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The art of playing a bugle


Even in the din of the chattering crowd present at the Wagah Border, the bugle’s sound is easily identifiable when the Pakistani flag is unfurled.
Bugle players say that it is not just any melody but specific words being blown into the trumpet-like instrument that form a unique tune. The european origin bugle is a musical instrument common in military routines around the globe. In Pakistan, a contingent of the military is responsible for blowing it at funerals of martyrs as salute, in parades, and at flag raising ceremonies.
Muhammad Wasim, who used to serve the country as part of the Punjab Rangers, said that he blew the instrument, amidst large tourist crowds, at Wagah for numerous years. “Apart from the border, I have also played many times on the occasion of burial of a martyr or salutation on the graves and memorials of martyrs.”
Wasim, while talking to the Express Tribune said that they cannot just start playing any tune, certains words need to be blown through the bugle depending on the occasion.
“For instance when a martyr is given salute, our tune says something along these lines: relax, relax; you are alive in our hearts; may Allah have mercy on you; honor of the country and nation, may Allah bless you; you are alive in everything around us; everyone has this prayer that may Allah have mercy on you; rest, rest, dear rest,” sang Wasim.
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The bugle’s first usage in a military setting is usually traced back to the 18th century. Those in the country’s armed forces familiar with playing the instrument remark that it might just be the most difficult instrument to play.
Mohammad Ramzan, now enjoying his retirement used to blow bugles back in the day. Ramzan, while talking to the Express Tribune said, “it is not an easy task to blow words through a bugle, it requires a lot of rehearsal.”
Ramzan shedding light over his bugle playing days informed that he used to train several hours in the day to get mastery over the instrument. “It sounds like a melody to listeners, but we are actually praying through the bugle,” he said. Ramzan further explained that just like any other instrument would be used to convey a message through a tune, their trumpet-like instruments are the same.
“If the listener knows the words being blown, then the melody of the bugle can be easily understood. That is why the military officers stand in respect,” said Ramzan.
Ramzan indicated that blowing the bugle requires a massive stamina as control of breath is essential in playing the instrument. “We have to control our breathing, we don’t smoke or do anything that could cause breathing problems,” he informed.
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Ramzan further said that just like his colleagues in the military he had to exercise daily as well because lack of stamina or breathing problems meant being taken off of the bugle playing group.
“In training they told us about the history of the bugle and how it was blown especially during war-time to convey specific messages to soldiers. They set different tunes for when soldiers were to advance and where to move,” he said.
Wasim and Ramazan are both reminiscent of their instrument playing days stating they miss blowing the words into the bugle that formed such an ear-pleasing tune.
Wasim said that his favorite words to play were when the national flag was hoisted at Wagah. “The lyrics for that occasion are: it is evening time; stay calm; it is time to rest; it is evening time, lower the flag; we will go to work together in the morning; it is evening so the flag was lowered; we will go to work together in the morning,” he informed the Express Tribune.

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