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12 June 2012

Harmonium making – a lost industry

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By Ghulam Hussain

Lahore: Harmonium manufacturing has almost completely faded as an industry in the country. The professionals who used to play harmonium, sitar, taanpura and sarangi have quit the profession or moved elsewhere. 72-year-old Muhammad Akram, who has been making these instruments for the last 55 years, revealed this while talking to Daily Times. However, according to him he now merely repairs harmoniums as little to no manufacturing of this instrument is carried out in the country anymore.

A major reason for this decline in harmonium manufacturing is the rising inflation rate, Akram said, adding that the instrument’s cultural and traditional attraction had been dimmed by high cost.

He said he had no knowledge of any harmonium manufacturer working in the country at this time, which meant that the business had almost completely finished.

Furthermore, he said that no sitar, taanpura and sarangi players could be found now because of advancement in technology and the subsequent arrival of electronic keyboards.
There was a time when a harmonium was made for only Rs 200, but now the minimum price of a harmonium was from Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 and it was not easily affordable, Akram said.

He added that his financial condition was quite unstable, as the business did not bring him much revenue.

After passing Matriculation in 1955 from Muslim Model School Lahore, Akram started manufacturing harmoniums with his father, Muhammad Azam, who had migrated to Lahore from Indian city Saharanpur. “I inherited this profession from my elders as my father used to do the same work with my grandfather in India,” he added.

Akram said he had three sons but he did not allow them to enter this family business, as the profession had no scope in wake of inflation and declining interest in playing traditional instruments.

Recalling the days when this business was at its peak, Akram said he made harmoniums for all the radio stations of Pakistan, adding that Khan Sahiban used to come to him for manufacturing and repair of the instrument. The profession was at its peak during Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s reign, he said.

Akram said that almost all of the country’s top singers, including Roshan Ara Begum, Madam Noor Jehan, Mehdi Hassan, Ghulam Ali, Ghulam Abbas, Masood Rana, Anwar Raffi and musicians like Rasheed Attrey, Khawaja Khursheed Anwar, Master Anayat Hussain, Master Abdullah, Nisar Bazmi, Amjad Bobby, Wajahat Attrey, Zulfikar Ali, Saleem Iqbal, and Baba GA Chishti, used to come to him for tuning, repairing and making of harmoniums. He said these people were professionals and knew the significance and technicalities of such instruments, however, today’s generation of musicians has no knowledge of traditional musical instruments.

“The government has not given any attention to this profession and due to its non-interest and non-attention, the profession has almost disappeared,” Akram concluded.

(Courtesy: Daily Times, Pakistan)

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