Classical music of India:
The popular hypothesis is that Indian music originated in a structured format in the Vedic Age (C.2000 B.C- 500 B.C). Thee Sama Veda has close to 1875 hymns which are chanted in a particular melody fashion and are set to a specific metre. In fact it can be said that the Sama Veda is the world’s earliest writing on musical science and an attempt to give melody to any chanted verse.
By the 12th-13th centuries the music of the North of India came into contact with Persian and Arabic music thanks to the repeated invasions that took place in the North. This resulted in a bifurcation of Indian music into two distinct branches- the North Indian or the Hindustani System and the South of India which was largely insulated from invasions retained its original character and is known as the Carnatic or South Indian form.
Both styles are however based on the common bed-rock of the Raga or Melodic scale set to specific rhythmic cycles or Talas. The distinguishing feature of Indian classical music is its concept of improvisation where artists develop a raga in several ways (alap/alapana, sargams/kalpana swarams, neraval, taans etc) extemporaneously in a performance.
Dhrupad was among the oldest styles of the North before Khayal (literally meaning free thought and imagination) became the dominant style.
Other major vocal forms or styles associated with Hindustani classical music are Thumri, Dadra, Hori, Kajri, Chaiti, Bhajan, Ghazal and Tarana among others. Some of these are classified as semi-classical or light classical genres. There are several Gharanas in Hindustani Khayal music which have their own distinctive styles—the popular ones being Gwalior, Agra, Jaipur-Atrauli, Kirana, Patiala, Rampur among others.
Abdul Karim Khan (1872-1937)
Born in Kairana village of Muzzafarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, Abdul Karim Khan became the founding father of the renowned Kirana Gharana of Hindustani music. Apart from being a vocalist he also played the Been, Sarangi, Sitar and Tabla. Initially a resident of the royal court of the Gaekwad of Baroda, he later became a frequent visitor of the Mysore Court and influenced by Carnatic music, introduced the sargams into Hindustani music as well.
He had several important disciples like Sawai Gandharva, Kesarbai Kerkar, Roshanara Begum and others. He founded the Arya Sangeet Vidyalaya in Pune in 1913 and then settled down till the end at Miraj.
Kesarbai Kerkar (1892-1977)
Born in the tiny village of Keri in Goa, at the age of eight Kesarbai moved to Kolhapur where she studied for eight months with Abdul Karim Khan. Upon her return to Goa, she studied with the vocalist Ramkrishnabuwa Vaze.
At the age of 16 she migrated to Bombay, where she studied with various teachers like Barkatullah Khan and Bhaskarbuwa Bakhale, eventually ending up as disciple to Ustad Alladiya Khan, the founder of the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana, beginning in 1921.
Kesarbai eventually achieved wide renown, performing regularly for aristocratic audiences. Apart from her technical brilliance Kesarbai was also known for her feistiness, her adherence to classicism and her eccentricities. She was very particular about the representation of her work and consequently made only a few 78 rpm recordings, for the HMV and Broadcast labels.
Her voice was marked by its clarity, projection and open quality thanks to her long stint under Alladiya Khan. She was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India and the title of ‘Rajya Gayika’ by the Government of Maharashtra in 1969.
Narayanrao Vyas (1902-1984)
Born in Kolhapur, Narayanrao Vyas, along with his brother Shankarrao Vyas, came under the tutelage of the legendary Pt. Vishnu Digambar Paluskar as a student at the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya when he was 9 years old.
He taught music at the Vidyalayas branch in Ahmedabad mand later Bombay. Narayanrao chose to remain a teacher and concert performer travelling extensively on concert tours and radio performances.
He recorded prolifically for the Gramophone Company from l929 to 1955 cutting over 150 78-RPM records of classical and semi-classical music. These are in Hindustani, Gujrati and Marathi with several wonderful compositions of the Gwalior Gharana. In the limited time that this recording format allows, Prof Vyas packs in as much energy, gusto and the essence of the Raga and the genre in a way few others can match.
Gangubai Hangal (1913-2009)
Gangubai Hangal was born in Dharwad to Chikkurao Nadiger and Amba Bai, a Carnatic vocalist. Her family shifted to Hubli in 1928 so that Gangubai could study Hindustani music.
At the age of 13, she began to train formally with Krishnacharya Hulgur first and then Dattopant Desai before moving under the tutelage of the renowned Sawai Gandharva.
She performed all over India and for All India Radio stations until 1945. Gangubai initially performed light classical genres, including bhajan and thumri, but later concentrated primarily on khyal singing. She belonged to the Kirana gharana.
Gangubai served as honorary music professor of the Karnataka University and was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 2002. She gave her last concert in March 2006 to mark her 75th career year. The Archive of Indian Music pays its tribute to her in the year of her birth centenary.
Bundu Khan (Died 1955)
One of the most outstanding Sarangi players of the last century, Bundu Khan was trained by his father Ali Jahan Khan and uncle Mamman Khan, who was in the court of the Patiala Maharaja. Bundu Khan himself was a court musician of Maharaja Tukaji Rao Holkar of Indore and Rampur for a while.
Hailed as a master musician of his time, he brought about important changes in the sarangi and its play. He migrated to Pakistan in 1947 and continued to play for Pakistan Radio till his death in 1955.
Inayat Khan (1894-1938)
Born in Uttar Pradesh in 1894, Inayat Khan was a Sitar maestro par excellence and a torch-bearer of the Etawah Gharana founded by his father, the famed Ustad Imdad Khan.
Initially a court musician of Indore, Inayat moved to Calcutta and then to Gouripur (now in Bangladesh), where he became court musician for Raja Brajendra Kishore Roy Choudhury. He gave a new dimension to crafting and manufacture of the sitar and his structural modifications of the instrument are still used in the instruments of today, while his musical contributions are standardized practice for today's musicians.
His legendary recordings illustrate his contributions to Indian music. He developed the gayaki ang in sitar which his father had developed for the surbahar and his sons, the illustrious Ustad Vilayat Khan and Ustad Imrat Khan, would further develop as a trademark of their gharana.
Founder Trustee, Archive Of Indian Music — Vikram Sampath