Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wah Taj, Wah Rajesh

He is a photographer by profession and a mouth organ player by passion. When on a short visit to Ahmedabad, Rajesh Goswami, the official photographer of the Indian Army based in Agra, heard about the Harmonica Club, he dropped out of the sight-seeing tour his host had arranged. Instead, he came to meet the members of the club at music teacher Paresh Bhatia's office-cum-residence.

The music session, which began at 11 in the morning continued well past 3 in the afternoon. Rajesh regaled us with some old melodies. "I want to first listen to you," he said before agreeing to play the mouth organ. Club secretary Tapan Bhatt obliged and played his favourite number, "Yaad kiya dil ne kaha ho tum."

While waiting for Tapan, who postponed his scheduled visit to an industrial estate to grab the opportunity of meeting the visitor, I asked the usual 'where, when and how' Rajesh picked up the harmonica. "About 30 years ago, mouth organ was quite popular among the young people and widely used by music directors in the Bollywood films. I was in the school when I first heard our neighbor Shivanand Mishra play mouth organ," Rajesh said.

He pleaded with Mishra to teach him how to play the instrument. "First, you need to have a mouth organ only then can I teach you," said Mishra. With Rs. 35, Rajesh bought his first harmonica, a made in Germany instrument without a scale changer. "Mishraji too had a plain mouth organ, without a scale-changer."

Agra being a hot tourist destination, many foreigners visited the city of the Taj Mahal. Rajesh befriended a foreign tourist and managed to get his first scale-changer harmonica from Germany. Since then, there has been no looking back. Rajesh became a star harmonica player in Agra, having won several cups and medals at various music competitions.

He had bought a Chrometta 8 mouth organ with him. It was amazing to watch him play half a dozen popular numbers on that single octave instrument. Here are a couple of them.

1. Gore Gore O Banke Chhore

2. Khayi Ke Paan Banaraswala

3. Na Maangu Sona Chandi

4. Papa Kehte Hain Bada Naam Karega

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Tribute to Mother

Tapan Bhatt, founder of the Harmonica Club, went through a trying times after his mother suffered a heart attack. She was kept in the intensive care unit of a hospital for more than a week before she underwent a bypass surgery.

A practitioner of hypno-therapy, Tapan diverted his attention to playing music and when among the youngest members of the Harmonica Club, Devansh Shah told him about the song 'Meri Maa' from the film 'Taare Zameen Par', Tapan started practicing the song at home.

On February 14, 2010, the Valentine Day, Tapan attended the Sunday Morning session of the Club at Parimal Garden. I had heard from Devansh and others about Tapan playing this very melodious and sentimental song. So, I persuaded him to play the song for the HCG blog. I took him to a corner of the park besides the lake and made him sit under a tree. He played on the harmonica along with the original song in the background.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

For Old Times Sake

Nilesh Amin had promised me he would send me his video recording on his return to the US. But, I caught him off guard before he left the Indian shores. He was on his way to the US and stopped over at my place for a few hours. I literally caught him by his neck and forced him to play a song. I offered him one of my several harmonicas of different scales. He was at a loss what to choose. I gave him one at random. He was game and played whatever song came to him at that particular moment. I was dumb founded when he played a song, which I had never tried so far. I was his guru, once upon a time, I tried to solace myself and tried to pick some holes in his playing.

We then decided to play a song together. Please don't judge us by the quality of our playing. Catch the spirit.