Meeting with celebrated Indian harmonicat- Dr Pankaj Bose

During their recent trip to Kolkata- Ramana,Vijay Konda and Rameshwaram met with the Indian harmonicat Dr Pankaj Bose at his residence. Dr Pankaj Bose is an educationist attached with University of Calcutta. He is famous for his inimitable style of playing. Over 400 tunes like modern Bengali, Hindi film songs, Rabindra sangeet, Kirtan, Raga based semi classical songs have been released by UD-Series & Raga Music. In 2001, Bangla Chalachitra Prachar Sansad ornamented him by giving “Uttam KumarAward”. He was the Vice President of Indian Harmonica Association. Manna De (The famous Indian singer) became charmed and sent him the certificate by his own handwriting. He used to take part in AIR, DDK-Kolkata & other private channels at a regular interval. Ankur Bose, son of Dr. Bose, an IT engineer as well as a shining keyboard player, has already created venture jointly with his father.

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Harmonica lover Chandrashekhar Khare visited HaLoH

Few days ago, another harmonica lover from Banglore Mr Chandrashekhar Khare visited HaLoH. The atmosphere was really graced with his presence. We enjoyed listening to the renditions by Mr Khare on his Hohner Super 64X. HaLoH members present there had played harmonica one by one.

Banglore based Mr Chandrashekhar Khare an electronics engineer by qualification is working in IT industry for the past 17 years and a core member of Bangalore Harmonica Club.

Mr Khare picked up harmonica at the age of 10, he was introduced to this instrument by some of his kid friends who bought it as a toy. But he took it more seriously and started playing songs. That is when his father bought him a Hero make harmonica. Since last 24 years Mr Khare continues to play Hohner make chromatic harmonicas.

Given below are his views and feelings about harmonica.

“This instrument is portable, sounds beautiful, and has a wonderful range in terms of the kinds of music you can play. Above all, it gives you a chance to be a solo player and allows you to come out of the shadows of the vocalist. A harmonica player will generally not be seen accompanying. Even so, then his music will stand out during performance, Till date, I have learned on my own without any formal training. My ears have been my gurus. I keep taking tips from fellow players on improving the techniques. Now with internet and youtube around, learning has become easier. In India, many players of the past generation are stuck with Bollywood and just one style of playing. They have lot of notions regarding what can not be done with Harmonica. As a result, they tend to plant these beliefs in the mind of youngsters. This approach needs to be rooted out if anything good was to happen on the harmonica scene in India. We should let the oxygen of fresh ideas flow and see the instrument evolve. The youngsters have the talent and capacity to work miracles. So help them unleash their potential”

--- Chandrashekhar Khare,Banglore.

HaLoH looks forward to meet more harmonica lovers from BHC in the days to come.

HarmonicaIndia group strives to popularise the humble harmonica-Darshan Manakkal.

As far back as 1956, when bluesmen like Sonny Boy Williamson 2 and Howlin’ Wolf were introducing American audiences to the harmonica, Badruddin Kazi, otherwise known as Johnny Walker, was seen playing it in “Yeh Hai Bombay Meri Jaan”, in the movieCID. Two decades later, Dharmendra pursed his lips around one while perilously perched on Amitabh Bachchan’s shoulders in “Yeh Dosti” in Sholay.

The musician playing the harmonica in both films was Milon Gupta, a self-trained artist from Kolkata, who in turn taught and inspired an entire generation of Indian harmonica players, including RD Burman. Milonda (as he is fondly referred to by his many students) is credited with adapting the Western instrument to play Indian melodies. However, after Gupta’s death in 1995, the instrument lost favour with Bollywood composers and slipped into obscurity. Harmonica players from around the country are hoping to change that. They recently formed an online group called HarmonicaIndia to restore respect to the instrument and to remove its “picnic toy” tag.

HarmonicaIndia, which now has 444 members, was formed in 2006 by the Bangalore-based purveyor of musical instruments, Abe Thomas. Thomas admitted that his motivations spring in part from his business interests – he represents the Suzuki Musical Corporation in India, which manufactures harmonicas. “It’s called market development!” he said. “We must first teach a person to drive before selling him a car. Once you get the harmonica bug, it’s very hard to shake it off.”

The group, which started off as a marketing exercise for Thomas, has now grown to an exhaustive online pool of resources, where members come to discuss techniques (vibrato, head shaking, bending, tongue blocking, vamping, chording and so on), types of harmonicas (chromatic, diatonic, tremolo and the like), tablature for popular songs, and to comment on harmonica recordings by other members. Debashis Dutta, a Bangalore-based aerospace and materials engineer and a self-taught harmonica player, said he has benefited enormously from the interactions on the group. “I learnt a lot about music theory, harmonica types, playing styles, and how to play songs of different scales on a single harmonica of a particular key,” said Dutta, who was gifted his first harmonica, a Hohner, by his cousin when he was 14 years old. “From the comments by group members on my own performances, I have learnt and improved my own playing.”

One person who has managed to do this without the website is Vishwananth Shirali, a 71-year-old who taught himself the harmonica. Shirali uses the internet to look for instrumental versions of popular Hindi film songs. He plays his Hohner by ear along with the music, the reed instrument standing in for the vocal parts of songs like “Raat Ke Humsafar” from An Evening In Paris. “It was very popular when I was in college, especially during The Beatles craze,” said Shirali. He moved on to playing the synthesiser and forgot about the harmonica until 2005, when saxophonist and RD Burman’s assistant Manohari Singh came to his show. “I happened to be playing the harmonica,” said Shirali. “Mr Manohari enjoyed it so much he invited me to accompany his saxophone at an RD Burman tribute where I shared the stage with musicians from Burman’s orchestra.” That performance led to more, including an OP Nayyar tribute organised by Pune’s Harmonica Club in 2009. Last year, Shirali’s harmonica was part of a song sung by Shreya Ghoshal and Kunal Ganjawala for the Kannada film Jothegara.

Notwithstanding bit parts in films, the harmonica is still in danger of disappearing altogether, said Sudheendra Muralidhara, a software entrepreneur from Bangalore. He lauds the launch of HarmonicaIndia but is a little disappointed with the quality of discussions in the online forum. Unwarranted criticisms frequently mar proceedings. “I’d love to see a more open-minded learning attitude,” conceded Thomas. He is also hoping that an offline initiative he proposed, to get 60 harmonica players from around India to play the national anthem together, will take off. With inputs by Aditya Kundalkar

Visit www.harmonicaindia.com for more information and to become a member.

Source : Time Out Mumbai