Gharanas in Indian Music


The gharana concept gained popularity only in the nineteenth century when the royal patronage enjoyed by performers weakened. Performers were then compelled to move to urban centres. To retain their respective identities, they fell back on the names of the regions they hailed from. Therefore, even today, the names of many gharanas refer to places.

Some of the gharanas well known for singing khayals are :
Banaras (Pt. Kishore Banerjee)


Agra gharana, circa 1940

Gharanas in Dhrupad singing too came into existence several centuries after their birth. It moved from the temples to concentrate in the royal courts of the north, and finally, in the 18th century, when its popularity began to wane, dhrupad singers dispersed to places like Mathura, Rampur, Jaipur, Varanasi, Darbhanga, Betia, Vishnupur etc.

There are also gharanas for thumris – like Banaras. Lucknow, Patiala though another school of thought opines that thumris are devoid of gharana divisions and are only to be associated with certain styles or Baj.

The concept of hereditary musicians was not confined to vocal music alone. Hence there are also gharanas in instrumental music – sitar, sarode, tabla etc.

Imdad Khan created the Etawah gharana, also known as the Imdadkhani gharana
A gharana also indicates a comprehensive musicological ideology. This ideology sometimes changes substantially from one gharana to another. It directly affects the thinking, teaching, performance and appreciation of music.

Musicologists and musicians have accepted a gharana if it has existed for at least three generations either within the family or through the guru-shishya mode. The key factor is the style of a musician, which should follow at least one authentic gharana. On the other hand, there may be brilliant musicians with a distinctive style of their own, which need not represent any one gharana. In other words, a musician may form a distinctive style by assimilating a variety of styles. When his sons or disciples continue this style for three or more generations, a new gharana is born.

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