The Harmonium is a Keyboard Instrument, part of the Organ family. The roots of the Harmonium can be traced back to its French version which came to India sometime in the mid-19th century. Over the years, the Harmonium gained tremendous popularity, especially in rural India. Several new additions were made to the basic structure resulting in the Harmonium instrument we know today. Highly portable, the Harmonium can be carried easily and is used in almost all genres of Indian music, except for South Indian Classical Music.
Mechanism of the Harmonium Sometimes regarded as an extension of the piano which was not affordable by most, the Harmonium evolved over a period of time as it is known today. The Harmonium is made up of a wooden frame which contains a keyboard, brass reeds which vibrate the moment air is blown over them, bellows to pump air, drone stops and a mechanism which helps to change the scales. Earlier versions were often played while using the foot, knees or hands to pump the bellows.
Today, in order to play the Harmonium, the player uses one hand to pump the bellows and the other to play the notes. As the bellows are pumped, air is blown over the reeds which begin to vibrate and create sound, corresponding to the keys which are pressed.
Family of Free-Reed Instruments The Harmonium belongs to the family of Free Reed Instruments. Other instruments belonging to this family include the Accordion and the Concertina.
Popularity of the Harmonium in India Owing to its huge popularity in India, the Harmonium can be seen in use at various occasions. The Harmonium is used both as an accompaniment during vocal performances along with the Tabla as well as a solo instrument.
Harmonium Players in India
As mentioned earlier, Harmonium has enjoyed a place in most Indian homes. It is also quite popular among the Sikhs. However, if we were to talk about some of the most famous personalities who popularised this instrument, we would definitely remember the following names –
- Pandit Tulsidas Borkar
- Pt. R. K. Bijapure
- Arawind Thatte, etc.
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