Portrait: Sweet Harmonica

Published in the May 1997 issue of the SAS inflight magazine Scanorama, by Leiv Gunnar Lie.

The harmonica was always Georg Pollestad`s favourite instrument, but he never imagine he would be making one himself – or making the best the world has seen.

His interest in the harmonica started when he went to sea at the age of 15. «I bought a packet of cigarettes and a harmonica,» he says. «It didn’t take long before I went off the fags and concentrated on practising the instrument.»

It worried him, however, that he never managed to create the kind of sound that Norway’s star player Sigmund Groven did. So when the great man held a concert in Pollestad`s home town in 1980, he went to meet him. «I persuaded Groven to open his harmonica, so I could see the main parts and how they were put together,» he says. «Then, I thought: I can do this!»

When Groven returned a couple of months later, Pollestad had designed and built his first harmonica. Groven was so impressed so he used it during the concert, and announced to the audience that it had been made by one of the locals. The press picked up the news, and Pollestad soon found himself on national radio and television.

Four or five leave his workshop every year, at a price of NKr 30.000 ($4.500) a piece. He tries to deliver as many of them as he can by hand. «I feel I put so much of my soul into making them that it would be a shame to just wrap them in paper and send them off,» he says. «I like to check out the place where each harmonica ends up and make sure it gets a good home.»

Personal delivery has merged his love of music with a passion for vintage motorcycles. A one-time Norwegian speedway champion and the proud owner of a 1948 Vincent motorbike, Pollestad admits to sending the harmonicas by mail only to destinations such as Japan and the United States.