Canadian musician Harry Manx said he felt alone and insecure Friday as he stepped onstage just hours after his signature Indian guitar had been stolen in Chicago.
But a Facebook message he posted about the theft that night went viral, producing 3.5 million views, multiple offers of help and, ultimately, an international shipment containing a replacement.
Manx filed a police report saying that the guitar, called a Mohan veena, was stolen earlier that Friday at a baggage claim at O’Hare International Airport.
That night he posted a message on the social media website, telling fans what happened and pleading for the return of the guitar he had been playing for 20 years.
Forty minutes into the show, Manx checked the social media site and found 50,000 people had seen his note. By Sunday morning, he said, that figure had ballooned to 3.5 million views. Thousands of people have shared the post and at least three people have offered to send him a new one.
“Suddenly, the whole dynamic changed,” he said of the Facebook feedback in an interview Sunday with the Tribune. “I haven’t felt alone since.”
On Friday morning, Manx arrived at O'Hare from Toronto to play a weekend of shows in Wisconsin. But when he reached the Terminal 2 baggage claim at 10:47 a.m., the black fiberglass case covered with stickers that carried the guitar was missing.
After speaking with police, Manx, 59, said he learned someone had picked up the guitar, along with another traveler's bag, and headed out the door.
Chicago police said video surveillance captured the incident, but Manx said he was told the suspect’s face is not visible. No one was in custody as of Sunday evening, a Chicago police spokesman said.
A musician since the age of 15, Manx has made the Mohan veena a signature piece in his repertoire. His music is a marriage of blues and classical Indian.
Only a few musicians play the instrument in India, where it was created by Grammy Award-winning musician Vishwa Mohan Bhatt. Manx traveled to India and studied under Bhatt for 12 years.
The instrument, a hybrid of the guitar and sitar, has two layers of 20 strings running parallel and tuning heads right down the neck. It is played with a metal bar and on someone’s lap.
As he traveled back to O’Hare on Sunday, Manx said the untrained person would have a difficult time trying to play it.
“It’s not something your average person would be able to get much sound from,” he said. “Even to tune it takes a long time.”
Since he posted pleas for the instrument’s return on Facebook, that message has been shared tens of thousands of times by people all over the world.
Most said they were praying for the instrument’s safe return. Others commented that they had searched local pawnshops or told friends in Chicago. At least three people offered to build or send him a new one. In fact, one from India is already en route, he said.
Todd Johnston doesn’t know Manx but offered to build him a Mohan veena after seeing a friend share the original post. Johnston, of Harrisburg, Penn., said he knows the “sinking feeling” of having an instrument stolen.
“I understand his plight and did what I thought I could to do help,” said Johnston, 48, who listens to Manx’s music and builds instruments for a living. “If it doesn’t get found, at least it could be replaced. I’d be honored doing it for him.”
Likewise, Linda Young of northwest Indiana, doesn’t know Manx and had never heard of the Veena Mohan. But she felt compelled to share his post after seeing a friend share the message. Many of her Facebook friends are musicians, she said, who will be able to spread the word.
“You have an emotional attachment to something like that,” said Young, 58, of Hobart, Ind. “It’s part of his blood, it’s part of his music, it’s part of him, it’s part of his soul.”
The outpouring has uplifted Manx, who will soon be touring in Canada, England and Central Europe. He hopes to get the guitar back but said the biggest prize has been seeing the generosity from friends and strangers, especially those in Chicago.
“I sort of think it’s a fair trade,” said Manx. “He can have the Veena, I’ll take the love I have here. That’s probably worth more than the instrument. At the end of the day, it’s just wood.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun