The Growing Popularity of The Accordion in India




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Accordions in India

Indian folk music is widely known for its instruments, like the Harmonium, Sitar, Tabla and Dholak. However there is one instrument that has played a role in India’s Bollywood film industry. That is the Accordion.

Despite not being an instrument renowned Indian accordionists have composed music for numerous Bollywood soundtracks and even replicated its sound using a harmonium or computer.

In times the Accordion has been gaining popularity not in the United States and Europe but also in India. Young musicians are seamlessly blending its tones into folk and pop genres.

Bollywood movies and folklore have been influenced by this ” cousin of the Harmonium.” While it may not be deeply rooted in music culture compared to other countries musicians across India hold great respect for this talented instrument. The admiration, for the accordion can still be felt throughout the continent.

A map of India

Introduction of the Accordion in India

The accordion made its appearance, in Bollywood in the movie “Samaditi” back in 1951. It was featured during the interludes for the song “Gore Gore O Banke Chhore,” which was composed by C. Ramachandra.

Introducing the accordion added a layer of melody that hadn’t been heard in Bollywood tracks. Since then numerous composers, including the duo Laxmikant Pyarelal and prolific music director Bappi Lahiri have incorporated the accordion into their compositions.

However it was A.R Rahman who truly revitalized the use of accordion in Bollywood music. Rahman has always been a composer who enjoys incorporating sounds into his music. During a trip to Hong Kong he discovered an accordion. Decided to purchase it.

This same accordion can be heard throughout the film “Guru,” in songs like “Tere Bina” and “Mayya Mayya.” Rahmans use of the accordion brought a change, to Bollywood music and added an exotic touch.

What makes Rahman so fond of this instrument? According to him the accordion possesses a sound that can seamlessly blend into any composition. Its unique ability to produce types of music is what makes it special.
The accordion is favored by musicians due, to its sound and its capability to play chords and melodies at the same time. Its emotive tone often adds a touch of melancholy, to tracks as demonstrated in the song “Tere Bina.”

Accordion music in Bollywood Movies

Somehow this trend began with the composer Naushad Ali, who made an impact, on Hindi films. He introduced music and the accordion to cinema shaping the unique sound of Bollywood.

Throughout his career Naushad composed music for a 35 silver jubilee hits and numerous other blockbuster successes. His contributions were so remarkable that he received recognition through both the Dadasaheb Phalke Award and the Padma Bhushan.

Following his introduction of the accordion in his film “Dastan ” other Indian musicians and composers embraced this instrument.

With guidance from Parsee drummer Kawas Lord, Naushad Ali connected with Goody Sirwai, a talented accordion player known for his performances in dramas. Together they crafted the Hindi film song incorporating the enchanting melodies of the accordion—creating a historic moment, in Indian cinema that should not be missed.

Video courtesy of mastcalandr

During the mid 1950s the renowned musical pair Shankar Jaikishan became deeply enamored with the enchanting melodies produced by the accordion.

Their recent musical creation truly reflects their fascination as it showcases the accordion prominently in sections of the composition bringing a delightful flair to the interludes, bridges and fillers. Undoubtedly this song serves as a demonstration of the accordions versatility and captivating appeal.

Video courtesy of IMIRZA777 Accordion pieces in Indian Songs

The accordion has become closely associated with the music of Rajinder Krishan Movies featuring in compositions, like the Rajinder Krishan anthem and the background score of Anand (1971). In Bobbys soundtrack Laxmikant Pyarelal paid homage to their mentors the Shankar Jaikishan duo, by incorporating the bass flute and accordion in the closing section.

When we look back, on these timeless melodies lets not forget to appreciate the accordion players who made them unforgettable.

Video courtesy of Aaja Sanam Madhur.

The keyboard style Piano Accordion became popular in Hindi film music because of its registers called couplers, which allow for adjustable pitch. Interestingly this keyboard style can be easily used alongside free reed instruments like the Harmonium, which Indian musicians are well acquainted with.

Renditions and Covers of Bollywood Soundtracks

Accordionists in India and Pakistan are now incorporating popular Bollywood soundtracks into their performances. The accordion’s convenience and similarity to the harmonium add a delightful and authentic touch to these renditions, making them a must-hear for music Bollywood classics enthusiasts.

Video courtesy of Subhash Parab

Accordion sounds from a Harmonium

Contemporary Indian musicologists reveal that many Bollywood movie soundtracks actually feature harmoniums mimicking the sound of accordions. Accomplished harmonium players possess the ability to replicate the accordion’s distinctive sound due to the similarities of the two instruments being free-reed based. Harmonium masters such as V. Balsara from India have gained recognition for their effortless emulation of accordion sounds.

Courtesy of TAP The Arts People

The rise of the Accordion in India

The accordion, even though it is not an folk instrument is currently experiencing a revival, among folk and pop musicians in India. Despite titles like “Meet Mr. Prakash, India’s Only Accordionist ” the truth is that there are now hundreds of accordion players in the country.

In a show of breaking gender barriers India’s first female accordion teacher has imparted her knowledge to than 400 students teaching them the intricacies of this instrument. She herself developed a passion for the accordion at the age of 17. Received training, from V.Balsara, one of India’s renowned accordionists. Shanoli Sen, who is not a female accordion player but also a celebrated vocalist.

Presently she manages her YouTube channel.

Video courtesy of Shanoli Sen

Shanolis unique blend of Hindi and Bengali songs, with Indian classical dhuns established a remarkable 40 year partnership with her mentor. This collaboration solidified her decision to pursue the accordion as a career captivated by its mesmerizing quality.

Accordions have gained popularity in India becoming a cherished addition to weddings and celebrations. Young musicians are embracing this instrument alongside the harmonium recognizing its versatility and charm.

From aspiring students honing their skills on the accordion to performers showcasing their prowess at Indian weddings, even renowned music stars like Javed Ali and Pritam have seamlessly incorporated its distinctive sound, into their chart topping hits.

Final thoughts

Despite their price accordions are becoming increasingly popular, in India. They are finding a place in music genres that aren’t typically associated with culture.

It’s intriguing to witness the growing acceptance of accordions while traditional instruments like the harmonium and shruti box continue to hold their ground in folk music. The success of accordion manufacturers such, as Hohner, Weltmeister, Dallape and even Chinese piano accordions reflects the instruments influence.

It will be captivating to experience the melodies that arise in South Asia as classical Indian instruments coexist with Western counterparts.

2 responses to “The Growing Popularity of The Accordion in India”

  1. Dr. Santanu Kumar Samanta Avatar

    Respected Sir,
    Your keen interest about great popularity of piano accordion in India (earlier) & publication of this fantastic exemplified write up is really very praiseworthy and worthy of time. Though it is in waning stage because of advancement of keyboard instrument like Keytron Event, Italy etc.
    Still, like us, we are fond of this beautiful instrument and a few persons like us are fighting against the odd acoustically. After all, good instruments are beyond our limits also.
    Cicustically old people are still interested in this instrumental music as I came to know from my youtube channel, vide @binodan-dr.santanukr.saman3185 . Presently, very latest song of world famous singer Mr. Arijit Singh has been played in my home studio channel, but viewers are very limited whereas old songs are still similarly popular. Findings say that young generation is not at all interested in piano accordion music in India.
    If you like you may share my home studio video of song ‘ mai shayar to nahi’ as there is no video.
    Because of electronic keyboard instrument, piano accordion is a dead instrument in India atleast, so frustrating.
    With regards
    Santanu Kumar Samanta

    1. Dino Rossi Avatar

      Thank you for the comment. Certainly. I’d love to share the video you suggested. Yes, people don’t realize how important accordion is in Bollywood soundtracks and today’s Indian pop scene.

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