Book review Music

Meet the masters

‘Gharana: Hindustani Sangeethakaranmar’

‘Gharana: Hindustani Sangeethakaranmar’   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement


Ramesh Gopalakrishnan’s Gharana: Hindustani Sangeethakaranmar is an all-encompassing journey into the lives of doyens of Hindustani music

Till recently, most books on music were riddled with technical jargons dealing with the intricacies of raga and tala, and were primarily addressed to the elite aficionados, music students or scholars. With the advent of television, YouTube, music websites and umpteen gadgets to browse, record, store and share music, there has been a democratisation of music appreciation and understanding, and a broadening of tastes.

The musical renditions of masters of yore became readily available for reference through the Internet, giving the growing music audience a taste of various musical traditions in India and to listen to the voice and style of masters from different gharanas and regions.

Such free availability of music deepened popular interest in the life and art of old masters across the country, spurring the publication of music columns in magazines and scholarly books on classical music. Ramesh Gopalakrishnan, a keen listener and scholar of classical as well as popular music, has penned several books on musical traditions and styles.

The book Gharana: Hindustani Sangeethakaranmar is a compilation of articles on masters of Hindustani music. Divided into two sections, Dhrupad and Khayal, the book contains profiles of more than 50 musicians from both traditions. Written in lucid language that is accessible to the general reader, it is a journey into the world of Hindustani music, its history, various gharanas, guru-shishya paramparas, styles and influences.

Ramesh Gopalakrishnan

Ramesh Gopalakrishnan   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

The first part dwells upon the history of Dhrupad music that has evolved and developed through several centuries and generations, with the blessings of various royal patrons and the dedication of illustrious singers, especially from the Dagar family.

Originating from the legendary singer Tansen, it is a musical tradition that spans 20 generations, from Baba Gopinath Pandey, Haldar Khan and Behram Khan to its contemporary practitioners such as Nafeesuddin Dagar and Aneesudin Dagar.

The second part comprises profiles of all-time greats of Hindustani music from different gharanas across the country, briefly touching upon their life, the gurus who mentored them, their formative influences, stages in their career, their style and contributions, and the awards and recognitions they were bestowed with.

These profiles feature major musical geniuses of Hindustani music during the last one-and-half centuries. Starting from early masters such as Vishnunarayan Bhatkhande, Vishnu Digambar Paluskar and Alladiya Khan, it covers vocalists and instrumentalists from all the major gharanas and banis, leading up to contemporary masters such as Ashwini Bide Deshpande, Prabha Atre and Shubha Mudgal.

Apart from brief biographies, what makes the profiles an interesting read are the detours into certain dramatic turning points in the singers’ life and musical career, fascinating details about their often-troubled relationship with gurus and contemporaries, their early struggles, especially of female singers, in finding a foothold in this highly elitist and conservative world and to practice their art.

Running as a subtext to these journeys are the various give and takes in musical styles and traditions of different gharanas, the involvement of many musicians like Paluskar and Omkarnath Thakur in the nationalist movement and certain mutual fascinations and dialogues that cut across traditions, schools and styles like that between Karim Khan and Veena Dhanammal, some resulting in spell-binding jugalbandi partnerships between musicians.

While reading the book, one also passingly encounters the ebb and tides of various gharanas, that mark the highs and lows in the history of classical music in India in its evolution through several modes of patronage and allegiances — the royalty and zamindars earlier, then its passionate engagement with the nationalist resurgence and later its entanglements with the state-sponsored academies of art in independent India.

The book also draws upon interesting references from books about music and films like that of Mani Kaul who explored the performance, form and aesthetic of Dhrupad music.

This brief yet panoramic and passionate engagement with various masters, gharanas and styles of Hindustani music is sure to inform, entertain and engage the music lovers.

By giving them a sense of history the book also provokes the reader to step back and listen to the past so as to understand the present more deeply.

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Printable version | Dec 14, 2019 1:01:13 PM |

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