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Wednesday, July 2, 2008



Troubled Galaxy Destroyed Dreams: Chapter 17

Palash Biswas

My real life story has become like an old Harmonium with broken Reeds.The melodies are lost for ever. Only remains the longing for the stolen rhythm.

My childhood may be symbolised with the family Harmonium which Meeradi got from his British God Father. The British couple had lost their only child, a daughter and her face resembled with Meeradi. They wanted to adopt her.At that time, she was the only child in the family. simply, the family was not ready to part away with the little girl. The British couple gifted her the harmonium which stayed with us until Meeradi was married off.

A Harmonium is a free-standing musical keyboard instrument similar to a Reed Organ or Pipe Organ. It consists of free reeds and sound is produced by air being blown through reeds resulting in a sound similar to that of an accordion. The air is supplied by foot-operated (or, as with the type of harmonium used in Indian music, hand-operated) bellows alternately depressed by the player.

The British introduced harmoniums to India during the colonial period. In North America, the most common pedal-pumped free reed keyboard instrument is known as the American Reed Organ, (or parlor organ, pump organ, cabinet organ, cottage organ, etc.) and along with the earlier Melodee, is operated by a suction bellows where air is sucked through the reeds to produce the sound. A reed organ with a pressure bellows, that pushes the air through the reeds, is referred to as a harmonium.

In much of Europe, the term "harmonium" is used to describe all pedal pumped keyboard free reed instruments, making no distinction whether it has a pressure or suction bellows.

The harmonium reminds me of lost days, lost relations, lost fabrics of festivals and our folk. It was the rare property we possessed in those days. As our people never accessed to harmonium in east Bengal Indigenous days . Harmonium was captured by Caste Hindu lower middle class. The unmarried girls used to do all the home works of Nazrul Geeti, Rabindra Sangeet and Palli Sangeet with Harmonium. In those days, while the indigenous SC ST communities were associated with aboriginal life style, tribal or semi tribal, full of totems and taboos. We had rarely any culture Heroes to break away with the supernatural superstitious lifestyle which believed only in Myths, most of which they created themselves. With Colonial rule, capitalism entered in British India. With world wars and famines, Imperialism took over. But our people were associated with the feudal production system as bonded labour with indigenous social structure.

They were over engaged with indigenous gods and goddesses and their reincarnations, supernatural powers represented by totems. Taboos were never broken as they were over engaged with their aboriginal rituals dedicated to supernatural powers surrounding. They carried the tradition with Charak, Ashtak Gaan, Banodevi, Panchoo Pencha, Tennath, Gajan, Gaasi, Doljatra, Manasa, Raksha Kali, Bhasan, Ramjatra, kirtan, Baruni,Neem Mahotsav, Jaagar, jatra, Bhasaan and Kavigaan.

In East Bengal they had different musical instruments. Indigenous communities were out casted and were never the part of the mainstream.

They never cared for anything except food and clothing. They were deprived of education. They never cared for inflation or price rise as their purchasing capacity was associated with their labour in a feudal production system which became quiet systematic with permanent land settlement.

They depended much on the supernatural element and everything in their life was mythical or semi mythical.They could not think beyond their masters mainly the Brahmins and kayastah and sometimes OBC, as it happened in Raard Bengal across Padma and well portrayed in the epic works of Tara Shankar Bandopadhyaya.

Thus, harmonium was the musical Instrument possessed by the Ruling Class. In my childhood, we witnessed daily events of bartering as you may read in Aranyak by Bibhuti Bhushan Bandopadhyaya. Our people, at the time of resettlement in Terai, were mostly illiterate as they were in East Bengal. Some were semi literate . they hardly knew anything about purchasing or monetary transaction.

Market and commodity values were beyond their aboriginal capacity. So, they could part with kilos of rice or oil seeds just for a comb or an ice cream! For the first time, they happened to be the master of their harvest. it rather encouraged them to enter in the market. And the markets for the refugees in the Terai of Nainital were the weekly Hats in Dinesh Pur and Shaktifarm which were hardly did away with bartering system.

Later, in 1979, having appeared in M.A. final , I had an opportunity to work for a Hindi Weekly Laghu Bharat, published from Sitarganj in Terai. It was a good town. Punjabi and Marwari communities with Sikh businessmen were dominant. But the rural areas were inhibited by the tribal Tharus. Shaktifarm was about nine KM away.

There was no road link between Shaktifarm. Even in eighties the Shaktifarm refugees hardly knew any city besides Sitarganj. The area was also linked with Bareilly and Pilibhit districts. Sitarganj was the main commodity market and it had one of the biggest Mandies, market for Cereals.But Sitarganj had not any Highschool for long time. Nankmatta, a Sikh prominent area surrounded by the Tharus and Khatema, totally Tharu dominated area had their Inter Colleges earlier.

I asked Keval Krishna Dhal,`What is the matter?’

He replied,` It is as simple as a solved riddle. We can send our children away for education and they would never be deprived. The Tharus can`t afford. If they have an Inter College right here, they would get educated. The bartering system would be vanished and it would be rather very hard to capture their land and their harvest.’

I never saw East Bengal.I was born and brought up in Terai. but I got the essential lesson in Sitarganj to understand the ruling Class psyche.

Since the most of the Dineshpur refugees belonged to the Matua sect of Faridpur. Matuas were taught by Guruchand Thakur, the Guru, to do anything for education. His slogan was : Eat or don`t eat, Send your children to the School. They established thousands of educational institutions for the indigenous people in East Bengal. Ishwar chandra Vidyasagar is well known to have established some educational institutions only reserved for the High Caste children. He is also known for woman`s education drive. But the Caste Hindu history of Bengal never mention the names of Harichand and Guruchand who led the education and woman`s lib movement in East Bengal.

Our people carried the movement in Terai. The result of 1956 movement was not limited to rehabilitation and settlement only. they ensured to get a Junior High School and Industrial Training Institute in Dineshpur with a Health care unit and a post office. The Junior High school was up grated to Intermediate college very soon. Thus,our people changed very soon. The older generation sticked with supernaturals , taboos and totems. But the younger ones identified themselves with the mainstream class divided capitalist system. So much so, that they gave away the aboriginal, indigenous and caste Identity. It was an eternal slavery, of course. They hardly mentioned out caste status.

Al though the caste system prevailed with the spontaneous leadership of Brahmins.But our people found that they were no more out caste or untouchables. They were very much into the mainstream. Though they adopted Hindi medium for their education and day to day communication, they identified themselves with Netaji, Bankim, Tagore, Sharat and Vivekanand.

As a child, I was somewhat astonished to find high class Bengali literature in abundance in quite illiterate families. They made the arrangement for their identity as Bengali. The local communities digested the new identity and even the leadership of the Bengal refugees. Thus, my father could be elected as the Vice President of Terai Vikas Sahkari Sangh unopposed in a Punjabi dominated area.

It happened everywhere. Our people learnt Assamese, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Bhojpuri and Maithili, Chhattisgadhi, Oria and every local language and adopted the relevant language as the medium of education and communication. They never exposed themselevs as out caste or lower castes, dalits or tribals. Thus, they never demanded for constitutional reservation as they felt liberated fro the bonded slavery of East Bengal based caste system. Rather, my father and his follower Nityanand Mallick faced stiff resistance as they insisted for SC ST OBC status for the refugees settled countrywide.

Since, the resettled partition victim refugees identified themselves with the mainstream Bangla Nationality, everywhere they launched movements demanding Bengali Medium.

They succeeded in Orissa and Maharashtra.

But in the districts of Kachhar and Hilakandi in Assam, they had to bleed to sustain Bengali identity. Bhasha Andolan in Assam was followed by anti Bengali riots in Assam in 1960.

It is not a coincidence that my father Pulin Babu was arrested from a Bhasha Andolan procession in Dhaka and later, he landed in Assam to stand with the suffering riot torn Bengali refugees.

In those days of fifties, nearly every Bengali colony managed to run Bengli medium school. I was among the few students who got admission in Haridaspur primary pathshala.

After Meeradi and Debaladi, Debala`s sister Kamala, a very beautiful girl and one or two year senior accompanied me. Later, another girl Geeta was admitted in Haridashpur.

Rest of the Children were studying in the unrecognised Bengali medium Basantipur Primary Pathshala.

Aboni Kaka and Atul Kaka were orphans and were adopted by our family. Atul kaka got rehabilitation with a fake wife named Tulsi before getting married. He got married in Haridashpur in a Barishal district family and the aunt was renamed as Tulsi.We and even she forgot her original name very soon.

Aboni Kaka passed class eight from junior High School Dineshpur. My father was his declared guardian and Chhoto Kaka helped him in his homework.Father wanted to continue Aboni kaka`s education and Chhotokaka supported.

I may visualise the scene of arguments.

Aboni kaka was selected as the teacher of the Bengali school in Basantipur and wanted the job.While I was reading in class two, Aboni kaka was married.

Aboni Kaka was married in Anandkhera number two. His in laws belonged to Barishal.

I was one among the marriage party and fell asleep in the moonlit night.I was awaken in the dawn as we had to leave the place on auspicious time.

The new aunt was educated. Say, better educated as she had passed class six. She was able to replace Aboni Kaka while he used to be away with his jatra engagement.

Aboni Kaka was very handsome. In fact, in those days of sixties , our jtar Party was very popular with artists like Aboni Kaka, kartik Sana,Hajoo Sana, Mahendra and others.These four young men also tried for an entry in Bollywood. They were fans of Bollywood star Ranjan. They learnt Fencing. In all our dramas, the most attractive part was fencing.

Aboni kaka and the aunt got lots of Novels. I was the keen reader. I learnt Bengali very soon. I began reading novels besides detective stories as earlier as in class three. I had to learn English at home. I got through the treasure of my Chhotokaka.

Very soon I became a fan of Alexander Dumas reading his novels like Count of Monte Christos and The Man and the Iron Mask. these were not the editions meant for children which I accessed in Nainital.

I was habitual to read the classics like Good Earth, Mother, War and Peace, Adventure of Tom Sayer, Lost world, Kidnapped, Forsite Saga, Growth of the Soil, Hunch Back of Notredam and so on during my primary schooling. I repent that I did not know Shakespeare or Charles Dickens in those days.

Well, Bankim with Anandmath, Bish Briksha or Raj Singh or Rajni was at home.

We were encouraged to read Bankim, Satendra Nath Dutt, Michael Madhusudan Dutta, Tagore and Nazrul. in fact, we were encouraged to read them. Tagore and Nazrul were our parts of our daily recitations. I am surprised to remember being unaware of Jasmuddinn and his classics like Nakshi Kathar Math and Sojan Badiar Gaht which strongly depict indigenous life and livelihood.

In fact, our people left behind the geography and history and they did not want to go back to the roots in their new found Geo Politics.

Thanks to Abonikaka and specially, the new aunt, I was introduced to Shailajanad Mukhopadhyaa, Falguni Mukhopadhyaya, Prabhawati debi Saraswati and specially to Sharat Chandra, Bimal Mitra and Samresh Basu. I read Kari diye Kinlam by Bimal Mitra and all the works of Sharat Chandra very soon.

The result was inevitable Calf Love.

Just passing Primary in 1967, I was engaged with Calf love as all kinds of novels pumped me for that.

But, in those days, belonging to the most powerful refugee families, we have relations in every village as the people made my father their God father so often.

The tragedy was that the most beautiful girls were from those families falling in relation.

Basantipur was in itself like a joint family.

I had no other option to pick the heroines for my fertile imaginations from my classmates, most of which were quite unaware of my fantasies!

The new aunt was very friendly to my mother as she also belonged to Barishal. The two ladies would chat in their peculiar Barishal dilect round the clock.

Aboni kaka did BTC training and when Basantipur became a Hindi medium Parimari pathshala recognised , he became the first teacher there.

My friends Tekka, Vivek, Panchoo Dhali and Hari used to read there. While I got Krishna, the son of our President Mandar Mandal with us. He had been in West Bengal.

Mandar Babu always believed that the Hindi medium schools are substandard in comparison to West Bengal School.

Krishna was sent away to Shyam Nagar in 24 Parganas, now a busy suburb of Metro kolkata.

But in intense days of Food Movement and Kallol days in West Bengal, Krishna returned to Basantipur with Club Culture, until unknown to us and foot ball.

Krishna was senior to me. But he spent two years in Bengali school in West Bengal. He was admitted in Haridashpur school in class three while I was reading in class four.

Rabindra was in class five. He was also adicted of story books as I was.

Two of us were very friendly until he wrote something very slang against Aboni kaka on the interior wall with left chalk. I dictated and ultimately Abonikaka detected the culprit.

I was very annoyed with Rabindra`s digestion.

But I could not discard him as he had a good stock of story books.

In the same way, I befriended with Deepti Sundar Mallick of Panchananpur and the most popular child artist in Jatra and ashtak gaan in Terai in those days. While I got admission in class six, he was a student of class seven.

Parhlad Bairagi from Chittaranjan pur and Hare Krishna Dhali from Sunderpur were his classmates.

The common factor in these three senor students was their love for music.

Hare Krishna pursued Music in Graduation later. He was also a very popular child artist in Terai in sixties.

Prahlad was a singer. We called him Mohmmad Rafi. He could present musical film dramas with awesome accuracy. He was most popular in our days. Prahlad had lost his one eye while travelling in a train led by Coal fed Engine. but he seemed very attractive with his musical skills. I preferred him for his story telling skill.

My Thamma was also a very good story teller. but she always dealt with myths, superstitions and fairy tales. I was grown so earlier that these stories full of unnatural characters hardly attract me.

Thus,in post modern times I pity those children being fond of Harry Potter. We left Thakumar Jhooli so soon and got over all the trashes of detective stories. In my Junior School days I was a keen reader of novels and political theories also.

But it was me who diverted my school route while returning from Dinesh pur via Panchanan Pur and Chittaranjanpur crossing at least three rivers for the company of Deepti and Prahlad.

In Haridaspur Primary Pathsahla, I had been the most favourite student of the Head master, Pitambar Pant.

I was made Monitor of the school in class five but I led the children while I was reading in class three.

Even I could challenge the examination results and often expressed my dissatisfaction while my friends failed. For this I always invited quite a good thrashing at home as well as in the school.

There had been a Bengali assistant teacher all the time, but I always neglected his presence.Later, in Dineshpur High school, Govt. Inter mediate college of Nainital and also in DSB college

I never spared any teacher or lecturer failing to convince me.

For them, I had been alwasy a terrifying trouble which they hardly could avoid.

Only Pitambar Pant in haridaspur and JC Pant in GIC Nainital could tame me.

I was particularly very harsh against teachers and lecturers from Hindi and English departments as I was never satisfied with their knowledge.

But at the same time , I was most popular in the departments like Economics, History, Sociology, Botany, Political science, Chemistry, Physics and Mathemetics and I often befriended with lecturers and professors there.

Now I understand that my adiction with books diviated me from being tamed, subordinate and disciplined. I was always habitual to question anything.

This questioning made me quite outstanding in every level of my education.

Unfortunately I could not give up the character and face the unwanted consequences.

Two Brahmin boys, Pagla and Sunu from the Chakrabarti family had been my best friend in my childhood.

But I never accepted their superiority in caste status.

When they got their janeu, the Paita, enabling them to perform our rituals, I never cared to bow before them on any occasion.

Pagla was very clever and Sunu very innocent.

But I was able to horrify both of them as they boast of their sanctity as Brahmin.I blasted the Myth with prctical jokes like invoking spirits.

Both of them had to face my terrible wrath whenever they dared to pose superior to me. It could be a real torture or simply a good thrashing. I was punished for this crime for so many times.

But the two brothers always remained my friends.

They gave up their studies in the Primary school as they had to help their father to perform rituals.

In Terai, there was a very small percentage of Bengali B rahmins as most of the Brahmins had been accommodated in west Bengal.

Only the poorest lot of them, particularly who were despised by the elite Brahmins for performing rituals for the outcasts and lower castes.

Though we had Chatterjee, Mukherjee, Chkarabrti titles amongst the refugees, but they were no better than us.

This convinced me most that ultimately, economy is the deciding factor and the class affiliation is more important then caste identity. it worked throughout my life until I landed in west Bengal and faced the bitter most caste discrimination nearly finishing me and closing all avenues for me!

Kamala di was married soon.

They were six or seven sisters in the family. By caste they were barber.

In Terai,Barbers, Brahmins, Kayastha, Mahishya, Sadgope were very rare. They had to marry away the daughters and they could not afford to maintain any relation in Bengal. The best solution was arrangement of marriage at spot anytime whenever they got a suitable bachelor.

Abala and Haridasi were the younger sisters. They also joined Haridashpur school. but they also got married very soon before passing primary.

I had Ranjeet in my class from Basantipur.

My Thamma and his Didima(mother`s mother) were very friendly.

This family was the only other family which belonged to our anchestral village.His mother was treated as a sister of my father and uncles.

Ranjeet`s father committed suicide while we were infants. I only remeber my Uncle Chhotokaa, the only medical practicenor rushing to Ranjeets home, His mother`s mourning and the death procession. It was not a police case.

Basantipur people never allowed police in their community life.

The village Panchayat would settle everything.The tradition continues even today.

Ranjeet was never a good student. I became his spontaneous guide. our family looked after their cultivation in the beginning.

Then a Purbia, Vikram landed in the family to look after them.

Ranjeet had two sisters, Parul and Charu.

The name of Parul is quite rhythmic with may name Palash. Prafulla dadababu, the husband of Debaladi who stayed with his in laws as he was doing his ITI training in Dineshpur as a fitter, often would sing aloud: Palash Parul tora soan..

The children were my legitimate playmates.

I spent most of the summer noons with either Pagla and sunu or with Ranjeet and his sisters.

But the villagers were annoyed with the presence of Vikram and they objected.

For them, it was the cause of bad name as the Hindustani, as we used to call the Hindi speaking people was staying with a widow after all.

Later, I realised my family was also fed up with my affection with the family. They could have doubted the seeds of some romance in Parul.

I never did smell anything wrong.

With the sisters, I was quite normal as a child playmate.I never imagined anyone from the village and around to be my lover at any level.

I was looking very high from the beginning.

But I am afraid to say that Basantipur people thought otherwise ans my family was also scared of.

They arranged earlier marriage for the poor beautiful girl. I never loved the girl. But she was my playmate.

It was a shock for me that she was married to a boy most unsuitable.

The family was well off them.

The villagers expected that they would be able to drive away Vikram. it did not happen.

Within six months, Parul was an estranged woman.

I lost my dearest playmates immediately.

Parul lost normal life.

She was second time married to Rampur.

But she could not settle there. Her life was tarns formed in a short story of displacement and estrangement combined, the following days were more horrifying.

Vikram was made to leave the village.

Rajnjeet was attacked by unknown visitors, he got broken his one leg and became a lame permanently.

I was made to watch all this from outside.

I am sorry that I could not revolt at that stage of my childhood as I was reasding only in class three.

The tragedy continued until Ranjeet became adult and took over family affairs. By the time his Didma and mother expired.

Charu also followed disastrous married life.

I saw all these tragedies to happen in my village from Nainital but I was not in a position to resist.

Later, I am happy to say that both the sisters have established themselves with their families and children and are happy.

Only the two sisters got older very soon and never could overcome the childhood tragedies caused by community life.

Whenever I Mention Basantipur as a model of community life, I feel a thorn penetrating my heart.

Before Aboni kaka, there was another Aboni, landed in our family as our teacher from West Bengal. He was a very handsome guy.Suddenly he left.

Later, my Chhoto Pisi, youngest sister of my father, Sarala eloped with a cutivation Help, Balai. She was a widow. Our family never considered for her remarriage. She went to our fields near Aamrpur carrying the Lunch and never returned.

No one remembered her.

Later in ninties, when I settled in West Bengal, our elder Pisi enquired about her lost sister whether I knew anything about them.

I never knew.

The Older Aboni Kaka left our village abruptly. One day, looking for some literature, I struck with a long love letter addressed to Aboni Kaka and written by his girl friend from West Bengal.

I was so addicted with literature that it was a continuous search for books. I could not change the habit even now. It was a real trouble in my childhood. I managed a duplicate key and whenever, Aboni Kaka and aunt stayed away, I used to break into their home and got some book without failure.

I had to read the book in time and keep it in its place before the couple returned. I had been safe always as Atul Kaka lived in the fields.

Shaktifarm was established late. In 1960.

They had not any school.

My elder aunt Jethima was the only child of her parents and my mother never revisited her father away in Orissa.

Boys from Shktifarm would always land in our family and were accepted as Jethima`s brothers.

Jeeban Mama was the first one. He was followed by Radhika Mistry.

Jeeban mama is no more.

I saw his beautiful daughter succumbing in a Bareilly Hospital before I reached Kolkata.

I never knew whereabouts of Radhika Mistry.

I remeber him as an artist illuminating our house on every Janmashtami and creating artificial landscapes with hillocks and springs.

Aboni Kaka is died of TB while I was working as a journalist in Dhanbad in earlier eigties. His eldest son Pratap, a gradute replaced him as a teacher. His younger brother Tapan is looking after cultivation.

The New Aunt is old lady now and lost her vison. She may not read anything. But she is always energitic while I seldom visit her. i return to the days of my child hodd with the rhythm of broken reeds!



The harmonium was invented in Paris in 1842 by Alexandre Debain, though there was concurrent development of similar instruments. Christian Gottlieb Kratzenstein (1723-1795), Professor of Physiology at Copenhagen, was credited with the first free reed to be made in the western world after winning the annual prize in 1780 from the Imperial Academy of St.Petersburg. [1]

Harmoniums reached the height of their popularity in the West in the late 19th- and early-20th centuries. They were especially popular in small churches and chapels where a pipe organ would be too large or too expensive. Harmoniums generally weigh less than similarly-sized pianos and are not as easily damaged in transport, thus they were also popular throughout the colonies of the European powers in this period- not only because it was easier to ship the instrument out to where it was needed, but it was also easier to transport overland in areas where good-quality roads and railways may have been non-existent. An added attraction of the harmonium in tropical regions was that the instrument held its tune regardless of heat and humidity, unlike the piano. This 'export' market was sufficiently lucrative for manufacturers to produce harmoniums with cases impregnated with chemicals to prevent woodworm and other damaging organisms found in the tropics.

At the peak of the instruments' popularity around 1900, a wide variety of styles of harmoniums were being produced. These ranged from simple models with plain cases and only 4 or 5 stops (if any at all), up to large instruments with ornate cases, up to a dozen stops and other mechanisms such as couplers. Expensive harmoniums were often built to resemble pipe organs, with ranks of fake pipes attached to the top of the instrument. Small numbers of harmoniums were built with two manuals (keyboards). Some were even built with pedal keyboards, which required the use of an assistant to run the bellows or, for some of the later models, an electrical pump. These larger instruments were mainly intended for home use, such as allowing organists to practise on an instrument on the scale of a pipe organ, but without the physical size or volume of such an instrument. For missionaries, chaplains in the armed forces, travelling evangelists, and the like, reed organs that folded up into a container the size of a very large suitcase or small trunk were made; these had a short keyboard and few stops, but they were more than adequate for keeping hymn-singers more-or-less on pitch.

The invention of the electronic organ in the mid-1930s spelt the end of the harmonium's success (although its popularity as a household instrument declined in the 1920s as musical tastes changed). The Hammond organ could imitate the tonal quality and range of a pipe organ whilst retaining the compact dimensions and cost-effectiveness of the harmonium whilst reducing maintenance needs and allowing a greater number of stops and other features. By this time harmoniums had reached high levels of mechanical complexity- not only through the need to provide instruments with a greater tonal range, but (especially in North America) due to patent laws. It was common for manufacturers to patent the action mechanism used on their instruments, thus requiring any new manufacturer to develop their own version- as the number of manufacturers grew this led to some instruments having hugely complex arrays of levers, cranks, rods and shafts which made replacement with an electronic instrument even more attractive.

The last mass-producer of harmoniums in the West was the Estey company, which ceased manufacture in the mid-1950s. As the existing stock of instruments aged and spare parts became hard to find, more and more were either scrapped or sold. It was not uncommon for harmoniums to be 'modernised' by having electric blowers fitted, often very unsympathetically. The majority of harmoniums today are in the hands of enthusiasts.

A relatively modern example of the use of a harmonium can be found in The Beatles' hits "We Can Work It Out" and "Real Love".

[edit] Construction

Harmoniums consist of banks of brass reeds (metal tongues which vibrate when air flows over them), a pumping apparatus, stops for drones (some models feature a stop which causes a form of vibrato), and a keyboard. The harmonium's timbre, despite its similarity to the accordion's, is actually produced in a critically different way. Instead of the bellows causing a direct flow of air over the reeds, an external feeder bellows inflates an internal reservoir bellows inside the harmonium from which air escapes to vibrate the reeds. This design is similar to bagpipes as it allows the harmonium to create a continuously sustained sound. (Some better-class harmoniums of the 19th and early 20th centuries incorporated an “expression stop” which bypassed the reservoir, allowing a skilled player to regulate the strength of the air-flow directly from the pedal-operated bellows and so to achieve a certain amount of direct control over dynamics.) If a harmonium has two sets of reeds, it's possible that the second set of reeds (either tuned unison or an octave lower) can be activated by a stop, which means each key pressed will play two reeds. Professional harmoniums feature a third set of reeds, either tuned an octave higher or in unison to the middle reed. This overall makes the sound fuller. In addition, many harmoniums feature an octave coupler, a mechanical linkage that opens a valve for a note an octave above or below the note being played, and a scale changing mechanism, which allows one to play in various keys while fingering the keys of one scale.

Harmoniums are made with 1, 2, 3 and occasionally 4 sets of reeds. Classical instrumentalists usually use 1-reed harmoniums, while a musician who plays for a qawaali (Islamic devotional singing) usually uses a 3-reed harmonium.

[edit] The harmonium in India

Man playing a harmonium. He is pumping the bellows of the harmonium with one hand and playing the keys with the other.
During the mid-19th century missionaries brought French-made hand-pumped harmoniums to India. The instrument quickly became popular there: it was portable, reliable and easy to learn. Its popularity has stayed intact to the present day, and the harmonium remains an important instrument in many genres of Indian music. It is commonly found in Indian homes. Though derived from the designs developed in France, the harmonium was developed further in India in unique ways, such as the addition of drone stops and a scale changing mechanism.

In Kolkata, Dwarkanath Ghose of the renowned Dwarkin was adept in modifying musical instruments as per individual needs of users and is particularly remembered for modifying the imported harmony flute and producing the hand held harmonium, which has subsequently become an integral part of the Indian music scenario.[1] Dwijendranath Tagore is credited with having used the imported instrument in 1860 in his private theatre, but it was probably a pedalled instrument which was cumbersome, or it was possibly some variation of the reed organ. Initially, it aroused curiosity but gradually people started playing it[2] and Ghose took the initiative to modify it.[1] It was in response to the Indian needs that the hand-held harmonium was introduced. All Indian musical instruments are played with the musician sitting on the floor or on a stage, behind the instrument or holding it in his hands. In that era, Indian homes did not use tables and chairs.[1]

The harmonium is essentially an alien instrument to the Indian tradition, as it cannot mimic the voice, which is considered the basis of all Indian music. Meend (glissando), an integral part of any classical recitation is not possible on the harmonium, and as such, one cannot faithfully reproduce the subtle nuances of a raga on this instrument. The harmonium is thus despised by many connoisseurs of Indian music, who prefer the more authentic yet more technical sarangi, in accompanying khyal singing.

A popular usage is by followers of various Hindu and Sikh faiths, who use it in the devotional singing of prayers, called bhajan or kirtan. There will be at least one harmonium in any mandir (Hindu temple) or gurdwara (Sikh temple) around the world. The harmonium is also commonly accompanied by the tabla as well as a dholak. To Sikhs the harmonium is known as the vaja/baja. It is also referred to as a "Peti" ( A loose reference to a "Box") in some parts of North India and Maharashtra.

It also forms an integral part of the Qawwali repertoire, as many Qawwals use a harmonium when performing Qawwalis. It has received international fame as the genre of Qawwali music has been popularized by renowned Pakistani musicians such as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Aziz Mian.

The harmonium is also used in Middle Eastern music in certain parts of the Middle East.

There is some discussion of Indian harmonium-makers producing reproductions of Western-style reed organs for the export trade.

[edit] Samvadini

Samvadini - a modified version of harmonium to perform solo on the instrument.
In Indian music, the harmonium is considered to be one of the least versatile instruments. It is usually used as an accompanying instrument for vocalists. However, some musicians have begun playing the harmonium as a solo instrument. Pandit Bhishmadev Vedi, Pandit Muneshwar Dayal, Pandit Montu Banerjee, and Pamabhusan JnanPrakash Ghosh were among those personalities who popularized the harmonium for solo performance. Later Pt. Manohar Chimote [2] gave a completely new dimension to the harmonium as instrument and unique style of playing solo on the instrument. He added the "Swarmandel" (Harp) on top of the reed board and made some significant changes into the tuning of Harmonium. With all the modification, he renamed the traditional harmonium to "Samvadini". With this beautiful and appropriate name, Samvadini is making its mark in the field of Music. Students of Pt. Manohar Chimote likePt.Rajendra Vaishampayan,Pt.Jitendra Gore of Mumbai, India are making their mark in the musical horizon. Pandit Tulsidas Borkar of Mumbai, Pandit Appa Jalgaonkar, Shri Purushottam Walavalkar, Pt. Rambhau Bijapure of Belgaum, and Pt. Datta Jogdande of Mumbai have created their own names in the field of harmonium playing. More recently, Dr. Arawind Thatte from Pune has sought to create a separate identity for the harmonium as a solo instrument. More and more music students are learning in this fashion.


[edit] Repertoire

[edit] Classical
24 Pièces en style libre for organ or harmonium, op. 31 (1913) by Louis Vierne.
Antonin Dvorak's Five Bagatelles for 2 violins, Cello and harmonium Op.47(b79)
The final collection of pieces by César Franck popularly known as L'Organiste (1889-1890) was actually written for harmonium, some pieces with piano accompaniment.
Petite Messe Solonelle by Rossini is scored for two pianos and harmonium.
Ages Ago, an early work by W. S. Gilbert with Frederic Clay features a harmonium part.
An arrangement of Anton Bruckner's Symphony no. 7 for chamber ensemble, prepared in 1921 by students and associates of Arnold Schoenberg for the Viennese Society for Private Musical Performances, was scored for 2 violins, viola, cello, bass, clarinet, horn, piano 4-hands, and Harmonium. The Society folded before the arrangement could be performed, and it was not premiered until more than 60 years later.
Hin und zurück (There and Back), an operatic sketch by Paul Hindemith, uses a harmonium for its stage music.
The album Early Music by Kronos Quartet has several songs featuring harmonium.
Sospiri, Adagio for String Orchestra, op. 70 - Edward Elgar (scored for Harp or Piano and Harmonium or Organ)
Dances from a New England Album, 1856 for orchestra by William Bergsma includes parts for melodeon (movements I-III) and harmonium (movement IV).
Songs of Innocence and of Experience for orchestra, choirs, and soloists, by William Bolcom, includes parts for melodeon, harmonica, and harmonium.

[edit] Ambient
Christopher Orczy from New Zealand uses a Mustel harmonium for all his works from 2004 to present. From August 2004 to July 2005, he recorded the Harmonium Diaries series. The series consists of 12 albums, one for each month, of solo harmonium recordings. The harmonium was subtley treated with eq and reverb. In 2006, he recorded Transition, where the harmonium was processed to a greater extent. In 2008 he finished his first religious work, "Annunciation".

[edit] Popular
Farrukh Fateh Ali Khan,The younger brother of Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was an accomplished harmonium player. His ability to play in all scales and skill in switching tunes at a moment's notice are considered amongst the best in his profession. While accompanying Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to England, he became widely known as Harmonium Raj Sahib (King of the Harmonium). His talents and accomplishments often went unrecognized due to playing in the shadow of his elder brother.
Aphex Twin's experimental Drukqs (2001) record appears to feature a harmonium in the track Penty Harmonium though it is unclear whether the instrument actually playing is real, sampled or programmed.
Current 93's Sleep Has His House (2000) features a harmonium for its length, a rare instrumental contribution from frontman David Tibet.
Depeche Mode used a harmonium in one version of Enjoy the Silence.
Radiohead used a harmonium on the track Motion Picture Soundtrack from the album Kid A (2000).
Sufjan Stevens uses a harmonium at his live performances.
Midway through Breakfast At Tiffany's, the score features a reprise of its theme song Moon River played on the harmonium.
Most of Nico's post-Velvet Underground career is marked by a heavy usage of the harmonium, in avant-garde drone songs.
The Zombies use a harmonium in their song "Butchers Tale (Western Front 1914)".
Lawrence Gowan of Styx plays a harmonium during the band's acoustic sets.
Brian May of Queen played a harmonium in the song Teo Torriatte (Let Us Cling Together) on Queen's album A Day at the Races.
Jeff Buckley plays a harmonium in the song "Lover, You Should've Come Over" on his album Grace.
Slade used the Harmonium on "Merry Xmas Everybody" and "In for a penny".
Julie Feeney plays harmonium on her album 13 songs.
The Bee Gees used a harmonium on their song "Holiday".
Ric Veda principally accompanies himself singing with a harmonium. [4]
The Beatles used a harmonium extensively in their recordings, including "Strawberry Fields Forever", "We Can Work It Out", "Cry Baby Cry", "Sexy Sadie", "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite", and "The Word".
Paul McCartney, for instance on "This One" from Flowers In The Dirt.
The Penguin Cafe Orchestra's Music for a Found Harmonium (not surprisingly) features a harmonium. They used the instrument on several other tracks as well, including "Cutting Branches For a Temporary Shelter".
Focus has a part for the Harmonium in their song "Hocus Pocus"
The movie Punch Drunk Love features a harmonium as a major plot device.
Ed Harcourt plays a harmonium on many of his songs including "All Of Your Days Will Be Blessed" from From Every Sphere and "Something To Live For" from Strangers.
Talk Talk featured a harmonium player on their final two albums, Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock
Ivor Cutler uses a harmonium in many of his recordings and live performances.
Tori Amos features harmonium on several songs in 1996's Boys For Pele. She also toured with a harmonium, in addition to a piano and harpsichord, in support of the album.
Cornershop features harmonium on tracks such as "Sleep on the Left Side".
Xiu Xiu features harmonium on many of their albums, as well as in the live setting; most notably featured in the songs "Dr. Troll", "Nieces Pieces", and "Rose of Sharon".
Drekka uses a Pakistani lap harmonium on many recordings since 2000, and as a staple in live sets including the 9hour MEDIUM drone performed in Chicago, IL in 2000, set up by Odum6.
Diane Cluck has used the harmonium on her albums, Macy's Day Bird and Monarcana.
Krishna Das plays the harmonium in many of his songs.
Tom Waits plays the harmonium in some of his songs, mostly on later albums (from Swordfishtrombones and later).
Space Mandino plays the harmonium while throat-singing in his song "Magic Thumb"
Br'er uses harmonium extensively on their album "of shemales and kissaboos", specifically on "Maven" and "Emily the Bear".
Peter Hayes plays the harmonium while throat-singing in his song "Open Invitation"
Roger Hodgson used the harmonium as the inspiration for many Supertramp songs. He bought a harmonium for £26 years ago and wrote Logical Song, Two of Us, and many others from this instrument.
Beck used the harmonium in several live performances of the song Nobody's Fault (But My Own).
Vanessa Carlton 's second album is called Harmonium. This doesn't have anything to do with the instrument though. Carlton explains the album title as being the result of playing with the word 'harmony'.[citation needed]
Sanjay Patel (VIRA Productions) uses a variety of harmoniums as accompaniment throughout his works.
The current Broadway Musical Spring Awakening is one of the only Broadway shows to use a harmonium in the orchestration.

[edit] External links
The Classical Harmonium
Indian Harmonium Page
Harmonium FAQ
Official Website of Pt. Manohar Chimote
Official Website of Pt. Rajendra Vaishampayan

[edit] References
^ a b c The Invention of Hand Harmonium. Dwarkin & Sons (P) Ltd.. Retrieved on 2007-04-24.
^ Khan, Mobarak Hossain. Harmonium. Banglapedia. Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. Retrieved on 2007-04-24.
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmonium"

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