100 Days in India Project

Sahil Wedding Band speakers in a corner of Udaipur

56/ 100 Indian Wedding Music

In story 55/ 100 I mentioned wedding horses, a vital part of the Indian wedding tradition in certain parts of the country. Today’s photograph is also about an important part of Indian wedding tradition, but rather than a photograph of a beautiful white stallion it is an image of hell on wheels for someone like me who enjoys peace and quiet. This strange looking trolley can generate about as much noise as the entire 5 days of the Glastonbury music festival all at once. It’s how they make Indian wedding music.

As I have said before, India is VERY noisy. There is the constant blaring of car horns and music and, if you make the mistake of visiting during wedding season as we did, there is the incredible wedding music to contend with too. It starts around midday and never ends. On many, many nights it was the last thing I heard before sleep finally washed over me, and even then I am sure it was permeating my dreams and giving me nightmares.

In the same way that every Hindu God has a vehicle – Ganesha the elephant God rides about on a large Indian bandicoot rat whilst Shiva prefers Nandi the bull – these hand-pulled trolleys pictured above are essentially vehicles for noise.

In the base of these trolleys are roughly a dozen car batteries and attached to them are the loudest speakers money can buy (or your mate can build in his garage). From what we saw there were only two inputs – the microphone of a singer (although calling them singers is being very generous) would be plugged into one socket, and a weird miniature organ into the other. The organs are really small; literally about 30cm long. When you look for the source of the noise you definitely do not expect something that you can fit into the palm of your hand.

These trolleys come along at the back of the wedding procession of elephants, horses, dancers, trays of food and of course, the bride and groom. Because the bride and groom travel separately there are two trolleys per wedding. Even though each half of the couple could almost certainly hear the other’s music, having one each seemed fairer.

One pair of these sound systems was bad enough but then remember there is the fact that there are several weddings in each town occurring at the same time and you can imagine the noise. 

I have added a little video clip of the subtle tones of actual music we recorded one evening. Be sure to dial the volume up to 13. Oh, and did I mention the firecrackers too, or the fact that this was around 2AM right outside the door of our apartment?