Carrots, condoms and other wind instruments | Bombay News
Linsey Pollak is neither a carpenter nor a serial killer. Yet this Australian’s suitcase on his first trip to India contains an electric drill, a knife, two rubber gloves, a piece of garden hose, a dustpan and a broom. When the waiter at the Worli restaurant where Pollak just finished his lunch arrives to ask if he can clear the table, he finds the stranger miming a rabbit. âMy antennae are still in place,â the 66-year-old musician tells us, referring to his elevated radar for household items that can be mutated into clarinets, saxophones, bagpipes and other wind instruments. Known for coaxing the tune of reused chairs, ladders, feather dusters, walking sticks, and even condoms, Pollak – perhaps the only man to have given a TEDx talk in a red star-printed shirt – is mostly known to have fashioned a clarinet from a carrot.
Today, four years after that viral TEDx video in which you hear audience members laughing as Pollak drills holes in a carrot, rams a half bugle on one end and a clarinet whistle on the other to produce a melody Decent, Pollak is in Mumbai for TEDxGateway 2018 which will take place on Sunday. Here, the soft-spoken musician will take the stage with the suspicious contents of his suitcase and a peeled local carrot to show that music, like air, is everywhere. He dreams of a world where playing music is as rampant as breathing. âMaking music is really important for making connections,â says the âcommunity music activistâ who runs a multicultural music center to help marginalized migrant musicians in Australia find financial respect. Classically trained clarinet player, Pollak fades when people give up their pianos and flutes after graduating. “Unlike football or cricket, where watching elite athletes does not prevent the layman from playing, people tend to leave the music to the experts,” says the Australian who has played carrot in several countries including the reserved Japan where people applauded. the end of her show, Happy South Korea where you had to tell people not to clap on her show and distracted China where half of her audience stared at their phones.
In a way, Pollak’s propensity to seek out the acoustics of the house is reminiscent of that of percussionist Sivamani whose fingers drummed everything from copper vases to suitcases. However, the Australian’s unique ability to sculpt and invent instruments – a bass piano from a potato stabbed with bamboo skewers or bagpipes from condoms – conjures no parallel in desi. The 60-year-old was 19 when he dropped out of school to succumb to the joy of creating 40 instruments from watermelons and potatoes for a show called Out Of The Frying Pan. The tube-shaped carrot clarinet hit Pollak when a friend, who was hosting the concert, asked him if he could come up with something new. While it didn’t surprise any of his friends or sisters – who are visual artists accustomed to making things like ceramic coral reefs – were surprised, the children in his instrument-making workshops often exclaim: “How do you find such ideas?” To that, Pollak – who believes curiosity is the key to creating change – has a common response: “I’m just trying to be more like you.”
Of course, to prolong childhood is to accept accidents. Once, during a performance, as the bamboo skewer Pollak was ramming into a carrot found his left palm, he quickly descended from the stage to shed the oozing blood and came back to avoid “freaking people out. “. Then his rubber glove bagpipe burst several times, so he always has a spare. Traveling can be tricky. At a New Zealand airport, a customs officer once mistook Pollak’s coiled glass invention called Mr Curly for a cannabis filtration device. “Is that a bang?” The officer asked, unconvinced by Pollak’s description as a contrabass clarinet. So when Pollak embarked on an impromptu gig, the funky sound impressed the officer enough to call his colleagues Dave and Steve and later ask for Pollak’s Youtube link. Now the Aussie says his clothes – pastel cotton shirts and pants – only “pad” the gear he wears. His weakness for knitted cups, however, must offer a good cushion. “It’s to protect the skull,” smiles Pollak, who hasn’t looked back since he first shaved his head 22 years ago to play the character of a rowdy on the rise. A rock group. “I never have a bad day with my hair,” said the 66-year-old, who prefers knit caps because wide-brimmed hats and baseball caps don’t also tighten his head.
Underneath the knitted beanie is a brain that loves spicy Indian chicken vindaloo as much as the sound of shehnai and its South Indian cousin, nadaswaram. The latter, Pollak discovered it thanks to his friend, Tunji Beier, who spent three years in Bangalore learning Carnatic music. As he heads to rehearsal with his velvet bag-wrapped “Flatsax”, he says he’s collaborating with local musicians from the Maatibaani group with whom he will perform at the World Music Festival in Udaipur. But before that, the carrot clarinet man has a question. âAre there any interesting vegetables unique to India? ” he asks. “Are you looking for a specific shape? ” we answer. âNo, I meanâ¦ eat,â he said.