Meet this man who has been making musical instruments on the banks of Ganga for 30 years
Mukesh Dhiman specialises in making a wind instrument native to Australia, and runs Jungle Vibes, an absolute treat to the music lover's soul, in Rishikesh
If you’ve ever been to Rishikesh in Uttarakhand, India, you’d surely have come across scores of musical instruments shops. But one man, Mukesh Dhiman, stands out from the crowd owing to his special connection with music. The journey for him started 30 years ago when an Australian traveller taught him the art of making a 'didgeridoo', a wind instrument made of wood that is believed to have come into existence around 1,500 years ago, developed by indigenous Australians.
While in Rishikesh, we stumbled upon Mukesh’s studio called, Jungle Vibes, and he invited us over for a tea. Hidden in one of the many lanes, a couple of kilometres before Lakshman Jhula in Rishikesh, Mukesh’s studio is a marvel made of wood. A very rustic space, the studio serves the purpose of a shop as well as the workshop, where volunteers help out Mukesh. Visitors are welcome throughout the day.
“A musicians’ relationship with the instrument is very special and if the musician gets involved in the process of making the instrument, the relationship takes up a different flavour,” Mukesh explains, as we sip on tea his wife made for us. The specialty of Jungle Vibes is that all instruments are handcrafted on a need basis. There are hardly any readymade didgeridoos or djembes that you can pick up off the shelf. The studio encourages everyone to take part in the making process and take home an instrument that felt right for them. The price for a basic didge starts at Rs 2,500 for a simple bamboo instrument, and goes up according to the specifications and the kind of wood being used. But the essence of the place is absolutely non-commercial; if Mukesh likes someone, and if the person is truly on the path of music, money loses its purchase power. Jungle Vibes would happily give away the instrument for whatever the person can afford.
Ever since the day he started making instruments, life took a new turn for Mukesh. He started to appreciate life in a different manner, and started walking on the path of devotion. Listening to the Ganga that flows close by and getting lost in music is what the man cherishes. His sons have also taken up the art and have followed their father’s musical notes. “Rishikesh is getting a little crowded and hence I have started work on a new house further up in the mountains. This hut will be such that whenever wind blows, music will be played; such will be the design of the wooden house,” he told us. Mukesh wants to call it 'Kothli Ma Ganga River View'.
On our second visit more than a year later, the house is almost done. There are volunteers from all over the world helping Mukesh out with his studio space. “I just love being here. I am learning the art of making the didge and, alongside, helping Jungle Vibes with its online communication,” says a volunteer who otherwise worked in Bengaluru with Cisco.
There are new experiments that keep happening regularly. The team at Jungle Vibes has developed a smaller version of a didgeridoo that can be carried along while travelling. The studio is also active on social media, as far as digital presence goes, but the heart of the initiative lies in the connection with the music. Being there, playing the music, carving out your instrument is a joy that can only be had by a person who soaks in the music wafting in the air on the banks of the Ganges.
Website: Jungle Vibes