About an illustrious family of accomplished
musicians of Gwalior & Kirana Gharana
The Gharana System
In Hindustani Music
The concept of gharana is a riddle to many lovers of music. In literature there are no gharanas. There are in painting or in sculpture 'schools' or groups of artists inspired by a common tradition or influenced by a common style. Gharanas however, are not 'schools'. They are more akin to families of blood-relations because of the rather marked family pride that they exhibit. Nor are there gharanas in bhavgeet-singing, lavni singing or natya sangeet or thumri-singing. It is only in classical khyal music that we hear of gharanas. This is so because classical music was mostly taught, until recently in any case, by the 'teacher-disciple' method under which the teacher taught only one student at a time. The ready ability to produce a just intonation, to keep the swara steady at a given pitch, to produce the kans as desired and to infuse the swara with 'power' can be acquired only through steadfast and continuous practice under the personal supervision and guidance of the teacher.
A musical tradition is not generally called a gharana unless it exists for at least three generations. This presupposes the necessity of producing at least three able artists, one for each generation-the founder, his disciple. disciple's disciple. For example, Abdul Karim Khan can be considered a founder of a gharana with a distinctive style. Sureshbabu Mane, Savai Gandharva, Ganapatbuwa Behere and Hirabai Badodekar belong to the second generation. Then in the third we have Gangubai Hanagal. Bhimsen Joshi and Feroze Dastur. Although continuity is thus necessary for a style to acquire the status of a gharana, this in itself is not musically significant. The point, therefore, should not be stressed beyond a limit in examining the musical aspects of a style. From the musical point of view it seems important to notice two characteristics of the gharana system.
1) Each gharana has an artistic discipline of its own in-addition to a discipline common to all gh:uanas. The gharanas follow certain kaydas (laws.). Just as in a household there is     a certain tradition, a culture, etiqette, restraint, a musical household follows certain traditions, practices and laws.
2) Each gharana takes its origin from the quality of the voice of its founder. When a great artist comes on the scene he naturally bases his style, his musical ideology and    internal structure of his art on the peculiar individual quality of his voice. When the musician has explored and sufficiently assessed the quality of his own voice he     assimilates in his voice those patterns which suit his voice best and eliminates others.
The aspiring student is usually attracted to a musician who belongs to his own voice-group. He thus gravitates to one of the gharanas in which his own voice-potential will find opportunity for maximum exploitation. The important point is that a musician never is a photographic replica of his guru. He mixes musical ideas derived from elsewhere with ideas inherited from his guru and synthesizes these into an independent creation. Yet the unmistakable sign of the gharana abides. Those who have been fortunate enough to hear Abdul Karim Khan, Savai Gandharva and Bhimsen Joshi must have noticed how at each generation new ideas were imported into the gharana and yet the basic gha,ana tradition remained unviolated. It is in th is manner that it perpetuates itself. It grows and flourishes by combining tradition with innovation. Where this dynamic process does not take place the gharana is apt to stagnate.
The Kirana style is swara or alapi-oriented. Its tone is delicate and tender. It resembles a soft silken thread and possesses a sharp point. This subtlety of swara brings in a delicate tonal embroidery but misses majesty and grandeur. The Agra gharana, on the other hand, presents a marked contrast. It has neatness and a beautifully proportioned form. It uses bol-tan, dramatic contrasts and rhythm-play. It has an agressive quality. If the Kirana gharana is swara-conscious to a fault the Agra gharana is lava-conscious to a fault.
As against this extreme dependence on either of the two elements the Jaipur gharana achieved a fusion of swara and lava. Its accepted medium is "swara conditoned by lava or lava conditioned by swara". Whereas in the Gwalior gharana there is a simple fusion of swara and lava, in the Jaipur gharana there is a complex fusion. This equiproportionality is the hall-mark of the Jaipur gharana. The position of the various gharanas can be graphically described by drawing a linear scale with the laya-predominant Agra gharana at the left end and the swara predominant Kirana gharana at the right end and the Gwalior and Jaipur gharana at the centre. The Patiala gharana falls a little lower than mid distance between Jaipur and Kirana. And the Indore gharana half-way between the Patiala and the Kirana gharanas.
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