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Article: Gharana - An Introduction - 1

By Dhara Ruchir Bakshi

Indian classical music is represented by a number of more or less stylistically different schools known as gharaanaa-s, which literally means households or families. These schools have their basis in the traditional mode of musical training and education,(known as Guru-shishya parampara) prevailing in one or the other form, in various fields of music, particularly in khyal gaayaki.

The term gharaanaa, is also used in the context of sitaar and sarod, although it is encountered along with the term baaj in the context of tabla tradition. A similar term, discussed in the case of dhrupad singing, is baani (derived from the Sanskrit word vaanii, meaning speech/voice).

With the passage of time, there have been major changes in the kind of training imparted, particularly as the emphasis on oral instructions has been reduced. At the same time, there has been the growth of other influences, such as that of radio and recorded music, all of which have led to the sharp distinctions between the various schools diminishing. In fact, the question whether the gharaanaa remains an important concept in music appreciation and understanding has often been raised. However there are a few discernible features which allow us to distinguish between schools, enabling us to also identify different approaches to interpretation of the ragas.

A musical tradition can only be called a gharaanaa when it has existed for at least three generations, producing able artistes in each of these eras. At the same time, each gharaanaa must have some stylistically distinguishing features. In this view, the gharaanaa takes its origin from the quality of voice of its founder. This is a plausible explanation and provides a background to understand why the artistes of a particular gharaanaa sing the way they do. But this is not enough: the listener requires to know the key features that indicate the existence of a common and distinguishable style.

The most general way to differentiate between the two gharaanaas , can be learnt from the suggestions of various musicologists. This includes paying attention to the sound or voice production techniques adopted by the gharaanaa. It also emphasizes the overall aesthetic viewpoint of the gharaanaa.

Together these seem to influence the choice and preferences for raga and taal. Besides this, their views on the importance of the text or literature of the bandish and the manner in which they develop the raga, i.e . . the aalapchaari, and the taans employed also define the gharaanaa style.

Some technical words used in the article:

Aalaapchaari: Aalaapchaari means elaboration of musical ideas of a raga. It is improvisation in vocal or instrumental music.
It may or may not be accompanied with taal.
Bandish: A bandish is a musical composition in a raga, set to a taal.
Gharaanaa-s: Plural form of 'gharaanaa' [the plural in Hindi: gharaane]
Guru-Shishya paramparaa: The sacred relationship between master and pupil, by which knowledge (gyaan) is transmitted to the next generation.
Taan: A taan is the process of running over the notes in a raga. In other words, it is a quick succession of notes.

Jan. 25, 2006



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