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Magnetic appeal of the harmonium

Wednesday, February 14, 2018
By Amarendra Dhaneshwar

It is difficult to believe that the harmonium is an instrument of Western origin. It was imported by the Indians in the late 19th century and it really caught the imagination of the Indian people. Earlier, the main melodic instrument accompanying a vocal performance was the inimitable sarangi. However, the sarangi being the most difficult instrument to master and play, the harmonium slowly but inevitably dislodged the sarangi from the prime position. In North India, the harmonium is a permanent fixture at any music loving family's home.

Although the west has discarded the harmonium long ago, North India has embraced it with great fervour. So much so, that it has, over the past few years, emerged as an instrument fit for a solo performance.

Among the prominent harmonium players who have raised the art of solo harmonium performance to a new height, Vishwanath Kanhere stands really tall. Kanhere, who is well past sixty, has a stage experience of over five decades. He has accompanied veteran vocalists of the caliber of Ram Marathe, Jitendra Abhisheki, Manik Verma and Yeshwantbua Joshi. He has absorbed their music and also has an insight of his own. Kanhere gave a scintillating solo performance under the aegis of 'Kusumagraj Pratishthan'. He played the raga 'Puriya Kalyan' in 'alaps' and 'jod' and then went on the play the 'gats' which were patterned on popular 'bandishes' like 'Hovan Lagi Sanj'. Kanhere has played the organ in hundreds of live drama performances. He is really a master of 'natya sangeet'. He played a stage song at this concert which won him resounding applause. Harshal Katdare on the harmonium and the veteran Nana Muley on the tabla lent him superb support.

Senior tabla exponent and guru Pandit Arvind Mulagaonkar was felicitated by the Dadar Matunga Cultural Centre. Arvind Mulgaonkar is a senior pupil of the great Ustad Amir Hussain Khansaheb of the Farrukhabad gharana. Mulgaonkar not only learned tabla but also wrote books which are of immense value to the students of tabla. He was selected for the prestigious Sangeet Natak Academy award this year. The music community was happy at the announcement and applauded the academy as well as the recipient.

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