Hampalang Harmonica…

[written by Bluffname and SgSoonhoe, edited by Bluffname and KopiOkaya]

Hampalang is a Chinese, Cantonese dialect word that means ‘everything’ or ‘all sorts’. The word goes well with harmonica, giving ‘hampalang harmonica’ a nice ring.

Well, the harmonica is a musical instrument for hampalang people – all sorts of people. It is inexpensive – you can buy a cheap, made-in-China harmonica for just a few dollars and a reasonably good, branded one like Horner for only about S$50. It is easy to learn – you can play a simple tune in just a few lessons. Plus, it is portable – it is one of the few musical instruments that can fit into your pocket.

But not all. The harmonica does come in hampalang shapes and sizes. And the 8th Asia-Pacific Harmonica Festival held in Singapore recently presented a great opportunity to see – and photograph – the great many types of harmonica, ranging from one very tiny instrument smaller than the lips, to some longer than a subway sandwich, as well as multi-deck bass instruments that sound like frogs! These were played in a great variety of ways by musicians spanning a great age range – from five to possibly 85! – performing hampalang music – blues, pop, folk, classical….

It was sheer coincidence how a group of us FUNees came to know about this event. Yingbin1005 had one day posted on sg.shoot about the things she used to do before she took up photography. And one of those things was play the harmonica.

SgSoonhoe, too, used to play the harmonica when he was in school. And Yingbin1005’s post prompted him to do an Internet search for his former harmonica teacher and he found an entry about him being a “judge”? For what, SgSoonhoe wondered… And further searches led him to learn about the festival, which included free public performances at Suntec City.

That got a few others excited. TheChef, too, used to play the harmonica when he was in school, while Bluffname has a good friend who is active in the local harmonica circles and probably in the group that organized the event.

“sHOOT AH…” as they would say.  SgSoonhoe went on his own on Saturday July 31st while Yingbin1005, TheChef and Bluffname joined him on Sunday August 1st.

They really had a rare treat of shooting hampalang harmonic – especially SgSoonhoe. Although there were more performances on Sunday, SgSoonhoe captured a few rare shots that the rest missed – including a very small harmonica with just four holes and narrower than the width of the lips. On Sunday, this tiny instrument was merely worn as a pendent by one pretty Vietnamese girl and even then it was SgSoonhoe who spotted it.

Also absent on Sunday was one Japanese player who played the instrument vertically – showing that the harmonica can, indeed, be played in hampalang ways.

The group was glad, however, that a certain Japanese senior, with white hair and TWO sets of eye glasses, made a return appearance on Sunday. They had seen SgSoonhoe’s image of him lifting up one pair of his eye glasses, as if to look for a particular note on his instrument.

He was a hot favorite of the FUNees and Yingbin1005 thought he looked very “kawaii”. The other aunties, uncles, grannies and grandpas who performed with him – some of whom looked well into their 70s and 80s, were quite cute too.

Bluffname particularly liked one aunty, with big eyes and sharp, facial features. But the darling on Sunday was clearly one young Japanese girl, who thrilled with both her good looks and her fine performance. Incidentally, she is a photographer too and was spotted after her performance with a Pentax Kx DSLR camera.

For Yingbin1005, the one who made her heart melt was a dashing “Harmonica Boy” from Thailand. Too bad she had gone home before he performed. But she saw pictures of him and wishes her son would grow up like him.

There were also some very cute young children from China and Korea, the youngest of whom was only five years old. Plus a very expressive “world champion” player from Taiwan.

A group of Korean dancers in traditional costumes added to the “hampalangness” of the event. No, they were not playing the harmonica but their two performances were appreciated all the same.

If it sounds as if the FUNees had a grand time, it was a great challenge for them too. Lighting conditions were extremely poor and most resorted to using the camera’s built-in flash, something that they hardly ever do.

And the players that were easier to photograph were those who stood boringly still. The more expressive players swayed and danced and, in the case of the Thai Harmonica Boy, even went off-stage and, on Saturday, up and down the escalator!

And so there was a fair share of dark and blurry images. But as always, the FUNees with their FinePix cameras rose to the challenge and produced some fine images.

Click image to enlarge.

[photo: SgSoonhoe] Fujifilm FinePix S5 Pro

[photo: SgSoonhoe] Fujifilm FinePix S5 Pro

[photo: SgSoonhoe] Fujifilm FinePix S5 Pro

[photo: SgSoonhoe] Fujifilm FinePix S5 Pro

[photo: Yingbin1005] Fujifilm FinePix S100FS

[photo: Yingbin1005] Fujifilm FinePix S100FS

[photo: Yingbin1005] Fujifilm FinePix S100FS

[photo: Yingbin1005] Fujifilm FinePix S100FS

[photo: TheChef] Fujifilm FinePix S5 Pro

[photo: TheChef] Fujifilm FinePix S5 Pro

[photo: TheChef] Fujifilm FinePix S5 Pro

[photo: TheChef] Fujifilm FinePix S5 Pro

[photo: Bluffname] Fujifilm FinePix S5 Pro

[photo: Bluffname] Fujifilm FinePix S5 Pro

[photo: Bluffname] Fujifilm FinePix S5 Pro

[photo: Bluffname] Fujifilm FinePix S5 Pro

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One response to “Hampalang Harmonica…”

  1. yingbin says :

    It is really an enjoyable shooting outing….. i enjoyed it alot alot alot!! so glad we din MISSED IT!!!! =)

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