100-year-old reeds a hot favourite on the desi music scene
If you want to train how to be a musician in Pakistan, you have to learn on the harmonium as it is the best instrument to teach you rhythm and melody.
Budding musicians have for years chosen to learn on the locally made hand-pumped harmoniums that are made with German reeds. The vintage German Jubilate harmonium reeds are preferred because they produce clear, classic and distinct tones.
But unfortunately, the supply of reeds was discontinued almost half a century ago. They were manufactured between 1911 and the 1960s. But even though they are no longer available, musicians still try to get their hands on them.
In Sindh, harmoniums are manufactured in Karachi, Hyderabad, Nawabshah, Sanghar and Kamoon Shaheed. They are also made in Lahore and Gujranwala.
Thirty-two-year-old Mir Hasan from Sanghar has been in the harmonium-making business since he was seven. It takes him 20 days to make one. “It can be made in six days, if three to four people work together,” he adds.
Because the new German reeds are not available anymore, they have to use old German reeds, he explains.
Apart from Germany, reeds are also imported from India and France. They come in both brass and bronze. A harmonium made of Indian reed costs around Rs25,000 to Rs30,000, while those with German reeds cost between Rs40,000 and Rs50,000.
The harmonium box is made from Diyar, Keel and Burmateek wood along with cardboard and plastic.
The most important part of making a harmonium is pre-tuning in which you fix the ‘sur’ and ‘taal’ or adjust the frequency of a reed.