Mumbai teenager creates music using wine glasses

So you thought wine glasses were meant only to sip and swivel your Chardonnay? Meet a 19-year-old from Mumbai, who creates music with them

  A Wooden board with 27 water-filled wine glasses stands in front of Gaurav Kotian as the musician patiently waits for Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On to begin.

As the Titanic theme picks up pace, he tinkers with the glasses, his fingers deftly caressing the rims to produce sweet and lilting sounds in sync with the track playing in the background. This is one of the videos posted on by the city-based 19-year-old, who joins the band of a handful of glass harp players in the world.

Gaurav Kotian plays the glass harp
Gaurav Kotian plays the glass harp

Recently, Kotian made his debut on the online, artiste-friendly platform where musicians, singers and performers can display their skills, which can be hired by talent seekers across the globe.

"Through the platform, I want to popularise the unique and challenging instrument," says the prodigious musician, who was featured on India’s Got Talent – Season 6 last year. "The judges were awed by my performance and Mr Karan Johar said, ‘Aapke haathon mein jaadoo hai."

Harpin’ about it
Kotian first learnt the guitar at the age of 14 and now, he coaches the instrument to students from six to 55 years of age, besides performing stage shows with Rock and Metal bands. He has completed a diploma in Audio Engineering from Andheri’s AAT Media College and also knows how to play the keyboards. The music background helped him construct the glass harp from scratch when he learnt about the instrument last year. "I selected the wooden boards, wine glasses and the other fixtures myself. The glasses are of different shapes and sizes; they are mounted on a wooden board with elastic straps. The level of water in each glass varies according to the sound to be produced (this is my expertise), which happens due to resonance effect. The instrument is unique because it’s acoustic and doesn’t require a battery or electricity," he informs.

From the 1960-hit Ajeeb dastaan hai yeh... to Badlapur’s popular track, Jeena Jeena, Kotian sticks to soulful melodies in Hindi and English. "Since last year, I have been performing at weddings and corporate events. A background track enhances the performance but I can play without it too," he says.

However, playing the instrument is no cakewalk. Transporting it is a challenge due to its bulky and fragile nature, though the musician has made a case for it. "I also need to carry a full set of spare glasses in case there is breakage in transit. You
need a lot of patience for the set-up process (tuning of the instrument). Special grade condenser microphones are required to pick up the sound accurately," he says.

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Did you know?

>> The glass harp was first created by Irishman Richard Pockrich in 1741, who called it the ‘angelic organ’. Instead of using moistened fingers to rub the glasses, he used wooden sticks to play them. Apparently, the instrument and the inventor, both perished in a fire in 1759.

 The wine glass harp was used by popular Rock band, Pink Floyd while recording the nine-part composition, Shine On You Crazy Diamond. It’s part of their 1975 album, Wish You Were Here.

 Brooklyn-born Gloria Parker, a popular American female icon as the all-girl bandleader during the swing era, entertained the listeners of her night radio show, from 1950 to 1957, by playing the glass harp, the marimba and the organ.

>> German musician, Bruno Hoffmann is considered as the virtuouso, who revived global interest in the instrument in
the 1900s.

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