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Renowned blues guitarist Harry Manx had his treasured guitar stolen from Chicago airport, prompting a viral online campaign to find it. (Shimon/dog my cat records)
Renowned blues guitarist Harry Manx had his treasured guitar stolen from Chicago airport, prompting a viral online campaign to find it. (Shimon/dog my cat records)

B.C. guitarist’s plea prompts outpouring of online support Add to ...

B.C. blues musician Harry Manx said his world “started spinning a little bit” upon finding his distinctive Indian guitar had been stolen from a baggage carousel at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport last Friday.

But the grief had tempered by Monday when Mr. Manx’s heartfelt plea for the return of the instrument on Facebook went viral and prompted more than 75,000 people to share his story.

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Late Monday afternoon, Mr. Manx said police told him they had arrested a suspect, though the guitar had not been located. By then, though, complete strangers had offered to scour eBay, Craigslist and local pawn shops for the missing guitar, and even to replace it altogether.

“[The support] just kept growing to the point where I couldn’t possibly be miserable,” Mr. Manx said, laughing. “I gave it a good shot, but it wasn’t working.”

The Mohan veena is an instrument Mr. Manx describes as a cross between a guitar and a sitar. It has 20 strings in two parallel rows; the bottom row of sitar strings aren’t played directly, but instead resonate harmonically with the strings of the top row, which are played with a metal slide. The resulting hybrid of Western and Eastern sounds has become his signature style – a blend of blues and Indian ragas.

The instrument’s uniqueness had many Facebook commenters confident it would be easy to identify if spotted, a feeling Mr. Manx shared.

“When you look at this instrument, you see all these tuning pegs,” he said. “You know right off it’s not a normal instrument.”

Though the Isle of Man native now makes his home in Saltspring Island, he first learned to play the Mohan veena from its inventor, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, during a 12-year stay in India. Despite the instrument’s relative obscurity, Mr. Manx has already received three replacement offers, one of which is on its way to him from India.

Todd Johnston, an instrument maker from Harrisburg, Pa., was one of the many people who shared Mr. Manx’s original post, offering to build a replacement Mohan veena himself. Mr. Johnston felt a personal connection to Mr. Manx’s story – though they have never met, Mr. Johnston is married to Mr. Bhatt’s granddaughter.

“I know how horrible a feeling that is,” Mr. Johnston said. “I’ve had [instruments] stolen in the past. It’s like [losing] a member of the family.”

Chicago police declined to comment on the specifics of the investigation, only to say that it was ongoing. But Mr. Manx isn’t worried – though he would like the instrument back as soon as possible, the response his story has received has almost been worth it.

“People are kind of saddened by this collision of something artistic and beautiful with something kind of brutal,” Mr. Manx said. “I think that contrast is what reaches people’s hearts. It’s not just that they know me or my music or whatever.”

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