Gharanas of Indian Classical Music

Gharanas of Indian Classical Music

‘Gharana’, in common parlance, means a ‘family’, ‘tradition’, a group culture etc. In painting, we have certain ‘schools‘ of painting. But there are no gharanas in literature. In music, gharanas are linked up, in the initial stages with a family or families and have an element of family or ‘khandani’ pride.

The claim of belonging to a particular Ghana of Indian Classical Music, gives a sense of pride for a performing musician or Guru. Speaking rather bluntly, this claim of belonging to a gharana really used to give some “halo” or place of pride to a musician say even a hundred or fifty years ago because his performance was a veritable testimony to the discipline, characteristics, style, musical culture, nuances, compositions of the gharana he represented Today we have not many yardsticks left to “weigh up” a musician with reference to his claims of belonging to a gharana. It is now more a matter of prestige and style to establish one’s musical identity by linking it up with some gharana. There is also a craze amongst musicians to establish some connection, however remote, with the Seniya dynasty of Tansen in both vocal and instrumental music. With substantial metamor­phosis including admixture of gharanas and styles and the uncertain and unpredictable turns which classical music has been taking and will take under the pressure of numerous powerful forces in future, it may be of some academic interest to examine different facets of gharana music and to see what is left of these gharanas now and in which direction (if any) they are heading in future.

Let us straightaway concede that when, even in this age of hurry, pressure publicity and restlessness, Gharanas of Indian Classical music has not totally lost its value or relevance, there must be some quality in gharana music which (even for outward show) lures the performing musician. This leads us on to an analysis of the concept, rationale and characteristics of gharana music.

For Khayals, the Gwalior Gharana of Indian Classical Music, for instance, was associated with names like Haddu Khan, Hassu Khan, Bade Mohammad Khan, the Sahaswan gharana with Mustaque Husain, Fida Husain, Agra gharana with Gulam Abbas, Faiyaz Khan, Jaipur gharana with Alladia Khan, Rajabali Khan, Mohammed Khan, the Patiala gharana with Alia Fattu and Kale Khan and so on.

By convention, we do not have a Gharana of Classical Music in India unless its existence goes back to four or five generations. The other feature is that the master personality or creator of the gharana must have a high musical personality who by the sheer quality of his voice or musical tone and almost super­human riyaz or practice based on sound talim imparting of music) from great masters produces a distinctive style of music, voice or tonal reproduction.

In musically professional families, this discipline and knowledge would be transmitted and handed down from father to son or next of kin generation after generation. This is the guru-shisya tradition which has kept up different gharana styles of classical music. Often the family line ends or thins out and the gharana tradition is carried forward by the groups of disciples who learnt the art as outsiders and not as members or blood relations of the originator of the gharana style.

Each gharana of classical music has its own distinctive and artistic discipline following certain rules and methods/techniques in musical presentation. Every gharana of Indian classical music really originates from the nature and quality of the voice (or instrumental tone) of the founder artist. All musical idioms or techniques will not suit every voice or instrument. Classical music in India has undeniably a formalistic basis. Every gharana of classical music and its compositions have satisfied the test of the formalism thus giving it a scientific basis.

Music lovers, all along history, have valued gharanas of Indian Music which not only displayed perfectness of form but also achieved some degree of refinement and complexity in the technical design and style. Thus we have styles based on swar (alapi style) or tanas or laya with varying emphasis on each of them. Thus we have a large variety of gharanas developed over the last four hundred years or so starting with earlier Dhrupad Banis—Gaudiya, Dagari, Nauhari and Khandari. The gharanas relate both to vocal and instru­mental music. By way of illustration one can cite many gharanas like Gwalior Gharana, Jaipur Gharana, Lucknow Gharana, Agra gharana, Indore gharana, Kirana gharana, Patiala gharana, Benaras gharana, Rampur gharana etc.

Also read the following articles on Gharanas of Indian Classical Music.

  • Jaipur Gharana of Indian Classical Music
  • Jaipur Gharana of Sitar Music
  • Agra Gharana
  • Delhi Gharana
  • Maihar Gharana(Sitar)
  • Etawah Gharana
  • Lucknow Gharana
  • Varanasi Gharana
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