SL Police Band | Sunday Observer

SL Police Band

24 February, 2019
Drummers at practice
Drummers at practice

The police force is often associated with crime prevention and traffic, but there are a special group of men and women who work in a totally different realm. These are the talented members of the police band - which includes three sections namely the marching band, beat band and the orchestra. As I entered their domain at Field Force Head Quarters (built in 1925) the sound of their music was heard at a distance. This year the band showcased a magnificent display fielding 188 members for the first time in history.

Director Police Band ASP Upali Atapattu explained “We are the oldest out of the military bands. We enjoy a long and distinguished history. The band was started way back in 1873 by Carl Pappe. The early band had one band master, one sergeant and 20 constables. Most of them were Malays. The band performed at Kew Road and Cinnamon Gardens in that era. By 1908 the band began to play at events held at Police Park and Galle Face Green. They also played at Queens House and Temple Trees. In 1906 the band was restructured and the first band master was Chief Inspector Shaik Adam. Later the band master was Chief Inspector Anthony Paul who was followed by his son Gerard Paul. By 1976 we had Lancelot Perera as the band master and director and he went on to become the first Deputy Inspector General of Police from the police band”.

We are now joined by Inspector Bernard Augustine and Sub Inspector Nishantha Premalal, both qualified band masters. We walked to the practice room and the band was going through the famous Colonel Bogey march. T

here are antique glass cupboards that have files of hand written music sheets from 100 years ago. SI Nishantha said “This is a section of the marching band. As you can see we have trumpets, trombones, clarinets, saxophones, tubas, horns, drums, base drum and flutes. We begin practices daily by 8.30 am and finish by 4.30 pm. Some of our constables and sergeants are able to play three different instruments. We have other band units at Kandy, Galle, Bandarawela and Kurunegala. A new addition in the recent past is the 20 member bagpipes team”. The police band has a very unique feature- it has two young married couples. Constables Gayan Seneweera (alto saxophone) and Nissansala Weerasinghe (euphonium) along with Constables Dhammika Gurusinghe (horn) and Sarojini Nadeeka (trombone). The two happy couples had met while serving in the band, fallen in love and subsequently married. They work beautifully as a team enriching the bands performance. Another young lady who displayed her prowess on the clarinet was Constable Surangi Silva. In normal marching formation the band will have 30 members led by the Drum Major. At present there are 273 personnel attached to the band division.

All members begin their day with physical training at the police park followed by a few minutes of meditation. The junior members are trained by Sub Inspector Eric Perera. Once they are deemed proficient they are absorbed to play with the regular band. Marching with a heavy instrument like the tuba or 8KG bass drum is a physically demanding task. When the need arises the band members multi task, taking a different role by engaging in riot control and election duties. In 2006 the band celebrated 100 years of service to the department.

Today the band plays at state functions, diplomatic events, farewell parades and at police weddings. Attired in their ceremonial black and white dress with the sturdy white pith hats they have dazzled thousands of people. Recently the band toured Japan, on two occasions.

The band made a major contribution to the 150th anniversary of the Police service. Thus the men and women of the police band continue to sustain a beautiful colonial tradition by empowering their comrades.