Jimpets Mohan comes from the interesting world of orchestra music in Karnataka. The top-class musician, who could sing Kishore Kumar songs with striking brilliance, passed away recently

Not many know Sangamesh Hiremath is Jimpets Mohan. Even the name Jimpets Mohan is familiar to the orchestra lovers of the State, of the 70s and 80s. The recent passing away of Mohan brought back many memories of the days of live music and the musicians who spent an entire lifetime perfect and practising the immortal melodies.

The Devil of Kishore. .. so was he known in the music arena for his robust, and mature voice, similar to that of Kishore. Born as Sangamesh Hiremath in Bijapur, in a lower middle class family, he did his B.A. in Kannada, and was more inclined in achieving something in music, his foremost priority since childhood.

It was the early 70s when Bangalore practically did not have a night life, especially for music. Except for one or two night clubs in the Cantonment, where cabaret dance was in vogue — evening and night — with a half an hour film music slot. At this juncture, it was Hotel Swiss Cottage on the Race Course Road, Bangalore, owned by Prem Agnani, who first wanted to experiment and ventured to start an Indian musical band playing film music. This was in 1972, the same year that saw the arrival of Sangamesh Hiremath in pursuit of music. The venture being successful, slowly Bangalore opened its eyes for the night life. During his early days, a staunch follower and hardcore fan of Mohammed Rafi, he never believed in any other singer’s style. One evening during the early 70s, Bijapur witnessed a Musical Nite by Kishore Kumar. With not much of interest he happened to attend the show on the insistence of his friends. As usual, Kishore with his gimmicks and tantrums on the stage gave a call asking “is there anybody who can sing along with me?” Before anyone could think what was happening, Sangamesh’s friends literally pushed him on the stage saying “we have him!”. Sangamesh sang with Kishore on the dais, giving equal saath to him. Kishore was very impressed and appreciated his versatility and approach of singing on a stage. This left a lasting impression in the mind of Sangamesh. With a strong urge to go up the ladder, he was in a dilemma whether to go to Bombay or Bangalore, he eventually chose Bangalore. It was a sheer coincidence that he landed in Hotel Swiss Cottage, for an audition, where my colleague K. Sreenivasa Murthy (who is the music conductor for A.R. Rahman now) was playing violin in the band along with Kamini. With a handkerchief tied to his forehead, a body language and showmanship hitherto unknown to local customers, they were all stunned with his rendering of ‘Aye Sachchaayee Chup Nahin Sakthi’, ‘Main Intzaar karoon’from Rajesh Khanna’s hit film Dushman, Sangamesh was immediately absorbed in the band and singer Mohan was born. Further, he established himself as Jimpets Mohan till the end, from the time he launched his own orchestra, ‘Mohan’s Jimpets.’

Often in and out of the night club singing, he used to talk about starting an orchestra. The result was Mohan and Party, a four-piece orchestra with James on the keyboard, Aaron on guitar, I was on triple congo/dholak, and Bobby on the drums. As a musician of high calibre, he always wanted to be different.

He was never satisfied with simple and ordinary songs and always used to opt for a song that challenged his ego and capacity – for example, if others were choosing ‘O Mere Sona Re’ he used to make the orchestra work on ‘Aaja Aaja’ or ‘Tumne Mujhe Dekha’ from the film Teesri Manzll. If everyone was singing ‘Chura liya’ his was ‘Lekar Hum Deewana Dil’ from Yaadon ki Barath; the title song of ‘Satyam Sivam Sundaram’ was others’ favourite, but he used to choose ‘Yashomati maiya se’. With his untiring zeal and drive for something unusual, he went on to be a terror in the orchestra field, singers and musicians were scared to share the stage with him as he never used to compromise in quality.

As he had learnt harmonium and tabla to an extent along with singing, his capacity to explore and exploit was much stronger compared to his contemporaries. He was a task master, he was also a large hearted pay master. He was a rare artiste, who never forgot his yesterdays.

In 1976-77 Mohan and Guru teamed up to form the Sound of Music orchestra, shaking up all of Karnataka as far as the orchestral music was concerned. With Mohan’s Kishore numbers, Guru with Rafi and other numbers, Mahesh on Mukesh and Manjula for the female vocals, the group was almost posing a threat to other orchestras with the quality of music they provided. All because of Mohan’s leadership and guidance in running the show. But they soon parted ways, and Mohan’s Jimpets was born in 1979.

Mohan was a challenge to other music troupes including the reigning Sound of Music. His sincerity and dedication caught the attention of Dr. Rajkumar. Their association started in the 80s and continued till Rajkumar’s last performance in 2004, coincidentally in Mohan’s native place of Bijapur. Rajkumar was dependent on Mohan completely and it only speaks volumes of Mohan’s involvement and dedication.

Once, when we were rehearsing here at Rajkumar’s residence for the Bijapur show, Mohan heard that his father was no more. Mohan never uttered a word about it to anyone and continued rehearsing with the orchestra.

Mohan was picked up by Salil Choudhry, and apart from that he also sang for the Vishnuvardhan starrer Onde Roopa Eradu Guna, Love Letter, and everyone remembers ‘Innoo guarantee, Nanjundi Kalyana’ and a few others.

And I can never forget the brilliance with which he sang Kishore’s Chalte Chalte…Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna’….