The Harmonium in North Indian Music

Rs. 195.00

Guaranteed safe checkout

amazon paymentsapple paybitcoingoogle paypaypalvisa
The Harmonium in North Indian Music
- +

The harmonium holds ambiguous reputation in India as well as in its “home continent” of Europe. There is an abundance of clear statements made by distinguished Indian musicians, theoreticians and also politics who time and again would decry the instrument. Rabindranath Tagore’s famous description of the harmonium as “that bane of Indian Music” is just one example. And yet, the harmonium is agrubly the instruments the instrument most widely used for accompanying the foremost medium of North Indian classical music, i.e. the human voice. Thus, by all appearances the anxiety about the harmonium’s potentiallt destructive impingement on traditional music is not shared by the majority of the musicians.

The book seeks to understand the complex history of the harmonium on North India, analyse the apparent conflict between musical theory and practice and describe how the instrument is used in musical practice. Is the harmonium and instrument suitable for Indian music? Can it live up to the requirement suitable for Indian music? These questions pervade the whole book, at the end of which, they will appear in a whole new light.


About the Author

Birgit Abels is an ethnomusicologist and currently an affiliated fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) in Leiden, Netherlends. She is a fellow of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NOW) and a former fellow of the German National Acadamic Foundation. She received her PhD from Ruhr University Bochum (Germany). After studying Music and Islamic Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London (UK), she obtained her MA in Musicology and Oriental Studies from Ruhr University. She has done ethno musicological fieldwork in India and Palau, and Published on the music of both countries.



In the sphere of Indian Classical music, hardly any instrument offers as much potential for dispute as the harmonium: it is unable to be tuned properly ornaments essential for the performance of ragas are beyond its capabilities, and it is an imported instruments and aspect, however which has lost its significance over the years. Yet the majority of vocalists using the harmonium for melodic accompaniment shrug off these arguments, put forward by those who reject the harmonium. The harmonium’s decisive advantages for musicians lie in the specific, vocal-like timbre of the free reeds, its volume, and especially it’s practically: contrary to the Sarangi no extensive tuning is required, the tuning is robust enough to withstand any changes of climate, it is easily transportable and can adapt to the singer’s voice to a certain degree.

There is, however, general disagreement on whether Indian music can be performed on the instrument, and public interest I the debate is accordingly intense as the controversially written articles and discussions in newspapers prove to this day. He matter has evaded scientific scrutiny until now, apart from a few magazine articles surprisingly insofar as the subject displays many facets and touches on issues of Indian music: the tuning issue, the definition of the raga, the importance of ornamentation and the relationship between Indian classical music and musical change in India. An investigation of the harmonium in India could therefore throw light upon aspects of these important issues.

Because an investigation of the harmonium touches upon basic principles of the Indian musical system, this study will also investigate musical and social aspects concerning the harmonium; technical details comparing the Indian harmonium to its European counterparts and ancestors will mostly stay in the background.

Furthermore, this investigation focuses in “North Indian classical music” in a broad sense. This geographic Limitation of the subject takes into account the fact the southern India has an independent and autonomous musical system, an investigation of which would go beyond the scope of this study. “Classical” means that his classical and semi-classical genres of kbyal and thumri are the subjects of examination these are the genres relying heavily on the use of the harmonium, and they are also subject to fundamental theoretical qualitative postulates of classical music. The harmonium, therefore, assumes a particularly controversial role within these genres, making them all the more interesting as a focal point for an investigation of this kind.

The central question this publication seeks to answer is why, of all instruments the harmonium managed to proliferate this way, making it indispensable to the modern music and concert scene. This study is divided into two sections the first is historical in nature, looking the spread of the harmonium in India and analyzing the dispute between the harmonium’s advocated and their opponents within their context.

The first part examines primary and secondary sources, historic recordings and information gathered during field research in India. The latter is also examined in the second section, which analyses the musical role the harmonium plays.

The harmonium is also played as a solo instrument, but this genre is largely an area of research in itself, and can only be looked at cursorily. It is a genre with a low profile in current public concert life, therefore this limitation does not distort the investigation.

The analysis of the harmonium’s accompaniment function looks at strategies that musicians apply to compensate for the acknowledged limitation of their instruments. Closely related to this the question of how the role of a melodic instrument accompanying a singer is defined, which has been investigated (albeit not published) and to which this publication provides a few additional answers.





Achnowledgements vii
List of Illustrations ix
I Introduction 1
II History of the Harmonium in India 5
II.1 Early history until 1884 5
II.1.1 The Cultural Historical Context 5
II.1.2 The Spatial Context 12
II.1.3 The Spreading of the Harmonium 19
II.2 After 1884: the Indian Harmonium Excursion Harmonium 26
II.3 For and against the Harmonium Public Opinion 36
II.3.1 The discussion until 1940 36
A.H. Fox Strangways 41
Margaret Cousins 45
Earnest clements 48
II.3.2 After 1940 56
The A.I.R. ban 58
III The Instrument 79
III.1 Tunning 79
III.1.1 Menasurements, tuning, intonation 82
III.1.2 Timbre 85
Excursion Volume 86
IV Musical Use 91
IV.1 The harmonium as also intrument 92
Direct comparison: harmonium solo, vacal solo 93
IV.2 The harmonium accompanying vocals 99
IV.2.1 Ornaments 100
IV.2.1.a Gameka 101
IV.2.1.b Anodaln 103
IV.2.1.c Mind 104
IV.2.1.d Other techiques 106
Non termpered intervals 106
Excursus multi pitch sounds and chors 106
Varried bellows pressure 107
IV.2.2 The relation ship Between vocal soloist anad harmonium
V The Future 119
Appendix 131
Glasary 141
Bibliography 145


Delivery and Shipping Policy

    • Rs.1000-1100/kg
    • ESTD. Delivery Time: 2-3 weeks (depending on location)
    • Bubble Wrapped with Extra Padding


    • NCR: Rs. 30/half kg
    • Standard: Rs. 80/half kg
    • Express shipments also available on Request
    • ESTD. Delivery Time: Ranging from 1-4 days up to 7 business days (Depending on your choice of Delivery)


    • All orders; national or international, will be provided with a Tracking ID to check the status of their respective orders
    • Depending on the Shipping Service, Tracking ID may be used on their respective tracking portals


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Domestic Shipping: 3-4 Days (after shipping)

International Shipping: 1-2 weeks (based on your location)

You will receive an email once your order has been shipped or you can email us if you didn't receive tracking details (

Every book that we sell is the latest edition except all the rare books

Yes, we do provide free shipping, only on domestic orders (within India) above Rs.1500

Translation missing:

All Rating

  • 5

  • 4

  • 3

  • 2

  • 1

    Collected by EpicApp for Reviews
    • Product Review Image
    product Review Image