www.swaraalap.com   |   Disclaimer e-Paper - Issue 04, June 2009     



Shankar Iyer met Manohari Singh at his residence to discover more about the virtuoso, his early days and long music-playing career.

Shankar: Tell us about your childhood days. When did you first get drawn to music?

Manoharida: I was born and brought up in Hooghly district, West Bengal in a family of musicians. My father, Bhim Bahadur Singh, used to play for the Police band during the British era. He played the Flute and the Bagpipe. He also played the Clarinet as did my maternal uncle, who too was a musician. My grandfather was a Trumpet player; he played for music Operas during the British era.

Though, I had done some initial schooling, I was not really interested in studies. There used to be a Key Flute at home. As a young boy of six, I used to attempt playing it, learning to play some simple tunes. Grandfather used to visit us once every week; he encouraged by giving me some money for my Flute playing. This served as motivation to practise the instrument.

Shankar: Were those tunes your own?

Manoharida: Some were my own, some based on English ones. (Hums a tune right away). These were played in the bands; in fact we were lucky to get to see those bands playing live. Also, being a musician himself, father was good at writing notations. He taught me to read notations, besides explaining the subtleties of Flute playing. I slowly picked up the art, often keen to play the instrument when Grandfather visited us home.


Shankar:  How did your skill further develop?

Manoharida: My maternal and paternal uncles played for a brass brand at the Bata Shoe Company, Bata Nagar in erstwhile Calcutta. My uncle introduced me to the groupís conductor, a Hungarian, by the name Joseph Newman. I joined the band for a salary of Rs 3 per week! This was in 1942, I worked there till 1945.

The music that was mostly played in the band was classical music from Czechoslovakia. I started playing regularly and learnt a lot from Joseph Newman. He even taught me to play the Piano. Those were the days when we practised day and night, doing nothing else. I remember playing in a couple of concerts along with Josephís father, who was an expert Xylophone player. I played instruments like the Piccolo and Polka. Thanks to the stint at Bata Nagar, my foundation to read and play on notations were strongly laid.

In 1945, Joseph Newman joined HMV (His Masterís Voice) and hence had to leave the Bata Nagar brass band. He took us (me and my uncles) along with him. He showed faith in me as a young boy, believing I would pick up music quickly by playing more and more.

I started playing in Bengali and Hindi songs made during those days at HMV. Having learnt to read and play earlier, I immensely enjoyed my stint playing for 8 years in Calcutta. There was the Calcutta Symphony Orchestra too which played the heavy classical music of the likes of Beethoven, Mozart, Bach and Tchaikovsky. It was here that my playing skills got



Editor & Publisher Dinesh S. Ghate (Jain)
Chief Trustee Dr. Laxminarayan garg
Feature Editors S. J. Ghate, Arun Puranik, Kushal Gopalka, Shankar Iyer
Pune Correspondent Vilasdutt Raut
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