Harmonium

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Harmonium was originally brought to India in the mid-19th century by the French missionaries. The instrument gained acceptance and popularity because of its simplicity and ease of use. A harmonium makes it possible to cover 3 to 4 Saptaks. A harmonium consists of banks of brass reeds (metal tongues which vibrate when air flows over them), a pumping mechanism, stops for drones and a keyboard. The limitations of Harmonium are that it is not possible to glide between Swaras as smoothly as a Sarangi or Violin player can. Secondly, it is not possible to get the microtones or shrutis in a Saptak e.g., “Ati Komal Gandhar” in Raag Darbari. Finally, it is not possible to produce the slight inflections in the Swaras e.g., oscillation or “andolan” and it is not possible to tune the harmonium on the stage just before the performance.

A harmonium which can produce 22 Shrutis has been developed by Dr. Vidyadhar Oke of India. Such a harmonium certainly addresses one of the limitations mentioned above.