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