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The Harmonium - Friend or Foe?

The harmonium was an egg laid in the nest of sangeet by the passing cuckoo bird of Western colonization. Easy to learn, it requires less time to master than a string instrument. Thus, one by one, it thrust out the other instruments from the sacred nest, occupying the place of honour as well as severely reducing the tonal beauty and instrumental subtlety of traditional sangeet.

Bhagat kabir ji -

"When the strings are broken,

the rabab can't play.

Man has spoiled his own affairs."

(Rag Asa, p. 478)

Bhai Gurdas ji

"Ragas are played upon the rabab, but time and again

Its tuning pegs must be adjusted."

Bhai Gurdas on Sikhism

The Ganga at Banares is for the Hindus

Muslims go to the Kaba at Mecca;

But in every house of Baba all are singing

Playing the cymbals, mrdang and rabab.

Guru Arjan Dev Ji: The Mystical Rabab

Make your hands the kartals, your eyes the pakhawaj,

and your forehead the rabab to play upon.

Let the sweet flute resound in your ears,

and with your tongue, vibrate this song.

Move your mind like the rhythmic hand-motions;

do the dance, and shake your ankle bracelets.

This is the rhythmic dance of the Lord.

The Merciful Audience, the Lord, sees all

your make-up and decorations. Guru Arjan Dev Ji in Ramkali (p. 884) has referred to inner states of consciousness and their musical and mystical character: This in the inner dance of the soul experiencing the pulse and life-current of Divinity. The rabab is compared with the forehead which is the gateway to the Tenth Door. Again the instrument is suggestive of spiritual liberation.

Guru Arjan Dev: The Goal of KirtanYour humble servant dances and sings

Your Glorious Praises.

He plays the rabab, pakhawaj, kartals and bells,

and the unstruck sound current of the Shabad resounds.

Guru Arjan Dev: The EpilogueHow to dance without the music?

How to sing without a voice?

How to play rabab without the strings?

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