Manohari Singh, maestro of the saxophone: 1931-2010

Samanth Subramanian in Mint:

In 1969, a group of musicians from Mumbai accompanied Kishore Kumar on a three-month tour of performances, visiting the West Indies, the US, and the Netherlands. It was during this tour, when the troupe hit New York, that Manohari Singh purchased his adored saxophone—a Selmer alto sax, plated in gold. “He was in love with that sax,” says Kersi Lord, a fellow musician, a colleague in R.D. Burman’s extended orchestra, and a close friend. “He would never even let anybody else carry it.”

Love affairs between musicians and their instruments aren’t unusual, but they are nevertheless memorable, and this one more than most. Singh, whose exuberant saxophone lit up classic film songs such as “Roop tera mastana“ and “Mehbooba mehbooba”, and even films as recent as Chalte Chalte and Veer Zaara, passed away on Tuesday after suffering cardiac arrest at the age of 79.

Like his father, who played for Calcutta’s police bands during the British Raj, Singh started his career with the key flute, and he never deserted it entirely. Even in 1967, well after he became famous for the distinct sound of his sax, Singh contributed a flute strain to the song “Ek haseen shaam ko”, from the film Dulhan Ek Raat Ki—a sweet snippet that seems to respond playfully to the plaintiveness in Mohammad Rafi’s voice. More:

2 Responses to “Manohari Singh, maestro of the saxophone: 1931-2010”

  • wonderful piece, enjoyed it. thanks for publishing it

  • It was a gold-plated Selmer Mark VI (mark 6), one of the most sought after and acoustically beautiful saxophones ever produced. Even now they can fetch up to $7-8000 second-hand.

    He had a very distinctive playing style.

Leave a Reply