I still remember that day 16th Nov 2008 when my friend, guide and philosopher Mr B. Vinayak gave me a CD- “Down memory lane” by Shri Arijit Mukherji (The nephew of harmonica legend Shri Milon Gupta). After listening to that CD, I fell in love with his harmonica playing. The same day I got his contact number and restricted myself from calling him after learning about his profile. After hearing his next album -“A tribute to Kishore Kumar” I couldn’t resist myself and had started disturbing him more often.
Few days back, with prior appointment, I met Arijit da at his residence in Gurgaon and for few minutes, I fumbled with excitement and was unable to express myself. Arijit da understood my condition and offered me a Coke. Then, he asked me to play harmonica. One by one, I played not less than 10 songs on his demand. After listening, he gave me lot of tips for my betterment. Later, I too witnessed him play my favourite numbers on his favourite Larry Adler Professional 12 harmonica.
Arijit da presented me his “Down memory lane” CD. I requested him to autograph on the same. Almost 3 hours just passed like 3 minutes in his company. I left their house with utmost satisfaction of receiving some tips. Arijit da was so caring that he enquired about my welfare after leaving their home.
Given below are some of the media write-ups about him which appeared in various journals. Those interested can read further.
Business Standard, December 21,2008
Arijit Mukherji wants to popularise the mouth organ.
The impressive collection of mouth organs that reside in Arijit Mukherji’s home in Gurgaon belies his profession. When he’s not at work at Fidelity Investments, he’s playing his favourite instrument — a beautiful Larry Adler Professional. And that’s just one of the many pieces that he has hand-picked, over decades, from different parts of the world. He is primarily steeped in the Western musical tradition, unlike many lovers of music in
While Mukherji never harboured dreams of being a full-time musician, his dedication to the instrument is, nonetheless, admirable. He includes an hour-and-a-half of practice every morning and considerably more time when he’s practicing to record for his albums. “The only travel which I do during my annual leave from work is for my recordings,” he says, dispelling the myth that this instrument is just about “blowing and drawing”.
“I take my music seriously because I aim to revive this instrument in
More than 25 years later, he recalls how the right side of his mouth and tongue regularly got bruised due to regular practice. “When the art — and style — of playing the mouth organ seeps into your senses, and you have successfully adapted to the use of your tongue while playing, it no longer pains that much,” he says.
Mukherji started learning the instrument theoretically only five years ago, and admits that even though a mouth organ is pocket-sized, it’s extremely complicated in structure. While this instrument is more popular in Western music, Mukherji, through his albums, has Indianised his tunes. “When you hear Clapton, you know it’s him. I have developed my own tone which, thankfully, my uncle loved when he heard,” he says.
Mukherji, with his immense talent, touches high pitch as easily as he swoops into low notes, thanks to the regularity of his practice hours. Small wonder then that his humble mouth organ resonates, in recording sessions, with a host of other instruments including the sarod, sitar, guitar, flute and santoor.
“The first time I recorded an album, the idea was not to sell. We were playing in Usha Uthup’s studio in Kolkata and she heard us by accident,” he says. What followed was a hand-written letter of recommendation by Uthup — who absolutely loved his work — and that’s how Mukherji cut his first album with Music Today.
Mukherji feels that he has been fortunate to meet the right people on the music circuit. Music director Shantanu Moitra, for example, has been a source of guidance and support and one of his mentors too. “He’s an honest person. Every time I’ve had trouble adapting a song to the instrument, I seek his advice,” says Mukherji.
Mouth organ in hand, Mukherji slides a CD into a music player and allows me to listen to his new album, A Tribute to Kishore Kumar, by T-Series. We listen to “Zindagi ka Safar” a popular Hindi movie track, to which Mukherji has given a distinct western feel and turned it into a rock ballad. He pauses to point out another track on the album, “Jeevan ke Safar mein Raahi” which also has a noticeable western influence. “The song is a copy of a Mexican tune, in the first place. I worked around it, changed the rhythm, but still retained an Indian feel,” he explains.
Mukherji has also done jugalbandi of sorts in his albums. With sarod artiste Pratyush Banerjee, for instance (“He’s also a family friend,” he says), Mukherji has created albums. One of his earlier albums,
Planning to work on an album of Latin melodies as well as Rabindra Sangeet, Mukherji worries that his favourite instrument might just be falling off the musical map in the country. The artiste encourages children in the neighbourhood to take lessons from him. “People are keen on performances rather than learning,” he rues.
For Mukherji, after all, it’s music that still continues.
Tuesday , November 25 , 2008 The Telegraph, Culcutta
Harp of the matter
Say that the mouth-organ is defunct and expect to be admonished by Arijit Mukherji, a passionate practitioner of the instrument for the past 23 years. “I don’t think that the mouth organ is dead. The art is suffering because of a dearth of players,” believes the 40-year-old, whose debut album,
An ex-Xaverian from
Nephew of the legendary Milon Gupta — perhaps the only true-blue mouth-organ artiste working in the mainstream film industry in the 50s — Arijit owes his inspiration and skill to his uncle. “I learnt the tabla and guitar, but listening to mymesho play the pocket instrument was way more fascinating! He taught me to play when I was 18 and I am the only one in the family after him to have pursued this art form. In a way, I’m trying to revive the art and pay tribute to my uncle’s endeavours in popularising the instrument during that era,” explains Arijit, who plays the chromatic harmonica, which offers flat and sharp notes unlike other diatonic mouth-organs.
In the new album, Zindagi ka safar gets a rock-ballad treatment, while Jeevan ke safar mein rahi is rearranged with a swing feel.
Music is “not just a hobby” for Arijit, who spends hours listening to or looking up videos of international players like Larry Adler, Charlie McCoy and Jerry Murad. “I would like to use different acoustic instruments to produce a Latin album someday and another on Rabindrasangeet,” he smiles.
Indian Express.com, Dec 29, 2008
Harmonica player Arijit Mukherji’s second album is A tribute to Kishore Kumar
Music from the harmonica, the shiny, rectangular mouth organ was a regular feature in songs or as a prop, in old Hindi movies. (Remember the brooding image of Amitabh Bachchan serenading Jaya while languorously playing the harmonica in Sholay?) Arijit Mukherji, 42, Finance Director with Gurgaon based Fidelity Investments, is one of Delhi’s last remaining harmonica players; for some reason, the tiny mouthpiece has fallen out of favour with budding musicians. “My uncle Milon Gupta played the harmonica in movies like CID, Kashmir Ki Kali and Dosti,” says Mukherji, who’s just released his second harmonica album, A Tribute to Kishore Kumar. “My uncle’s influence made me love this instrument.”
The album has 10 of Mukherji’s favourite Kishore Kumar tracks in which Zindagi ka Safar gets a rock-ballad treatment, while Jeevan ke safar mein rahi is rearranged with a swing feel. Mukherji explains how blues players use harmonicas to create a jazz like sound, while he Indianises the tone. “I can take out the meend from the instrument to Indianise the sound,” he explains. Mukherji has had occasional musical alliances with Usha Uthup, sarod player Pratyush Banerjee and music director Shantanu Moitra (of Parineeta fame) who has arranged the music for his second album by changing the interludes, preludes and rhythm patterns.