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Can I play Beatles on my Harmonium?
posted by Daniel on January 17th, 2012
We have this funny notion that the harmonium is an Indian instrument, but actually it was born in Paris! It had a nineteenth century heyday throughout Europe and the US, and was brought to India as a portable church organ by the British, where it has continued to flourish.
The harmonium is a remarkably versatile instrument, and musicians of many backgrounds have embraced it. At various points over the last two hundred years, the harmonium has been prominently featured in Christian churches, Sufi mosques, Hindu mandirs, and Sikh gurdwaras.
And since recorded music began, many eclectic musicians have used it as a non-traditional color to paint with: George Harrison turned the Beatles on to harmonium, which they played on many of their later more spiritual tracks (easy to hear on "The Inner Light"). Other modern artists to use harmonium in live shows or on their albums include Tori Amos, Jeff Buckley, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Sigur Ros, and Tom Waits.
Some of these artists discovered the harmonium through their interest in Indian spirituality, others simply through their European heritage. I've met many second generation European immigrants here in the US who recall having a "squeeze box with pedals" (the old form of harmonium) in their childhood home in the old world.
And so my answer to the original question is Yes - absolutely! The harmonium can play the same chords as any piano or guitar, so whether you like the Beatles or Jack Johnson, Lady Gaga or Bob Dylan, you can google the chords to their songs and try it out on harmonium.