Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Generation Next Picks Up the Baton

When Harmonica Club of Gujarat was formed two years ago, all the six founding members were in their late 40s and 50s. They had seen the popularity of mouth organ in their youth. They had also seen the gradual decline of the use of this tiny musical instrument with the advent of electronic keyboard and digital music.

The founding members made a conscious decision to perform in public parks, unmindful of the ridicule they might face from the public at displaying their enthusiasm openly. They thought this was an effective way to communicate with the masses and enthuse the young people to take up playing harmonica.

They proved right. Soon enough, several parents approached the club members with the desire to make their children learn harmonica. Founder member Paresh Bhatia, a music teacher, came to their help. He started training school children. The result is here for all to see. Aditya and Devansh, not even in their teens, have become good mouth organ players in less than a year's time. While they received their initial training from Paresh Bhatia, they achieved finesse under the able guidance of the veteran guru Manohar Vaidya, who has been playing mouth organ for more than 50 years.

Here is a popular number 'Kisi Ki Muskuraahaton Pe Ho Nissar' played by Devansh and Aditya under the tutelage of the Guruji at the Kankaria Carnival in Ahmedabad on December 29, 2009.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Kankaria Carnival

(L-R) Alex Lobo, Chandramohan Bahadkar, Bakul Avrani, Bansi Gajjar, Manohar Majithia, Manohar Vaidya, Naresh Khandwala, Aditya Chalishazar, Devansh Shah, Pratham and Ayush Solanki, Yogesh Bhatt, Kumar Pal Shah, Sandeep Patankar.

The Harmonica Club of Gujarat was invited by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation to perform at the Kankaria Carnival for the second successive year on December 29. The club members played 12 popular old Hindi film numbers. The programme was held on the bank of the Kankaria Lake before an audience of an estimated 2,000 people.

It was a team effort with all the songs being played by more than two members. We are presenting here the video of the opening number performed by all the members together. The star performers were the youngest members - Aditya, Devansh, Pratham and Ayush - all not even in their teens.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Maestro's Life in Pictures

Mouth Organ maestro Madan Kumar's tryst with music had begun when he was just 7-8 year old. He was a born genius. He had no guru. He learnt playing harmonica on his own. The life was full of struggle and hard work. He shared his life's musical journey with me through a photo album which I captured for the benefit of all the harmonica lovers.

Melodies from Mouth Organ Maestro Madan Kumar

I had the good fortune of being with mouth organ maestro Madan Kumar for a day. On my request, he was kind enough to play a few numbers for the benefit of The Harmonica blog. He had given us his audio CDs during his visit to Ahmedabad. The numbers on the CDs are a treat to the ears. But watching him play live, without the accompaniment of a full-fledged orchestra is a heavenly experience.

I first uploaded these videos on the Youtube so that they can be accessed by harmonica lovers across the globe. Here I present these videos to the discerning visitors to our blog.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A date with living legend Madan Kumar

The last time I had visited mouth organ maestro Madan Kumar at his home in Pune, I had extracted a promise that he would let me spend a day with him. So when I reminded him of that promise a few days ago, he graciously said, "Nachiketa, you are always welcome to come home."

Taking advantage of the year-ending holidays, I visited Madan Kumar on Christmas. I wanted to take him and his wife out for lunch in a restaurant where we could enliven our 'spirits' by imbibing a few glasses of beer. "The lunch is with us at home. Hope you won't mind having typical Sindhi cuisine," he said flashing his inimitable smile. "I have given up alcoholic beverages for quite sometime now," he added to my dismay.

"Sir, this time I want to learn a few techniques from you which I can pass down to the rest of the members of the Harmonica Club of Gujarat," I told him at the outset. "Sure, I will tell you whatever you want to know. I was glad to see so many young boys and girls taking up mouth organ in Gujarat. The generation next must keep this dying instrument alive."

Madan Kumar is a self-taught harmonica player. He had started playing since he was 7-8 year old. He had started his band in Pune in the early 1960s. He got his break in 1968 when the HMV cut his first record. "I had no formal training in music and used to play by my ears," he told me.

Because of his musical band, Madan Kumar came in contact with the great piano accordion player Enoch Daniels and guitarist Van Shipley, both based in Pune. It was Enoch Daniels who introduced Madan Kumar to music director duo Laxmikant Pyarelal. "Only great musicians had access to such established music directors of Bollywood. I felt like a dwarf when I met some of the musicians who played different instruments like piano, saxophone and guitar for great music directors," he recalls.

Laxmikant wanted to test the young lad and gave Madan Kumar a small composition written on a sheet of staff notations. "Tears started rolling down my cheeks because I could not make any sense out of the staff notations. I picked up courage and told Laxmikantji that I don't know how to read music notes and that I can try playing the tune only if someone played it on piano or any other instrument. Laxmikant ji asked his pianist to play the tune. I could somehow manage to save my face by playing the tune on the mouth organ," he said.

"I decided to learn reading and writing music notations and joined a piano class. For three years, I learned piano from a music teacher. I could now read notations and write them as well by listening to music," he says.

Though he had his own band and was being invited to perform at various public functions, the money he was getting was not enough to support his family. "My elder brother told me to come over to Spain to join his business there. I reluctantly agreed to go to Spain. That was perhaps a grave mistake as I could not maintain contacts with those who mattered in the film industry," he says.

Madan Kumar returned to India after a five year stint in Spain and took up harmonica playing and arranging sound systems for various musical shows, including those of established singers. He also set up his own recording studio, having mastered, through practice, sound engineering.

While narrating his 50-year-long musical journey, Madan Kumar allowed me to click photographs of his album. "Sir, as a dashing and handsome youngman you could have been a film actor," I said. "When I was introduced to Rajkumar Barjatya, the producer of the film Dosti, he regretted for not having met me before he made the film. Barjatyaji told me that I could have easily played the role of the physically challenged hero who plays harmonica in the film," he says.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Kankaria Carnival............

A......N.......D.......we are there !!!!
yes !! once again The HCG will perform on 29th December between 6 to 7 pm on stage 2.
This time the members have decided to play with karaoke tracks.
15 states, 15 districts, 5000 performers to entertain 15 lac visitors in 7 days.... full of fun !!!
What are you waiting for ????
come on join us !!!!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

mere sapno ki raani kab aayegi tu ????

Sunday the Funday, once again we were invited by the authoroties of Kankaria Lake. Nachiketa played a very famous song 'Mere sapno ki raani kab aayegi tu...'
It was a real fun and all the players went there with their family members.
The train which we see is the Bajpai Express imported from U.K.
Many queens wanted to get down but the train did not stop...!!
Anyway !!! next time...

Friday, December 4, 2009

He customizes Harmonica

The research and development wings of all leading manufacturers of harmonica in the world can make a killing if they follow this man from the small pilgrim town of Shirdi in Maharashtra.

Kiran Parikh, who owns a shop in Shirdi, has assembled a harmonica using the comb of a 12-hole instrument and fixing reeds of ascending and descending notes of an Indian raga from about a dozen other harps.

He plays this instrument to produce complex melodies based on that particular raga without using a slider to change the scale and produce half notes. He has assembled harmonicas on which two Indian ragas - Bhairavi and Yaman - can be played without a scale-changer. He now has plans to assemble customized harmonicas each for different Indian ragas.

Kiran has in his personal collection over 650 harmonicas, most of which he has bought from the 'Chor Bazar' of Mumbai at throwaway prices.

Kiran has been playing harmonica for over 30 years, having begun with the Chinese make 'Hero' instrument. He used to be greatly disappointed with himself when he could not play several popular Hindi film songs because these required using half notes. He was unable to understand why he was not able to play these songs. Having heard about famous harmonica player Bhanu Gupta, who was assistant to Rahul Dev Burman, Kiran went to meet him in Mumbai where, for the first time, he saw a Chromatic harmonica.

From 'Hero', Kiran switched over to a Chromatic harmonica and could soon start playing songs he had long desired to play but was not able to because he did not have a 'scale-changer'. He would visit Mumbai twice or thrice a week and quietly sit and listen to Bhanu Gupta play. Like the Eklavya of Mahabharata, who had learnt archery from Guru Drona from a distance, Kiran too started learning from Bhanu Gupta by just listening to him play.

After he watched a TV programme in which legendary harmonica player Firoze Damri was leading a symphony of over 50 harmonica players, Kiran went to Mumbai to meet the maestro. Firoze Damri taught Kiran for four years the intricacies of playing this tiny instrument. The Guru was so impressed by the Shishya's patience and perseverance that he gifted his entire collection of harmonicas to Kiran before his death.

Kiran was in Ahmedabad on a short visit when Harmonica Club of Gujarat Secretary Tapan Bhatt took the opportunity of letting the members of the Harmonica Club meet and listen to him.

Here are a few songs from this great innovator of customized harmonica:

1. Dil Ek Mandir Hai

2. Mohe Bhool Gaye Saawariya

3. Ai Mere Pyaare Watan