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Born in Kolkata in a family of musicians, Manohari Singh watched his father - originally from Nepal - and uncle play in brass bands. In 1942, he joined the brass band at Bata Shoe Company, Bata Nagar in Kolkata, under its Hungarian conductor Joseph Newman. When Newman left in 1945 to join HMV, Manohari and his uncles followed. From classical music, he started playing Hindi and Bengali songs for the HMV orchestra, since Newman arranged music for many composers like Kamal Dasgupta, S D Burman, Timir Baran and Ravi Shankar. He also played flute and piccolo at the Calcutta Symphony Orchestra. Through fellow musicians such as Francisco Casanovas, deputy conductor at the Symphony Orchestra and band-leader at Firpo's Restaurant, George Banks, trumpet player at the Grand Hotel, and others, Manohari was introduced to the Calcutta nightclub scene. He had already tried his hand at the English key flute, the clarinet and the mandolin, but now he decided to learn the saxophone in order to be able to play at nightclubs.
When the conductor Joseph Newman left HMV in 1950 to settle in Australia, Manohari moved on to play at Firpo's with his own band. Urged by the music director Salil Chowdhury, Manohari decided to try his luck in Mumbai, moving there in 1958. His first break in the Hindi film industry was in 1958 with Sachin Dev Burman, as a saxophonist for the movie Sitaron se aage. He went on to play with many other music directors, his strongest association being with R.D. Burman, for whom he played the saxophone in many compositions. In addition to playing the alto saxophone, Manohari Singh was also the music assistant and arranger for R. D. Burman.
Manohari played on the well-known hit "Gaata rahe mera dil", composed by S.D. Burman, from the movie Guide. He also played for songs in the movies Chalte Chalte (2003) and Veer Zaara (2004). He also released an album titled Sax appeal containing saxophone renditions of various Hindi movie music tracks Manohari Singh was said to deeply cherish his gold-plated Selmer saxophone (bought in New York in 1969) and tried to avoid getting even his own finger-prints on it.
He was felicitated at the Yashwantrao Chavan Natyagruha (auditorium) on March 19, 2006, on the occasion of his 75 birthday He was also awarded with "Memorable Contribution to Music Award" at the Tata Indicom Radio Mirchi Music Awards function held on 27 March 2009.
Manohari Singh died after a cardiac arrest on July 13, 2010 in Mumbai.