Saturday, August 27, 2011

Book Review: The Music Room by Namita Devidayal

There are certain books that you want to pick up right when they’re available in hardcover, and you are already through with it by the time the book climbs up on the bookstore’s bestseller list. And then there are other kinds of books that your friends have been suggesting but you’d rather wait till the paperback edition is on the shelf. Suggesting a good read to your dear ones always gives you that rousing feeling but in the case of The Music Room by Namita Devidayal, it was none of the above. Part due to my resistance to read about my favorite topic in prose and part due to my inability to give it enough time to digest a book-full-of trivia on Hindustani Classical Music with some of the best known personalities it has given birth to.

It would be quite uncanny of me to say this but with all my efforts to avoid reading The Music Room, the book finally found its way into my bookshelf one day. And to my surprise, it was not one but two copies of it that I received as a gift in the same month; one from Nandita and the other from my friend, Zui. Although I tried keeping a slow pace to imbibe all that has been written, I started reading it with such voracity that I reached the last page in less than three days.

Branched in 5 chapters, the book starts with the narrator’s reluctance in her early teens to learn Indian Classical Music from a teacher who boasted of one of the most envious musical lineages in this art form. But as the book unwinds, the narrator describes her growing years under the tutelage of her teacher, Dhondutai Kulkarni, her sound understanding of the art, heightened inquisitiveness about this music, its form, the analogies it draws and its resemblance to very life.

The Music Room takes us exhaustively through the life and times of musical geniuses like Ustad Alladiya Khansahab, the founder of Jaipur Atrauli Gharana, his sons Ustad Manji Khansahab and Ustad Bhurji Khansahab, and of course his prodigal student Kesarbai Kerkar; who also happens to be the Guru of the narrator’s teacher. Interwoven in the historical events dating way back to the 1930s, the narrator also speaks of several anecdotes about famous musical personalities making this book a ready catalogue for Hindustani Classical Music trivia.

As a music fan if you’re looking for technical comprehension about classical music, this is not the book that you should be picking up. Rather I would say, disclosing a bundle of rarely-heard-before events of this art form makes the book more approachable, interesting; inviting those readers as well who regard this music with utmost respect but have not attended more than 5 concerts or own more than 2 cds of a classical musician. My suggestion: go grab a read; it makes for a perfect lazy Sunday afternoon read.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

One of the most Controversial Rivalries in HCM: Vilayat Khan & Ravi Shankar

Vilayat Khan with Ravi Shankar
If you have ever come across talking to someone from the Hindustani Classical Music circles, you would have heard about the perceived rivalry between two of the greatest Sitar players of the last century, Ravi Shankar and Vilayat Khan. While one was known for his elegance and presentation, the other had quite a reputation of being unpredictably brash and outspoken. I've heard  a lot of incidents involving the two maestros and how abhorrence often transpired between the two. But these stories seem more like a legend for the lack of finer details and clarity of reasoning.

I happened to read about an incident that took place in Delhi in 1950 where both Ravi Shankar and Vilayat Khan shared the stage along with Ali Akbar Khan and Kishan Maharaj. And if that was not all, legendary musicians like Allaudin Khan (Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan’s guru), singer Amir Khansaheb were seated amongst other dignitaries in the audience. It was here when things took a turn for the unpleasant. Some say, Ravi Shankar challenged Vilayat Khan to a rematch and the latter calmed him down. The newspapers carried the report next day stating  Vilayat Khan played better than him. And to no one’s surprise, innumerable stories have been floating since then adding to the rift between the two maestros.

I was lucky to have sourced out (courtesy: two diametrically opposite narrations of this event, one from Vilayat Khan’s younger brother and Surbahar player Imrat Khan and the other from Ravi Shankar himself. Have a read but before you begin contemplating on who among the two is being truthful or is there an unspoken truth that neither of them have mentioned here; I would like you to simply imagine the moment, the mahaul of witnessing four musical greats performing together on the stage in the prime of their careers. It does not get more magical than this for sure!

Imrat Khan’s version:
I would like to set the record straight on that incident. Let me say this, Ravi Shankar would have been great at anything he tried his hand at. He was very bright, knew how to present himself, and he endeared himself to everyone with his diplomacy, unlike Bhaiya who spoke his mind very bluntly. But eventually, while Ravi Shankar made a name for himself, none of his students have turned out to be world class musicians.

Tell me one world class sitar player who can stand up and say I was trained by Ravi Shankar. The outstanding sitar players that you see today are my nephews Shujaat and Shahid and my sons, trained by bhaiya and me, and perhaps Budhaditya Mukherjee who is a student of our gharana.

Vilayat Khan
I also have to say this; there is no sitar player to touch my brother in the past 100 years, not even Ravi Shankar. The incident that Raviji spoke about to you happened in Delhi. Raviji was very well known then. He was also patronized by top notch business men, and the Nehru family, and the media too was very fond of him. When we arrived in Delhi for the festival, no one came to receive us and bhaiya was very upset. Later he was told he was to play with Ravi Shankar, and he said fine.

The news spread like wildfire and 4,000 people showed up to see this dialogue between the two. At that point Raviji said he will only play if Ali Akbar Khan plays with him since he was not used to playing without Ali Akbar Khan. As you know their sitar- sarod duet performances had won them a lot of acclaim, though there were people who felt that Ali Akbar Khan was more talented and they were doing well because of his presence. 

My brother retorted that then Imrat will play next to me. I was a young teenager but I guess bhaiya felt I was good enough to play with them. Then people told him, Imrat is a child, don’t drag him into this. You can manage so either play with the duo on your own or just back out. Bhaiya said fine I will play alone. Kishan Maharaj was on tabla. I was on tanpura.

The fact is my brother was the superior player that day. Whatever Raviji played my brother played faster and crystal clear. Then he said to Raviji “I have played whatever you have played; now I want you to play a taan that I’m going to play.” He played a taan which is very famous and is like the trademark of our gharana... It takes many many hours of practice for months to get it. Raviji tried and couldn’t do it. Ali Akbar tried and couldn’t do it either. Then my brother played it again and added more to it, and at that point pandemonium broke. People started roaring that Vilayat Khan had outshone Raviji and had the upper hand that day. The media that was so pro Raviji carried articles saying the same thing. Baba Allauddin Khan got very upset that his star disciples had been made to look so incompetent and yelled at my brother who respectfully took it.

Having said that I will say I have the utmost appreciation and respect for Ravi Shankar. He has single-handedly put Indian classical music on the map. My brother did feel resentment initially that though he was the better musician, Raviji was getting so much publicity, but towards the end of his life he knew that people knew he was the greatest and that gave him peace of mind. But as I said earlier, Ravi Shankar is a multitalented great man. He would have been famous in anything he tried his hand at, because he knew how to present himself in the best possible way.

Ravi Shankar’s version:
Vilayat Khan was a wonderfully gifted musician, and he passed away recently after a great career. The incident that you mentioned happened when we were playing at Red Fort and Ali Akbar Khan, and tabla maestro Kishan Maharaj were also on stage with us. All the famous musicians were there. I used to organize these musical events under the Jhankar Musical Circle Series and had been doing so for three-four years. That day I was also running a fever of 102 degrees. I was told we want to have all three of you Ali Akbar myself and Vilayat Khan, together on stage. I was a bit skeptical, but said fine. Vilayat Khan was very cordial and said, “Dada, prem se bajayenge” (we will play with love and affection) and I said fine. I also went along with whatever he wanted. "Let’s play raga Manj Khamaj," he said, and I said fine and played in whatever beat he wanted, just to keep the warmth and camaraderie. Nothing really happened that was unsavory, but the musicians from Delhi started cheering as he was tuning his sitar.
Ravi Shankar

The next day it all started off with the musicians from Delhi claiming Vilayat Khan had overshadowed me completely, his jhalla was superior, I couldn’t keep up with him etc, etc. I still didn’t dwell much on it until it came out in the newspapers in Bombay. I was very irritated then and in fact challenged Vilayat Khan openly to a rematch at a friend’s house. The legendary classical vocalist Amir Khan was there as were Ali Akbar Khan and Kishan Maharaj. Vilayat Khan immediately appeased me by saying "Dada, let’s not get in to this. People indulge in idle talk and unless you hear me say something in person, don’t go by hearsay." I let it go. He was such a wonderful musician, but whenever he played, the first thing he would do would be to make digs at me! I smile about it now, but it was a bit tiring

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Trilok Gurtu, Simon Phillips & NDR Big Band – 21 Spices

In collaboration with London-based rock drummer Simon Phillips and Germany’s very own NDR Big Band, 21 Spices is the latest offering from the Bombay-bred musical virtuoso Trilok Gurtu. Easily seen as the meeting of two maestros from the world of percussion, this album is a unique concoction of heady rhythms, raw sounds of drums and tabla and the opulence of a philharmonic orchestra.  

Premiered at the Drums'n'Percussion Festival in Paderborn in May 2010, it is a mix of live recordings and studio tracks which all have been featured on Trilok’s earlier albums. Named after the number of musicians involved in the making of the album, 21 Spices is Trilok's second album after Bad Habits Die Hard (released in 1995) which has been recorded and produced live. Incidentally, 21 Spices was one of the tracks that appeared on BHDH.

Quietly rightly known as a serial collaborator, Trilok has managed to blend his music with various musical styles from various parts of the world. Post the release of The Beat of Love (2001), Trilok developed a distinctive style of his own where he initiated collaborations with artists from a range of musical genres from Robert Miles to ASQ to the Frikyiwa Family to Jan Garbarek and more. Some also maintain that Gurtu has come of age in the new millennium. How much ever truth that may hold, no one’s complaining for sure.

If we have to compare the sound of this album, then Trilok’s collaboration in 2006 with Arke String Quartet on Arkeology comes the closest. Have a listen, the album does carry certain freshness into the room and deserves tapping a foot or two.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A brief history about Indo-Western Fusion

If you go back to a dictionary or, fusion is explained as the act or process of fusing; the state of being fused. But we’re talking about music here and when its about music there are no set rules or straight definitions. Everything here is and can be viewed with your own perspective because it’s this perspective that makes each musical piece so different, so unique from the others. The artist’s personal touch is of supreme importance in music. We could talk about how artists have helped develop Hindustani Classical music through the ages but today let’s stick to fusion; and how western influence has added a new leaf to this music: the indo-western fusion.

The Beginning and Early Success:
Ravi Shankar

Like in other genres of music, fusion is not a very old trend in Indian music. It is said to have begun with Ali Akbar Khan's sarod performance in the United States in 1955. Indian fusion music came into being with collaborations with Rock n Roll music in the 1960s and 1970s. Limited to Europe and North America in its nascent age, the Indian fusion music scene then was run by one central figure, sitar maestro Ravi Shankar.

In the years to follow, Ravi Shankar began experimenting by fusing jazz with Indian traditions along with Bud Shank and others. The popularity of this genre was pretty instantaneous and hit quite a high with his performances along with Allah Rakha at musical extravaganzas like the Woodstock Festival and the Monterey Pop Festival in the 1960s.

New Experiments:

Soon the trend was imitated, developed and refurbished by many popular European and American music exponents including John McLauhghlin. During this time, Ravi’s nephew Ananda Shankar too hit the top charts with his Indo-western compositions. Tracks like Jungle Symphony and Streets of Calcutta are popular even today. 

Ravi Shankar with George Harrison

In 1965, Ravi Shankar’s most famous disciple, George Harrison played the song, ‘Norwegian wood’ on the Sitar for their album Rubber Soul and this created ripples of popularity across the globe helping Indian Music gain further attractiveness in the international music circuit. Another famous Jazz expert, Miles Davis recorded and performed extensively with the likes of Khalil Bal Krishna, Bihari Sharma, and Badal Roy. Some other prominent Western artists like the Grateful Dead, Incredible String Band, the Rolling Stones, the Move and Traffic soon integrated Indian influences and instruments and developed the trend of fusion.

Another major influence during mid-1970s was The Mahavishnu Orchestra of John McLaughlin. It was during this time that he joined forces with L. Shankar, Zakir Hussain and Vikku Vinayakam to form the group ‘Shakti’. Their albums, A Handful of Beauty and Natural Elements are still available under the popular section in music stores.

Beginning of the downhill:

The Indian fusion trend was growing and the coming years saw many more successful collaborations from Indian and Western traditions like Jan Garbarek (Sax), Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Philip Glass, Sultan Khan, Marco Guinar (Spanish guitar), Vishwa Mohan Bhatt (Mohan Veena),  Ry Cooder and more. Some of them also went on to win few of the most prestigious music awards in the world. But suddenly it was felt, this wasn’t going anywhere; there was a certain lax of novelty here.

Though dust began settling over the Indian fusion craze among mainstream audiences by the late 1980s, diehard fans and immigrants continued the fusion movement. One of the chief reasons for this was the per se monotony of this genre.
Trilok Gurtu at a live performance

Efforts to revive the same were duly undertaken no doubt. Like, Trilok Gurtu launched his first solo recording ‘Usfret’ in 1987 featuring artists like Don Cherry, L Shankar, Pat Metheny, Shobha Gurtu and more. The album in more ways than one launched the new sound of the Indo-Western fusion. This eventually gave way to Indian-British artists like Talvin Singh, Nitin Sawhney to fuse Indian and Western traditions to establish the Asian Underground in the early 1990s. Advanced technologies in sound, new recording techniques giving way to new and never-heard-before sounds were the chief elements in this movement.

These musical movements helped introduce World Music as a musical genre in itself, gain extreme popularity in a relatively small amount of time, so much so that it seems today this kind of music was always present in our lives. I would like to talk in detail about the rise and success of World Music but not here, maybe in another post.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Prem Joshua - a fine artist and one of my favorites

Born in Germany, Prem Joshua began learning the flute at the age of five, becoming a fine flautist while still a child. As a teenager he was soon performing in various Rock, Jazz and Fusion bands as a flute and saxophone player, always searching for new ways of expressing and expanding his music.

He remembers vividly hearing Indian music for the first time, age 16 - a crackly vinyl record of a sitar performance by Ravi Shankar: “I had never heard anything like this before,” Joshua recalls. “This was beyond my musical grasp and experience but was something of such immense beauty and depth. It felt unfamiliar and mysterious - yet at the same time like a remembrance of something I knew very well.” 

Thus it was, that in the late seventies, at the age of 18, he left home, he left high school, ended all his career plans, and traveled instead, overland from Europe to India - following the irresistable attraction and pull that the East had now cast over him.On his subsequent overland trips to the East he traveled extensively throughout countries like Greece, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. And in each place he became deeply involved with the indigenous folk music he found there, playing live with and learning from, local musicians everywhere. 

“I loved the roots of this music and felt an immediate connection that I missed so much in Central European music,” he recalls. And this coming home to India was only the “outer” part of his journey. On his travels he came across the enlightened mystic, Osho. In the presence of this man with a long white beard, eyes as deep as the ocean and a strong sense of humor, he came in touch with the art of the “inner music” - Silence.

A multi-instrumentalist and composer Prem Joshua today has explored and created a new synthesis in music beyond the borders of East and West. His creative and musical blend has brought him recognition by critics, music lovers and the press throughout the East and West. He was hailed as the bestselling World Music artist in India and the daily newspaper ‘The Times of India’ has lauded him as the new ‘Guru of Fusion’.

I had the pleasure of listening to him live many a times and every time I’ve seen him perform, he seems immersed in his music and there’s a certain kind of mystery to him. I have tried to capture the same whilst he was performing at Blue Frog in February 2008.

One of my favorites from that evening…

The subject tonight is Love
And for tomorrow night as well,
As a matter of fact I know of no better topic
For us to discuss Until we all Die!

- Hafiz

Trilok Gurtu & the Frikyiwa Family - Farakala

When released in May 2006, this was a much awaited album from Trilok Gurtu. Farakala is a complete new breeze in Trilok’s signature style of music. Recorded over 2 sessions in Mali, a village in West Africa, these recordings have such a raw feel that it seems the musicians are performing in your backyard. No fade-in, fade-outs, no turn tables... just pure sounds from an ethnic village. African vocals are haunting and Trilok sounds rejuvenated with some of the now-rarely-heard African drums.

Trilok had shared the unedited dvd recordings of the making of Farakala, and it was a treat to watch. The first thought to have crossed my head was that a Time Warp where amidst a dusty village, villagers clad in tribal attire, old huts with thatched roofs, dried land were a bunch of musicians in t-shirts and jeans armed with an apple G4, a bundle of wires and cables complete with Sennheiser headphones and mics. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Trilok Gurtu – Usfret

Seriously, what a masterpiece this one is; released way back in 1987 this album still rocks. Lovely alaps(vocals), the mesmeric beats, the soulful compositions... it has all the ingredients of a successful debut album. 

Featuring Shobha Gurtu (Trilok's mom), Don Cherry, Ralph Towner, Shankar and Daniel Goyne, this album has paved the path for musicians like Talvin Singh and Nitin Sawhney and the emergence of the UK underground music in the 90s.

The album begins with Shobharock and by the end of this 7 1/2 min track, you know what’s in store for you ahead. Hailed as an album way ahead of its time, Usfret proved to be an inspiration to so many that we can still see its poor imitations. A must buy for all you music lovers, welcome to the land of percussion music.

Trilok Gurtu – The Trilok Gurtu Collection

If you check with Wikipedia, they say Trilok Gurtu is an Indian percussionist and composer, whose work has blended the music of his homeland with jazz fusion, world music and other genres. 

He has released his own albums and has collaborated with many artists including Terje Rydpal, Gary Moore, John McLaughlin, Jan Garbarek, Joe Zawinul, Bill Laswell, Maria Joao & Mario Laginha and Robert Miles.

But if you’ve not heard Trilok Gurtu before, then this album could be an ideal one to start with. Compiled from 6 of his albums prior to Kathak (1998), the TG Collection is a treat listening to with diverse sounds, some mind-blowing rhythms, and new-wave compositions.

The album features artists like Jan Garbarek, Pat Metheny, L Shankar and the thumri queen Shobha Gurtu(Trilok's mother) amongst others. Go ahead, grab this one and indulge yourself in the world of completely different kind of music, the Gurtu kind of music.

Gharanas in Hindustani Classical Music - part II

 A brief list of today’s popular Gharanas in Hindustani Classical Music: 

Pandit D V Paluskar

Gwalior Gharana: This is the oldest among all the Khayal Gayaki (vocal) styles. Lucid and simple rendition of a composition is the distinctive style of this Gharana.
Founders: Ustad Hassu Khan, Ustad Haddu Khan and Ustad Nathu Khan
Exponents: Pandit Bal Krishna BaIchal Karanjikar, Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar, Pandit Omkarnath Thakur, Veena Sahasrabuddhe and Malini Rajurkar

Ustad Faiyyaz Khan

Agra Gharana: The Agra Gharana places great importance on developing forcefulness and deepness in the voice making the notes sound powerful and resonant.
Founders: Ustad Haji Sujan Khan, Ustad Ghagghe Khuda Baksh
Exponents: Ustad Vilayat Hussain Khan, Ustad Faiyyaz Khan, Ustad Latafat Hussein Khan and Pandit Dinkar Kakini.


Pandit Bhimsen Joshi

Kirana Gharana: It derives its name from the birthplace of Abdul Karim Khan of Kirana near Kurukshetra. In the Kirana style of singing, the swara is used to create an emotional mood by means of elongation and use of tanas.
Founders: Ustad Abdul Karim Khan and Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan
Exponents: Hirabhai Barodekar, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Gangubai Hangal and Prabha Atre.


Kishori Amonkar

Jaipur Atrauli Gharana: The most distinctive feature of the Jaipur Gharana can be best described as its complex and melodic form which arises out of the involutedly and undulating phrases that comprise the piece.
Founders: Ustad Alladiya Khan
Exponents: Kesarbai Kerkar, Mogubai Kurdikar, Pandit Mallikarjun Mansur and Kishori Amonkar.


Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan

Rampur Sahaswan Gharana: The Rampur Sahaswan Gharana adds stress on the clarity of swara in the development and elaboration of a raga through a stepwise progression.
Founders: Ustad Inayat Khan
Exponents: Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan,
Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan, Ustad Rashid Khan, Sulochana and Brihaspati.


Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan

Patiala Gharana: Patiala Gharana is regarded as an offshoot of the Delhi Gharana. It is characterized by the use of complex layakari with the abundant use of bols and bol-taans.
Founders: Ustad Fateh Ali Khan and Ustad Ali Baksh
Exponents: Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Pandit Ajoy Chakravarti, Ustad Raza Ali Khan and Parveen Sultana


Ustad Chand Khan

Delhi Gharana: The Delhi Gharana was represented by Tanras Khan and Shabbu Khan. The highlights of Delhi Gharana are its pleasing vistaar and exquisite compositions.
Founders: Ustad Mamman Khan
Exponents: Ustad Chand Khan, Ustad Nasir Ahmed Khan, Ustad Usman Khan, Ustad Iqbal Ahmed Khan and Pandit Krishna Bisht.


Ustad Amir Khan

Bhendi Bazaar Gharana: The most distinctive feature of the Bhendi Bazaar Gharana is the presentation of Khayal, which is open voice, using a-kar. Breath-control and singing of long passages in one breath is highly regarded in this Gharana.
Founders: Ustad Chajju Khan
Exponents: Ustad Amir Khan, Ustad Aman Ali Khan, Shashikala Koratkar and Anjanibai Malpekar.


Pandit Rajan Sajan Mishra

Benaras Gharana: The Benaras Gharana evolved as a result of great lilting style of Khayal singing known by Thumri singers of Benaras and Gaya.
Founders: Pandit Gopal Mishra

Exponents:  Girija Devi, Pandit Rajan Mishra and Pandit Sajan Mishra

Pandit Jasraj

Mewati Gharana: The Mewati Gharana gives importance to developing the mood of a raga through bhava pradhan. It also gives an equal importance to the meaning of the text.
Founders: Ustad Ghagge Nazir Khan
Exponents: Pandit Moti Ram, Pandit Mani Ram, Pandit Jasraj and Sanjeev Abhyankar

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Gharanas in Hindustani Classical Music

Spring is here, and it’s time for beautiful seasonal compositions like raga basant and raga bahar! And of course their numerous prakars like ragas basant bahar, basanti kedar, basanti kanhara, shudh bahar, hindol bahar and many more. But in this article today we do not plan to talk about seasonal ragas but a completely different facet of Hindustani Classical Music.

I’m sure most of you would have heard Pandit Bhimsen Joshi’s rendition of raga basant. If not at a live concert, you would’ve definitely heard his duet in the same raga with Manna Dey from the film, Basant Bahar. But his renditions sound too distinct to that of Pandit Mallikarjun Mansur’s. And both their renditions are way too different than Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali’s. If the composition is the same, then an individual style shouldn’t create such a stark difference. But it does. And the reasons behind it, lead me into the mysterious world of Gharanas in Hindustani Classical Music.

A Gharana is a school of a particular style of singing or playing instruments. The birth of Gharanas seeks its origin in the idea of preserving the tradition of music, original musical compositions and the distinctive style of its founder. Over the years, it is this quality which broadly determines a Gharana.  

Each Gharana has its unique discipline, system and technique. The character and style of traditionally disciplined music of a Gharana rest with one to three generations, and in due course some of the adept pupils add their own individual contribution combining with the incumbent style of performing. To add more, a Gharana also indicates a comprehensive musicological ideology; directly influencing the thinking, teaching, performance and appreciation of music.

The Gharana concept progressively gained more as the performers from various parts of India left behind their royal patronage and moved to urban centres in search of commercial success. In an attempt to retain their respective identities, they chose to be referred to by the regions they hailed from. Therefore even today, the names of many Gharanas refer to places in India. Some of the well known Gharanas in the Khayal system are Agra, Gwalior, Patiala, Kirana, Indore, Mewati, Rampur Sahaswan, Bhendi Bazar and Jaipur-Atrauli.

Being a comprehensive musicological ideology, the Gharanas often vary substantially from one another. The key differentiation between Gharanas is the manner in which the notes are sung. As Gharanas emerge from the creative style of a musical genius, he gives the existing form a completely new interpretation and cultivates new preferences. This new approach includes the tone of the voice, the pitch, the inflexions and the intonations, and the specific application of the various nuances. For example, the Kirana Gharana uses Ektaal (12-beat cycle) more frequently for Vilambit Khayal rendition while the Jaipur Gharana uses Teental (16-beat cycle) for transitioning from Vilambit to Drut laya which is not commonly featured in other Gharanas.

Apart from the Khayal tradition, Gharanas exist in Dhrupad as well as Thumri forms of singing. These Gharanas have moved from the temples to the royal courts of North India before dispersing to numerous locations in India including Benares, Lucknow, Mathura, Rampur, Jaipur, Varanasi, Darbhanga, Betia and Vishnupur.

The concept of Gharanas is not confined to vocal music alone. Although vocal music has always been the mainstay of Hindustani Classical Music, one of the most spectacular features of India's rich musical tradition is the evolution of a wide range of musical instruments and it is here where we find Gharanas in instrumental music especially with regards to Sitar, Sarod and Tabla.

As in its vocal counterpart, in the context of Indian classical instruments, the characteristics of a Gharana for each instrument includes the structure, tuning system and the tonality of the instruments teamed up with specific application of ‘tantrakari baaz’ or the vocabulary of the instrument. For example, Imdad Khan formed the Etawah Gharana, also known as the Imdadkhani Gharana which tutored musical geniuses such as Ustad Vilayat Khan, Ustad Rais Khan and Ustad Imrat Khan. Another such example is that of Ustad Allauddin Khan, who created the Seni Maihar Gharana which doled stalwarts like Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and Pandit Nikhil Banerjee.

Conventionally, a Gharana is accepted by musicologists and musicians if it has existed for a minimum of three generations either within the family or through the historic Guru-Shishya parampara. Likewise, a musician may form a distinctive style by assimilating a variety of styles; and when his sons or disciples continue this style for three generations or more, a new Gharana is born.

Thus there has always been enough and more room for creative individuality within the tradition of a Gharana. Just as Vazebua, Omkarnath Thakur, Vinayak Rao Patwardhan and D.V. Paluskar were exponents of the same Gwalior Gharana but each of them had an entirely different style of singing. Similarly as referred to earlier, Pandit Ravi Shankar and Pandit Nikhil Banerjee have distinct styles of their own within the Seni Maihar framework.

The origin of the concept of Gharana lacks clarity. If we date back to the 16th century, we notice that the performing styles had already diversified into different Gharanas patronized in several princely courts. Amongst these, there were two major Gharanas that left a lasting impact on the Hindustani Classical Music system:

1. The Qawwal Gharana, founded and propagated by the multi-talented Amir Khusro. The Gharana included singers and Sitar players who were known to accompany singers during a Qawwali and Tarana performance. Later on, Shennai and Tabla players along with musicians who would accompany female singers and dancing girls in the Court too grew to be a part of this Gharana.

2. The Kalawanta Gharana, founded by renowned Dhrupad singer and composer Baiju Bawra. This Gharana included the singers of the Dhrupad style of music and the instrumentalists who played Saraswat Veena in accompaniment to vocal renditions.

Baiju Bawra was a contemporary of the famed Mian Tansen, one of the 'nine gems’ of Emperor Akbar's court and interestingly both these musicians were disciples of the same Guru; Swami Haridas, an illustrious saint from Brindavan.  This period is hailed as the golden age of Hindustani Classical Music as it was at this time when the system of Khayal and Dhrupad style of music attained perfection of expressions, and was held in the highest estimation by the royal courts of that period.

After the death of these stalwart musicians, many Gharanas representing their traditions sprung up. Some of the notable amongst them were the Seni Gharanas (from the family of Tansen): the first formed by Tansen’s youngest son Bilas Khan at the Delhi Darbar, the second formed by another son of Tansen named Surat Sen, whose descendants subsequently settled in Jaipur and the Gharana of Veena formed by Misri Singh, a celebrated Veena player, son of Maharaja Samokhan Singh and husband to Saraswati Devi, (Tansen’s daughter). Besides these three Seni Gharanas, the other famous Gharanas were the ones formed by Brija Chand and Suradas at Mathura and the Tilmandi Gharana of Dhrupad in Punjab formed by Chand Khan and Suraj Khan at that time.

Today, though the controlling style of each Gharana has witnessed a drop, it won’t be correct to say that they are losing popularity and following altogether. In fact the interest has increased as the number of students learning classical music is on a rise. Since the recent past, music teachers are experimenting with newer forms within the strict frameworks of various Gharanas. The Gharanas now are allowing enough freedom for creativity and individual experimentation and this feature is attracting new entrants to the system.

Many of the popular Gharanas may not be necessarily popular in their place of origin anymore but their influences surely have spread to other parts India and the World. Like Agra Gharana today is not widely held in Agra but we could find partisans of this style in cities like Mumbai and Delhi. And if that’s not all, some musicians across the world now are trying to revive old Gharanas by thoroughly studying the forms and compositions so that if people today cannot enjoy original recordings, they could at least experience them as re -creations.