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Upton Park melodica man takes silver in folk festival

PUBLISHED: 17:17 29 August 2017

Musician, Daren Banarsë with his melodia.

Musician, Daren Banarsë with his melodia.

Vickie Flores/Archant

A Newham musician scooped a silver medal at one of Ireland’s largest folk music festivals.

Daren Banarsë won the prize in the “miscellaneous instrument” category at the All-Ireland Fleadh (Festival) in Ennis, County Clare.

Around 3,000 participants performed, danced and sang in the event’s 180 competitions, watched by an estimated 400,000 people.

The 45-year old from Harold Road, Upton Park, played four solo pieces on a wooden melodica – a harmonica-like instrument with a keyboard.

He played 12 minutes of traditional songs including a reel, jig, hornpipe and the slow air Slán le Máighe (Farewell to the Maigue).

The artist and composer, who has written music for television programmes like Top Gear, the Apprentice and Horizon, made the instrument by hand at his workshop in Walthamstow.

Before competing against 17 competitors in the grand final, he had to win two qualifying rounds in the UK.

“I thought I’d just give it a try,” he said. “I needed some experience of playing under pressure.

“So I was surprised when I got through these two rounds and then went to Ireland – it’s hard to not follow through on something like that.”

Daren was born in London to Irish and Indian parents. He decided to practice playing Irish traditional music around 10 years ago, performing in pubs around the city to refine his technique.

He said the melodica, “which is normally a toy instrument”, was well-suited to a wide range of musical genres.

“I’m really interested in using the melodica as a classical instrument as well, so I’ve used it in a lot of recordings on TV,” he said, adding: “People normally think it’s an accordion or a mouth organ, or something similar.”

He said: “What I don’t like about an accordion is you’re a bit limited on the expression you can get with it.”

“The difference with a melodica is you can use your lungs. You can have some great instrument expression.

“The same sort of stuff you could do if you were singing, or if you were carrying a flute, you can put the same expression into a melodica.”

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