April 15, 2022 9:16:29 a.m.
PANAGARH (West Bengal): Even before we found ourselves in its idyllic setting, we were aware of the impact the ‘saxophone sisters’ have had in the village of Trilokchandrapur in Bengal.
The Facebook profiles of Priya Badyakar and Chumki Badyakar are a perfect ode to their success story. It is also their window to a world of opportunity. “Amar biyer jonno please play korun“(Please share your contact so I can invite you to play at my wedding reception), comments a patron on Priya Badyakar’s profile.”Didi apnader dekhe amra inspired” (Sister, we are inspired by your success story), comments a young woman from Kolkata in Chumki’s profile.
Clearly, the “Saxophone Sisters” are now going to places, even outside their neighborhood (Paschim Bardhaman) and to faraway places to captivate the gatherings.
Amid birdsong, seated next to a pond, as Priya and Chumki work their hands on the keys of their respective saxophones to coax the tune of O Hansini, it’s easy to see how their story has resonated from afar. It’s not every day that you come across female saxophone players in a village in Bengal. It’s not every day that glass ceilings are shattered in this part of the world.
The prolonged pandemic, coupled with the lockdowns, had virtually crippled the Badyakar family from Pashchim Bardhaman district economically, like many others in the country. The male members of the Badyakars, who for at least four generations have been playing various wind instruments such as clarinet, trumpet, saxophone and flute in group evenings – a colloquial term for musical ensembles that perform at weddings and other events – suddenly found themselves unemployed after a blanket ban was imposed on gatherings.
Seeing the distressed men, Priya and Chumki, the daughters-in-law of Paban Badyakar, approached him and sought to learn to play the saxophone even though the beginning was out of sheer curiosity. “We used to listen to our husbands and stepfathers play them, but we never got the chance to learn. At first, we just wanted to try our hand at the instrument because sitting at home all day during the lockdowns quickly became boring. But the moment we covered the first song, an urge set in and we wanted to support the family financially and waited for the end of the confinement,” said Priya, wife of Monoj Badyakar, the eldest son of the family.
Two women dressed in saris playing the saxophone in a village is not something you see often and is probably one of the main reasons why rural women still stop trying something out of the box . The constant fear of what people will say. Priya and Chumki had similar apprehensions, but that’s where Paban stepped in.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, he said: ‘I told them not to worry about what other people say. After all, engaging in music isn’t a bad thing. In fact, I’m proud that my daughters-in-law are learning fast and making a name for themselves.
The online journey
Without any knowledge of the basics of music, the duo faced initial problems. “At first it was difficult, but these days women are doing so much around the world, so we thought why not us?” Priya added.
As soon as the confinement was lifted, the shows began to flow in and the requests to listen to the “Saxophone Sisters” continued to increase.
Overcoming the digital barrier, the duo use several forms of digital platforms to secure bookings. “We have Facebook profiles and many bookings go through these accounts. Our videos are shared on WhatsApp and people call us after watching these videos,” Priya said.
The driving force
Priya and Chumki both insist that we mention the contribution of their in-laws in their “balancing act”.
“Our mother-in-law is very supportive. Whenever we have shows, not only does she take care of all the housework, but she takes care of our kids as well,” Chumki said.
She added: “There is more to learn and I want to grasp as much as I can and gaining the support of your in-laws in such a pursuit is something that not every woman can think of. We are lucky to to have such understanding in-laws.
Priya echoed the sentiment: “Even our parents are happy that our stepfather supported us to learn something and say they are grateful that what they couldn’t, our stepparents did. fact.”
While the duo who recovered the instruments helped the family economically, a greater satisfaction for them is the shower of accolades. “It really feels good when people praise us for our talent and it’s something more than the money we earn,” smiled Chumki.
The “Saxophone Sisters” now travel, even outside their neighborhoods and to faraway places to captivate the gatherings. Apart from their in-laws, the two women also talk about their husbands who not only honed their skills but also support them in what they do.
Chumki’s husband, Tapas, said, “No job is small and it’s music. I have full support for my wife and in fact, even though there are people around us who are jealous, I am extremely happy that my wife is succeeding in her life.
The fourth generation
Paban’s granddaughter, Sangita, 10, is under constant guardianship. “My daughter sent her to us and asked me to teach her to play the saxophone so that she too could support her family,” Paban said. Although Sangita did not quit her studies, she performs at various functions alongside her uncles and aunts and already gets thousands of views on her videos uploaded to her YouTube channel.
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