25 Apr Celebrating Martin Chemes’ Ten Years as a Lee Oskar Harmonicas Featured Artist
Celebrating Martin Chemes’ Ten Years as a Lee Oskar Harmonicas Featured Artist
We are so excited to commemorate Martin Chemes’ 10th Anniversary as a Lee Oskar Harmonicas Featured Artist!
Born in Rosario, Argentina, Martin is a well-loved musician, harmonica player, cultural manager, music teacher, and since 2016, Producer and Director of the “Rosario International Harmonica Festival”. In that year, Lee Oskar appointed him as the Lee Oskar Harmonicas Ambassador in South America, in recognition of his amazing efforts to spread the love of music and harmonica playing throughout that part of the world.
Martin is also a musician and teacher collaborating with the Playing For Change Foundation, (which Lee Oskar and Lee Oskar Harmonicas proudly support with him), where he serves as the chief harmonica professor in the Diamante (Argentina) and most recently, Curitiba (Brazil) school programs.
In honor of this special anniversary, Lee comments, “It has been wonderful having Martin as a Lee Oskar Harmonicas Featured Artist for these past ten years. He is a very special and talented individual who brings so much passion to his music, his teaching and his efforts to share the love of harmonica throughout the world. I am really proud of him and his dedication to educating schoolchildren through the Playing for Change Foundation Schools, and I’m so impressed by his efforts with the Rosario International Harmonica Festival, which he developed and continues to produce and direct every year. We look forward to many more years together!”
Martin shared his thoughts about his journey as a Lee Oskar Harmonicas Featured Artist in this Q & A…
Q. What has it meant to you to be a Lee Oskar Harmonicas Featured Artist for these ten years?
It is an honor and a privilege to be a Lee Oskar Harmonicas Featured Artist—an unbelieable dream come true! I started playing the harmonica 20 years ago, when I was only 17 years old. The first harmonica record I heard was Lee Oskar’s first vinyl album from 1976. Back in 2001, my first harmonica teacher had this record and he allowed me listen to it in his garage at the end of our classes, I listened to it over and over again, for hours. Many times, my mother called my teacher to find out if I was still there, since it was late and I had not made it back home, and there I was, always listening to that record. Lee is my idol and my musical reference since my beginnings with the instrument.
When I started to learn harmonica, I was very young and my family was going through a very difficult economic situation, I could hardly buy a cheap, low quality harmonica, made in China. A friend of mine, who was also learning to play harmonica, had bought a Lee Oskar Harmonica and on several occasions, he lent it to me and it was like heaven… having a professional harmonica like that was more than a wish for me.
Throughout my story, there was a lot of effort, dedication, studying and professionalism. Today I celebrate 16 years as a professional musician, using harmonica as a way of making my living. With a profession that I love so much and also celebrating 10 years as a Lee Oskar Harmonicas Featured Artist, I see this as a reward for my passion and dedication for harmonica and music in general.
Q. What are some highlights that you have experienced during this journey as an LOH Featured Artist?
What I value the most about being part of this wonderful team is the deep connection and friendship with Lee and Sri, who are now part of my family. Professionally, there have been many incredible benefits, opportunities and moments.
Before 2011, I had already been playing live shows, recording albums, traveling a lot around my country giving workshops, clinics, etc. However, being chosen by Lee as a LOH Featured Artist gave my career a great endorsement and an international standing. I began to travel to many other countries, with several steady projects in South America.
A meaningful highlight for me is the honor of having been able to play with Lee in several live shows, to assist him in giving clinics, and sharing many great moments together every year since 2016, as we toured Argentina and the USA.
I also created, as producer and director, the “Rosario International Harmonica Festival”, an event that I organize year after year, in my city of Rosario with LOH as the main sponsor.
Another very important highlight is the work that I have been collaborating with LOH since 2018, has been the Harmonica Program at the “Playing for Change Diamante School” in Argentina. Diamante is a humble small city in my country, and I travel weekly to give harmonica lessons to a wonderful group of talented, impoverished children.
LOH donates my lessons and the harmonicas to the students. I have created a harmonica orchestra, and we are helping children by transforming their reality using music. The result is incredible: they love the instrument, they take care of it, they take it everywhere in their pockets and they explore not only music through it, but they find their own inner peace and worth.
Q. What are you looking forward to in the year(s) to come as a LOH Featured Artist?
My life goal is to help people to connect with music through the harmonica. Another goal of mine, and Lee’s as well, has been to make my city, Rosario, the Harmonica Capital of South America and I think we have achieved this goal. My hope is to keep it growing with our festival that grows larger every year and to connect the audience closer and closer to this amazing instrument.
To teach in the Playing for Change Diamante Harmonica Program is something that feeds my soul, and we have many future projects linked to that. We are going to start a new Harmonica Program at the Playing for Change School in Curitiba (Brazil) in which I will be the lead harmonica teacher there as well.
As for my music, I am composing new songs and I am working on a new album with all my own compositions, including some Arabic melodies and other compositions including Tango and Argentine folk tunes. Mixing the music of my country and the music of my blood (Lebanon is the country from where my grandparents are from). There will also be some compositions of Reggae, Soul, and Ballads, so it will be a “Fusion” album. I composed all the compositions with the LOH altered tunings, but mostly I used the “Harmonic Minor” and “Melody Maker,” my two favorite Lee Oskar Harmonicas altered tunings.
Q. Anything else that you would like to share?
I always say … Don’t “learn how to play the harmonica,” encourage yourself and dare to “make music through the harmonica!” This approach is much more interesting and fun. In that sense, the harmonica is the right instrument to learn while “playing”; “playing” in the sense of a game, like a child playing a game—just be creative, explore and have fun. I believe that the LOH system, with the standard and three altered tunings, is what most allows people to make music in the most intuitive way. Once you start making music, you feel it and realize that you are truly making music. Then, you will probably need and want to study all the techniques that music requires. Don´t start by focusing on techniques, music always come first!
Learn more about Martin Chemes by visiting: https://leeoskarharmonicas.com/featured-artists/martin-chemes and www.martinchemes.com.
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