Concert series brings East Indian influence to foothills
Music: B.C. musician Harry Manx to play for Beneath the Arch March 23
By: Tammy Rollie
| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 13, 2013 11:58 am
Busking on streets around the world with little musical background resulted in some significant changes in one man’s life.
What started off as musical soul-searching in the East ended with Harry Manx becoming an award-winning Canadian musician whose unusual style earned him a name of his own. Manx is sharing his unique sound with foothills residents at the Beneath the Arch Concert Series at the Flare ‘n’ Derrick Community Centre in Turner Valley on March 23 at 7:30 p.m.
It wasn’t until his rebellious teens did Manx’s musical journey began, carrying him on a wild ride around the globe. He has since won seven Maple Blues Awards, the Canadian Folk Music Award for Best Solo Artist in 2005, CBC Radio’s “Great Canadian Blues Award” in 2007 and had six Juno nominations.
At age 15 Manx was tired of hockey and began hanging out with teens who played in a rock band. Shortly after he left home and was soon working with the likes of Rush and Crowbar in the 1970s.
Manx had another vision — to become a street musician in Europe. He started his adventure by travelling further west to Japan.
“I found in Japan I could hit the street and make some good money in a short time,” he said.
It was while passing a shop playing East Indian music the unique sound came into Manx’s sights.
He bought the record her heard and moved to India where he tracked down the musician responsible for creating the album and they became fast friends.
The famous musician, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, was the inventor of the 20-string mohan veena, which is now Manx’s signature instrument, and tutored Manx in Indian music.
“He had me practicing four or five hours a day very intensively,” he said. “I was a mediocre player most of my life until I came across Indian music.”
Bhatt taught Manx Eastern scales, ragas and deceptively complex and regimented musical patterns that form the basis of Indian composition.
“We tend to play music in a linear fashion but in Indian they go deeper until they’ve taken everything they can from a note,” he said. “It allows you to put a lot more feeling and emphasis into everything you are doing. Its not the amount of learning a musician has it’s the ability to put a lot of passion into the music that attracts people.”
Soon Manx and Bhatt were performing concerts together.
“I traveled with him and played all over India,” he said. “It was definitely a step up the ladder. I felt like I was being challenged a lot more.”
Manx played mostly slide instruments and the six-string banjo and soon learned performing in India was much different than North America. For one thing, most of their concerts were performed after midnight to a sleepy, quiet and meditative audience.
Manx said he’s learned a lot of lessons from Bhatt, including how to let the music be the centre of attention.
“Don’t try to be greater than the raga,” he said. “Don’t show off so much. Let the music be the main thing. I try to live by that.”
Manx returned to Canada in 2000 after spending 12 years in India and combined the styles of Indian music with that of his passion — blues — to create a sound uniquely his own.
“I was busking to pay my hotel room and people would come along and go, ‘Wow, you should get a gig. You are pretty good,’” he said.
Instead, Manx recorded his first album and it gained such popularity his music career took off from there.
In 12 years he recorded 12 albums and his latest, “Om Suite Ohm,” was released two weeks ago and is one of the best selling records in Quebec.
“I went to the four corners of the planet and I didn’t go after any musical career until recently because I was really after the music,” he said. “Now that I have music I’m glad a career has found itself around me. It’s a real pleasure and a great place to be.”
Although Manx has spent his recent months overseas and in eastern Canada, he’s eager to meet some Alberta fans.
“I haven’t been out to Alberta for a bit but I’m looking forward to coming back that way,” he said.
Beneath the Arch Concert Series selections committee chairperson Suzanne Searle said she is eager to bring Manx back on stage.
“A lot of our long-standing season ticket people have seen him before but not for like five or six years,” she said. “I thought it’s probably time to hear Harry again and hear some of his new stuff. He’s a big hit wherever he goes and he was a really big hit when he came the last time.”
Searle said Manx brings something to her season ticket holders no one else has — a genre of music combining eastern and western music.
“It’s beautiful and incredible and it’s mesmerizing,” she said. “He plays instruments certainly no western performer plays.”
Tickets to see Harry Manx perform cost $25 for adults and $10 for youth ages six to 12 and are available at Coyote Moon Cantina and Espresso Bar in Turner Valley, Bluerock Gallery in Black Diamond, the Millarville General Store or Okotoks Natural Foods Market.
To learn more about Harry Manx go to www.harrymanx.com