Babu's mouth swells to fill air in the bagpipe as he plays a melodious tune through it.
Shining bright in the light of the setting sun, grey hair and mustache compliment his brown skin. Fingers of his wrinkled hands dance on the bagpipe to fluctuate the pitch of his music.
75-year-old Babu Lal is a bagpiper in Basahari village of Mal block which is approximately 50 kilometers from Lucknow.
Bagpipe is a musical instrument which is played in Pakistan and Afghanistan apart from the Northern parts of India. Popularly known as Mashak or Morbin, bagpipe is played during parades by the scot. It is also popular for being played at the weddings.
Playing bagpipe requires a team of six.
However, the increased preference of Disc Jockeys and Brass-bands has affected the lives of these bagpipers. "Bagpipe had its days. People called us for special events and celebrations and paid a good amount with a lot of respect. But the times have changed now," said Babu-Lal.
The bagpipe is played along with majeera, dholak, kartaal, jhunjhuna and a cross-dressed dancer. Six different people make a team to perform the bagpipe. The number of artists has decreased drastically and now only a few remain, struggling to keep the art alive. Since the new generation seems least interested to go to places and perform, bagpipes and bagpipers have become rare to find. "The younger generation feels is a matter of shame. With the passing time, few of my companions have gone so I play it with the new members. It is really challenging," he added.
Meanwhile, Ramdeen, another member of the group shares how times have changed and bagpipe is now going out of the run. There were days when Rs. 30 used to be too much for a performance. Back then, here were abundant of artists who knew to play the bagpipe. Now, they feel less demanded. "We have been to over thousands of weddings. It has been a royal instrument. But where do we stand before the Brass-bands?" said 68-year-old Ramdeen.
Ramdeen's grey eyes catch attention while he talks. He explains that Mashak (bagpipe) is actually a bag which has leather inside and colourful cloth outside. It is connected to the wooden extensions or pipes in which air is filled by mouth to make sound through it. "If you fill the air in a cycle, it takes ten minutes but in case of bagpipe, you keep filling the air by mouth and it blows the mind," he said.
The kartaal player and dancer, 40-year-old Jayaram says that he adores the instrument for it beings him food and shelter. "I have been performing since the age of 17. This art is the mode of my livelihood and my family depends on it no matter we don't earn a lot. I still love what I do and hope we get the recognition we deserve," he said.