Prakash Sontakke and band serenade soldiers in Siachen

Bengaluru-based musician Prakash Sontakke and his team recently performed for the Armed Forces in Kargil and Siachen. He talks about the experience

Ever since Uma Sudhindra founded Call of the Mountains, a musical event for members of the Armed Forces at Leh in 2017, Bengaluru-based musician Prakash Sontakke and his troupe have been regulars at the fest.

This year however, they were invited by the Indian Army to perform in Kargil and Siachen on the occasion of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, a Government of India initiative that celebrates 75 years of India’s Independence.

“Every year, Call of the Mountains is held at Leh and one other location as identified by the Army. This year, it was at Kargil, Siachen base camp, Durbuk and Nyoma, with a grand finale at Leh. Prakash and his team became the first to conduct a live concert at the Siachen base camp,” says Uma Sudhindra.

“This year, when we were asked to perform at the base, I was thrilled because I believe it is the least we can do as civilians for those who keep us safe. It was a privilege as well as a bit nerve-racking to set foot in such high-security surroundings,” says Prakash.

“It was incredible feeling and we curated a special list of songs to cater to the troops. In order to ensure there was something for everyone, there was a mix of Bollywood, folk and fusion. We added our special touch by changing a little of the formatting and adding our own background music to songs people already knew. We also composed an original song titled, ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ as a tribute on this special occasion.”

Prakash who played the slide guitar was accompanied by his team comprising vocalist Kartik Raman, Colonel VD Singh on the bass, drummer Aniket Ashok, Karthik Bhat on the tabla, Vishal Naidhruv on the keyboard and Anurag Sontakke on the acoustic guitar. Together they performed some popular songs such as Mere Desh Ki Dharti, Mast Kalandar, Vande Mataram, Mitwa and more.

“It is a very humbling experience to be in the midst of people who are willing to sacrifice their lives so we can go about our lives with an absolute lack of fear. It is something we should remind ourselves to be grateful for every single day,” he says.

“My team and I had a few days to get acclimatised to the extreme weather — just being at such high altitudes causes breathlessness and puts your body to the test. It is amazing that our soldiers not only safeguard our borders, but do so under such harsh conditions.”

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