NAKUL DHAGAT: My Harmonica Journey.

We are presenting a write-up on Dr Nakul Dhagat, who is a 50 yrs old passionate Harmonica Lover who works as Associate Professor (Architecture Dept.) in MANIT, Bhopal. He also trains his students in communication skills. He plays Bollywood music on harmonica and strongly believes that we should create interest in the younger generation towards Harmonica by playing contemporary music so that they relate themselves to it and get motivated to pick up this instrument. He feels that we have to create acceptability for the harmonica amongst a larger audience and a place for a Harmonicist in a band just like we have the same for a Guitarist or a Drummer who play important roles. He has successfully motivated his 14 yr old son to play the harmonica.

Here we go... Nakul Dhagat, in his own words...

As a child I was brought up on many a good things; tasty food, lots of love from my “ma”; good pampering from my brother and sisters; lots of creation and repair work from my father. And to top it all lots and lots of Hindi Film music from Vividh Bharti on All India Radio, which was played for the whole day in the house. Television was, fortunately, never a part of my upbringing till 1980. By that time another important thing had already entered my life. My black, double sided Tremelo Harmonica of Hero. This happened in 1974. I still remember the day. My dad came home from Gorakhpur by the morning train, and, as a kid, I was more interested in knowing what he got for me from there. In his unpacking, coupled with his talks with “ma”, he handed me a harmonica. I did not understand, then, what I had got. It was another thing with some limited life.
I left the room and things went on normally. My dad observed that I was not being respectful to the gift. So occasionally, he would pick it up himself and play some combination of notes. I do not remember the notes, but do remember this that it was the same combination all the times. I don’t remember what worked, but I also started doing the same; harping some combination of notes that sounded sweet to my ears. And one day, suddenly, this exercise made me play, accidently, the opening line of the song Ek mai aur ek tu” from the movie Khel Khel mei. This stared it all.

My vocabulary of songs was decent because of Vividh Bharti. Slowly I was picking up songs and playing them at home, school an, then, college. By this time I also had this impression that its only “Hero” which manufactured Harmonicas. In 1989- 90 I saw and acquired my first Chromatic from a street vendor in Sarojini market in New Delhi. It was a “Tower”. I played the instrument for a few years like a diatonic since I had no idea what to do with that slider. Slowly the instrument became part of that collection of things which were not in use. I came into my present job in the year 1991. A bad thing happened after that. I ignored my harmonica completely. It was collecting dust in my dark lockers.
Somewhere in 2004, I saw a Puck with Mr. Vijay Trivedi (member of Harmonica Passion Group of Bhopal) and bought it immediately. I saw his collection of Harmonicas and this started my interest in Chromatic Harmonicas. I forced my dad to “gift” me a good chromatic since they were costly. I got my first expensive harmonica, Chromonica 64 of Hohner. Holding it in my hand was a divine feeling. Being married for 14 years, I was again in “Relationship” with my harmonica ;).
My dad initiated the process and he was the one to push it further too. But the next big thing to happen in my harmonica life was the internet. Somebody told me that there are a lot of karaoke tracks and it was madness downloading them. Initially I got all the tracks in C scale. Favorite songs like “Aage bhi jane na tu”, “Ek pyar ka naghma hai”, etc. playing these gave the feeling of a performance long missed. This took further the search for more tracks.
My journey of learning harmonica was not just that of self exploration. Yes I did that also, coupled with lots of practice whenever time permitted; one song before going to bed, or few songs in the evening after coming back from office. I also took help of the experts in the field, contact with whom was, again, through internet. My first such talk was with Mr. Jagjit Singh Issar from Jammu. We talked for long time on phone. One mention from him made me curious. He told me that his son would change the pitch of a track for him. Searching on I could get Karafun and this was another leap. This further strengthened my relationship with harmonica.
I also try my hand at making small stuff and could not help, but making a few boxes to keep harmonica. I also made my set of tools to repair harmonica and was successful in replacing a reed with the help of these “home made” tools.

I must admit that every time I have talked to some harmonica player, a new learning came up and this helped me go further. Audacity, tapping of slider, playing single note, recording tips, equipments, repairs, etc. was learnt through such discussions. Three years ago, in 2010, we could collect as a group in Bhopal and formed the “Harmonica Passion Group”. We try to meet every Sunday morning to play songs for an hour or so and take stock of what we have learnt. Learning process since 2009 has been that of “distance learning”. The main thing, I understood, was to keep my ears and eyes open and catch every good learning that came my way. I took criticism with a pinch of salt; in the right spirit. If it invokes thoughts in me, it will also result in my growth.
In this journey with Harmonica, suddenly, I found my younger son Manas also walking next to me. This made me feel proud. Today this hobby takes some time of my day, but, in return, gives lots of satisfaction. I’m blessed that I have this hobby.

I would like to make a mention about my son Manas. He turned 14 this June 2013. How did he get into harmonica? Its hard to pin point that point in time. But it all happened in two phases. I remember having given him a harmonica, just to find it lying without use. I suppose he was either young for it, or did not have the interest. Then the phase came when I literally sat daily to practice songs with tracks. He would listen to me and he asked me for a harmonica. It seems he got interested and inquisitive if he could do the same. I gave him a Tower. This was somewhere in late 2011, early 2012. He started blowing notes out of interest and was able to pick up his first song on Harmonica "Aa chal ke tujhe". I recorded it and uploaded it. He felt good about it. This encouraged him. I would try to get as close as possible to the original notes in a song. I did not want to force the instrument on him and wanted him to have genuine interest. We sit together occasionally and practice songs. I try to correct his notes and techniques. Slowly he, now looks for his own songs and tries them out himself. I'm sure with time he'll improve. If he is lucky, he may also have opportunity to learn more things from other "gurus" on the forum. He knows many by name as I keep mentioning the names to him.


Listen to a song as many times as possible before trying it on harmonica.

·   In the initial phases of learning try to come as close as possible to the original composition.
    Creative freedom will follow as you excel.

·   Do not rush for that first upload till you have two things in place: the pitch of the song and the rhythm if you are using karaoke or instrument accompaniment. Or do not use the support.

·   Observe some of the good players and their style.

·   Learn to dissect a song into parts and practice and fine tune in parts.

· Internet upload is not your aim. Once you are on right track of playing, this will follow automatically.

·    Many have said this; and I am repeating it: it is the person behind the Harmonica who makes it “sing” so sweet. So, you are responsible to make it sound sweet.

·  Handle your instrument with responsibility. Clean your mouth before playing; store harmonica properly; do not ignore any malfunctioning; understand the working of the instrument.

·   Play and practice with free mind.

·   Your harmonica is like your toothbrush; think before sharing it.

·   A little “madness” for the instrument will help the learning process.

·   Age old saying still works ‘Practice makes a person perfect”.

1 comment:

Himansu said...

I am a rudimentary Harmonica blower and I find Nakul's rendition quite inspiring. My line for him is "Nakul can produce music even out of a stick". A lovely friend of mine this Nakul fellow.