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