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An odyssey with Harmonica: Dev Anand to eternal Anand : By Naveen Shanbhag (Musical Journey Contest)

“Hai apna dil to awara; Na jaane kispe aayega” It was the Rangoli program of the only

channel that we used to get in our Black and White Television. That was late 1980s when we

had just got a TV set. On a day of merciful coastal weather, there was only one way to watch

anything on it and it was by properly adjusting the long pole to which antenna was attached.

This particular song was of special interest as Dev Anand would sway in a train

compartment with a Harmonica. There were many attractions in this song for a school going

boy- The catchy music, charming Dev Anand saab, the moving train and of course this

magical instrument – Harmonica.

The attraction towards this wonder instrument started right during school days, thanks to this

evergreen song. At our house, my parents had knowledge of Hindustani classical music,

they liked Bollywood classics but there was no one else around, who could even hum few

tunes of Bollywood. Unlike few other states of India, there was no conducive environment

around where a Harmonica could have been learnt. However, somehow, I could manage to

find a rusted Tremolo Harmonica in our go-down with only couple of notes making some sound. “Hai apna dil to awara” was only a dream that I could enjoy when Doordasrhan broadcasted this song. As time passed, this young boy grew up into an engineer and moved to Bangalore for a job. All these years, I harboured a wish to buy a working Harmonica. With first couple of months income, it was time to realise the dream of owning a ‘working Harmonica’. This finally happened in 1999 when I purchased Suzuki winner for Rs 375. Those were the days of no internet and there was absolutely no way to understand layout of different Harmonicas. So naturally, Dev Anand in Doordarshan’s Rangoli was presumed to be playing the kind of Harmonica that I had. In due course of time, Software engineering profession gave opportunity to visit several countries. Starting with Germany, I could travel to USA, Australia, Thailand, Netherlands etc. In every country, if I had no way to go out, it was Harmonica that gave me blissful company. Even though, I could only play notes, Harmonica travelled with me to several places. Somewhere around 2010, I happened to purchase my first chromatic Harmonica. By this time, I had also learnt scales and few nuances of music by virtue of attending piano classes.

This opened up new and vast world of music theory. Those were also the days I was attending every music concert in Bangalore. Be it classical or Bollywood, none of them was ever missed from 1999 onwards for about ten years. While on this journey, someone informed about a program about Harmonica at Gaayana Samaja of Bangalore. This location is a go to place for any music enthusiast and it has maintained this reputation for ages. So, the event was not to be missed. The music festival at Gaayana Samaaja was the real game changer and it was the first time, I could see the versatility of chromatic Harmonicas. I still remember approaching many performers there with naïve questions about slider, scale adjustments etc. My curiosity and enthusiasm were boundless only to make new friends at TBHC, The Bangalore Harmonica Club which had many Harmonica stalwarts as its members. It was this camaraderie which eventually helped in gaining sense of rhythm, the weakness that was discovered really late.

The boom of internet gave the most desired impetus to this passion which helped to get in touch with many professional players and I started benchmarking performances. This certainly helped towards improvement of my own performances. It followed many public performances, each one giving heartbreaks initially but much desired confidence subsequently. This fantastic journey which started with charismatic Dev Anand continues to give a lot of “Anand” even today! As Antonio Brown quoted, “The journey is never ending. There's always gonna be growth, improvement, adversity; you just gotta take it all in and do what's right, continue to grow, continue to live in the moment“. I continue to live the moment and enjoy every bit of it. As it stands today, good number of Harmonicas that I gathered over these years, several friends I have made across professional barriers and interest to do something different and new, makes me travel further and farther. The odyssey has been very joyous, soothing and satisfactory. For this very reason, for all that it brought along, I continue to owe lot of gratitude, to humble Harmonica.


Thank You,

Naveen Shanbhag

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