Gurkhas band all set for a dazzling display

Aziz Idris

The visiting Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas will raise the roof with a special performance for members of the public today at BandarKu Ceria in the capital.

The performance will commence at 8am onwards with their fast and slick marching displays, lively music from popular pop culture (including from Game of Thrones) and other uplifting songs, as well as ethnic Nepali folk tunes and some colourful traditional dances.

The Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas is a British military band based at Shorncliffe. It was raised in November 1859 and has undergone expansion throughout the years.

It supports the British Army’s Brigade of Gurkhas in ceremonial settings and represents the brigade by performing at musical events.

The band is currently in the Sultanate for the 25th anniversary of the Royal Gurkha Rifle Unit which was held on Thursday during a private event at the British Forces Brunei in Seria.

The last time the Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas performed in front of Bruneian public was back in 2015 during the Commemoration Parade marking 200 years of Gurkha service to the British Crown held at the main ceremonial parade ground of Taman Haji Sir Muda Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien.

The Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas is a British military band based at Shorncliffe. It was raised in November 1859 and has undergone expansion throughout the years. It supports the British Army’s Brigade of Gurkhas in ceremonial settings and represents the brigade by performing at musical events. PHOTO: THE GURKHA BRIGADE ASSOCIATION
Director of Music for the Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas Captain Basu Dev Gurung

Present to witness the significant milestone was His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam.

The Director of Music for the band Captain Basu Dev Gurung still remembers performing in front of His Majesty during the Commemoration Parade and looks forward to once again delighting crowds during this Sunday’s special performance.

“Not many soldiers have the opportunity to meet the monarch but being in the band allowed me to do so, along with other high profile leaders and royalties from around the world,” he said.

Apart from Brunei, the band has travelled extensively throughout the world, to Australia, Canada, Hong Kong and Malaysia and, more recently, the Solomon Islands, France, Germany, Cyprus and Belgium.

The band also enjoyed the honour of playing at the FA Cup Final at Wembley in front of a crowd of 90,000 back in 2015 as well as performing at the Royal Albert Hall a myriad of fundraising events, especially back in their home country, Nepal.

“Basically we travelled almost all the countries in Europe,” said Captain Basu, adding that travelling and seeing the world was one of the main reasons why he joined the band.

“I always loved music. Being in the band exposed me to different kinds of music from across the world,” he added.

Captain Basu comes from a military background with his father, who was part of the Nepalese Gurkha soldiers under the British Army.

He was expected to follow in his father’s footsteps but made a slight detour in his military career. “Instead I joined the military to be part of the Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas. He was not happy at first,” said Captain Basu with a smile.

“After I completed my basic military training in 1995, I enrolled with the band but at that time, I knew nothing about music,” he explained.

However his passion led him to initial stages of musical instruction, first under the supervision of the Director of Music. Then, for approximately four years, he continued studying music at the Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall in London where he received musical training in both theory and practical.

He recalled completing the Bandmasters’ Course and then being commissioned as an official member of the band.

“The first six to seven years was quite challenging as I tried to prove myself to be a professional musician. I saw people come and go, but I stayed and I played with all my heart and, by 2014, I was promoted to Music Director of the band.”

The Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas performing today will consist of 32 bandsmen, all of whom he considers as being part of his family and he finds happiness whenever they perform together. The bandsmen will play various instruments including bagpipes, clarinet and drums among others.

The performance is a great opportunity for Bruneians to learn more about the band and the fantastic display of musicianship. “I believe not a lot of Bruneians know the band exists, so this Sunday is also good for us to promote the band to the locals,” he said.

Captain Basu and his band also hope to work with their counterparts in the Royal Brunei Armed Forces for musical workshops or exchange knowledge, if time permits.

He still remembers that there were several Bruneians from the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) at the Bandmasters’ Course and he wishes to connect with them again.