INSTRUMENTAL: Ipiranga Harmonica

After a long Columbus weekend that consisted of a Bermuda Triagle documentary binge, I decided to go look for the souce of its powers myslef. Turns out I spent a month trying every Black Seal Rum concoction at the Dragon’s Triangle and Habushu Bar in Alphabet City. Maybe I should bring back the Weazel Ball.

This month’s Instrumental is a Ipiranga Harmonica used by its current owner’s father to raise money to help send his children to college. Randal Steppstone, the current owner, has taken a few minutes to answer our questions.

What is the Make/Model?

I don’t known anything about it other than what is written on it. Ipiranga, Ind. Brasileira is written on the case, so I assume that is the maker and that it is made in Brazil.

What is your history with this harmonica?

I found out about this harmonica when I was grown after having my first child. When he came to the hospital to visit, my father gave me the harmonica and told me that when I was growing up he would play this harmonica every morning on his way to work. He would get off the subway at Times Square and walk over to the Shuttle platform and setup with his upturned hat and play for 30 to 45 minutes for tip money. At the end of the week, we would then deposit that money into a savings account for me and my sister to have when we were old enough to go to college. He didn’t tell anyone where the money came from, he said it was his left over change, until his first grandchild was born and he gave it to me to continue the tradition. Unfortunately, I left New York many years ago and I cannot carry a tune in a bucket, so I will not be continuing the tradition.

Why this one?

Who knows? Probably it was on the shelf at the store when he made the decision to do this.

Any good war stories?

I wish he were here to answer that. He did say that during Abraham Beame’s turn as mayor there was a crackdown on people busking in the subways and he was worried that he had to stop for several weeks until things blew over.