Gharana: Indian classical music

Bollywood music and Indian films have brought Indian pop music to the world stage. What remains in the realm of a few connoisseurs is the Indian Classical music. Although, through the Beatles, Pandit Ravi Shankar has the distinction of brining in the Sitar and a bit of Classical music known to the world. There is so much treasure that still remains hidden…. Indian classical music is largely divided between the Northern Hindustani and the Southern Carnatic music. Much like the western classical music, this is a formal form of music and the performances are serious. In this short space, I would like to share an interesting way of learning Hindustani classical music in India which is practiced even today and this concept of “Gharanas” is probably unique to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh alone. Not too long before, Performing Arts and also many crafts in India were carried on as a family tradition, passed on from father to son (rarely daughter) for many generations. It was rare that an outsider was allowed entry, unless he became part of the family. This sociological concept was called “Gharana” and each Gharana had a distinct musicological identity, influencing the thinking, teaching, performance and appreciation of music of the people in a Gharana. Over a period of time more women and largely people with no family background in music started taking to classical music and learning from performers or Gurus of a certain Gharana. Their ideology and ideas of music, then related to the Gharana of their teacher. The names of each Gharana suggested the place of origin of the hereditary musicians. Even today many Gharana names refer to places, like the Agra, Jaipur and Gwalior Gharana are famous for “khayal” genre of singing. This hereditary type of musicianship is not confined to only vocal music, famous tabla players Allarakha and his sons Zakir Hussain and Taufik come from Patiala Gharana. Pandit Ravi Shankar who played the sitar came from Benaras Gharana. Sometimes the Garanas are named after the founder, rather than places. For a percussion instrument older than the tabla, Pakhawaj, the Gharana Kudosingh is named after the Guru. It is interesting to note that the concept of Gharanas became popular only in the nineteenth century as the loss of royal patronage enjoyed by the performers in the earlier periods compelled them to move to urban centres and they had to rely on their origin to retain their distinct identity. Today Gharana are mentioned, discussed and proclaimed as indicators of certain musical ideas as well as allegiances. Should you wish to experience Indian classical music and it’s many forms, or the contemporary Indian music, which is at its peak right now, come explore with us on your next travel to India… Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai which are hubs for quality performances and there are a few classical music festivals that you could participate in.

By: Lovleen Sagar

Lovleen Sagar heads the Destination Knowledge Centre. She loves to discover small things on her travels and learn how cultures across the world are somehow connected; how each one has influenced the other over centuries of history. She is a self-proclaimed Queen of Trivia on the subject!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *