in the family who has been part of the martial band on Republic Day parade year after year.

Their third sibling Naik Subhash Kumar doesn’t don the blues like his elder brothers but has chosen the olive green. The musician trio playing the trumpet might be a rare occurrence. While there are many from a family in the armed forces, this family from Haryana has the unique distinction of sending three musician sons in the forces who have been part of band contingents at Republic Day and Beating Retreat ceremonies for years.

“It’s been a privilege for us brothers to be part of Republic Day band contingents year after year. I will complete 26 years my younger brother 23. Our youngest brother has also participated many times but this time he is out of Delhi,” Kumar says.

Kumar recalls the many changes at Republic Day over the years and how tunes player bands have been experimented with. “Earlier we only played western martial tunes but in the last few years, we have also added our own original compositions that have a blend of Western and Indian tunes. But ‘Sare Jahan Se Achha remains a favourite over the years.”

The family has an old relationship with the uniform. While the three brothers are in the armed forces their father wore the khaki and served Haryana Police.

Kumar says his love for music and the forces was like a dream coming true when he joined the Indian Air Force as a young 23-year-old. Now 48 he still has eight years to go before he hangs his uniform. That may well turn out to be 34 years participating in the parade and 21 leading the IAF band.

Kumar would be one of the three drum majors in a contingent of 72 musicians this year, the Indian Air Force said.

The Band would play martial tunes to fascinate the audience which includes Tiranga Senani, Air Battle, Vayu Shakti, Nidar Yodha— which are original compositions in addition to Sky War, Evening Star and Saare Jahaan Se Acha.

The famous Martial tune 'Sound Barrier' would be played on 'Quick March' in front of the main dais when Air Force Continent is presenting a salute to the Honourable President.