What’s in a gharana?

Custodians of a specialised musical style: Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty

Custodians of a specialised musical style: Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty   | Photo Credit: NARENDRA DANGIYA


Ahead of a seminar in Mumbai, Vijay Kichlu and Ajoy Chakrabarty talk about the nomenclature of gharanas and their relevance in the contemporary world

Several delightfully different Khayal schools emerged out of many insignificant towns of North India. These schools are popularly known as gharanas, a word deriving out of ghar or house. Intriguingly, each gharana is associated with a particular town; and not the master of the house.

Pandit Vijay Kichlu

Pandit Vijay Kichlu  

Pandits Vijay Kichlu and Ajoy Chakrabarty, who will be participating in ‘Khayal and Gharanas’ a seminar at the National Centre for Performing Arts at Mumbai on January 18-19, try to put the conundrum in perspective.

The duo with Kaushiki Chakrabarty

The duo with Kaushiki Chakrabarty  

Edited excerpts:

Why are Khayal gharanas named after cities?

VK: Because the ‘ghar’ belonged to the States where musicians lived and the real masters were the rulers of the States. As patrons of music, they offered salary, housed their chosen musician and looked after their needs. Apart from being court musicians these erudite musicians groomed the inmates of their homes that also included a few dedicated disciples. That is how the word ‘gharana’ (pertaining to house) got associated with the ‘music of the State’; the preceptors chose to remain incognito behind Rampur, Maihar, Agra, Gwalior, etc.

The Qawwal Bacche hailed from Lucknow; then why do we accept Gwalior as Khayal’s Pitri (parent) gharana?

VK: Qawwal Bacche shifted base to Gwalior because their music was greatly appreciated in Gwalior State. Makkhan Khan’s son Natthan Pir Baksh nurtured this new trend of music. His son was Kadir Baksh whose sons Haddu and Hassu Khan took this gayaki to greater heights. Unfortunately Haddu Khan died young; Hassu Khan preferred to groom numerous Brahmins of the region such as Vasudev Joshi, Balkrishnabuwa Ichalkaranjikar and several others. His logic was simple. He wished to be remembered as the Ustad of this new style which was scoffed at by other well-established Ustads of dhrupad. Legend has it that Hassu Khan’s debut khayal recital was a flop in Bengal. He had to woo his listeners back with dhrupad, the popular genre of that era ruled by Vishnupur Gharana.

How did Gharanas evolve?

AC: In their comfortable cocoons, almost cut off from the rest of the world, the unique ideas of gifted musicians took shape and crystallised as individualistic styles. Each style, termed as gharana, boasts of one hugely gifted musician. His sons, relatives and other followers adopted his style to the extent of copying him; sometimes at the cost of their most precious gift – voice. We are aware of so many instances wherein Ustad Faiyaz Khan’s followers tried to emulate his robust voice-throw and in the process ruined their voices. There are some who copy the mannerisms of their idols more than their music. Conversely, there are a few like Rashid (Khan) who made their gurus proud by scaling the peaks of music in their own way. Moreover, the soil, air and water of a region play a vital role in texturing voice and tonality; so do the food habits and family traditions.

Is the concept of gharana relevant now?

A vehement ‘no’ came from both Kichlu, the founder director of ITC Sangeet Research Academy who revived the Guru Shishya Parampara and nurtured almost all Khayal gharanas during his twenty-two years tenure and strived to maintain their originality; and AC, one of the finest products of VK’s vision! According to both, a gharana actually represents an artiste’s individuality, devotedly followed by his progenies.

VK: I don’t believe in gharana system because each gharana has produced artistes who are diversely different from their brethren. Look at the legends like Krishnarao Shankar Pandit, Omkarnath Thakur, Kumar Gandharva and a host of others belonging to Gwalior Gharana. There is no similarity even in their voice-throw, what to say of their stylistic preferences.

AC: For initial foundation, one does need the support of a Gharana; just like the stamp of a renowned institution; but today children are spoilt for choice. The olden rigidity does not work now; neither the concept of closed-door sadhana or riyaaz. Under the circumstances one must be able to pick and choose the best suited ornaments available across Gharanas; but under the guidance of the guru. I try to preserve the uniqueness of all my disciples by allowing them to explore according to their preferences.

As the name suggests – Khayal gave freedom from the clutches of structured music of yore; yet Khayal gharanas were restrictive too and maybe that is why they are falling apart. Under the circumstances what will be the guiding factors?

AC: I plan to delve on that in details during the seminar. There are four major factors that define Khayal; and they are: voice-throw; embellishments; elaborations and compositions. Lyrics play a vital role in music making. With guided ‘vision’ of sur (tunefulness) and swara (notes), every talent can embark on his musical journey with confidence.

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

Related Topics Music
Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 7:50:31 PM |

Next Story