Thursday, December 09, 2010

P.M. Pensées: Harmonicas are Sneaky

Harmonicas are sneaky. They show up all kinds of places we don't quite expect them. If I say "harmonica player", what do you picture? Probably a wizened old Delta-bluesman, playing soulful cross-harp with wailing bent notes. Or maybe an old-timey hillbilly huffing through a lively square dance tune punctuated with swigs of moon shine. You probably don't picture sixties Jamaican hep cats in suits. At least I didn't. But I was listening to my beloved ska—I don't remember which tune—and I thought, what is that high reedy thing playing the skanks?* After a few confused seconds, I realized it was a harmonica. And then I started to hear harmonica in tons of ska songs. And then, once I started paying attention, I started to hear harmonica tons other music where I wasn't quite expecting it: Belle and Sebastian songs, and... um... well, a whole bunch of others that I can't think of right now. (It's been a long day.) But really, it was a lot. Sneaky little harmonicas.

* No, no, I'm not calling names. "Skank" is ska-insider lingo for that characteristic heavily emphasized off beat upstroke: boom skank
boom skank boom skank boom skank. (I learned that recently; I'm showing off.)


  1. The only instrument that ever stuck to me. I love the mouth harp. I can't play a song but I can play a tune thanks to the humble harmonica. ...just an amateur noodling on the front porch or on a park bench enjoying the day with a song in his heart.


  2. Anonymous3:13 AM

    What's ska?

  3. Teresa3:49 PM

    Are you sure some it it isn't melodica?

  4. I won't claim any certainty on the subject, but I strongly believe it to be a harmonica. (Are melodicas even sneakier than harmonicas? What's the sneakiest instrument, the instrument that shows up in the most places that you least expect it?)