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‘Gharana’ versus ‘parampara’ (Parts I&II)

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The Economic Times, January 24, 1988

At a time when the gharana system, which once made its most significant contribution to the evolution and development of the khayal style of Hindustani classical music, is fading away, one is also witness to a refreshing trend in the case of at least one gharana, known as the Atrauli-Jaipur gayaki.

The validity of this trend was resoundingly brought home through the sammelan which was held at Vile Parle, a northern suburb of Bombay, earlier this month.

The sammelan will linger long in the memory of the city’s highbrow milieu not merely because it was a total sell-out. In the first place, the sammelan, spead over three marathon sittings, covered a spectrum wide enough to include representatives of three generations of vocalists of the Atrauli-Jaipur gharana. Secondly, those who conceived the ideas of the soiree, gave it a concrete shape and presented it, styled it “parampara,” in preference to gharana.

The nomenclature chosen was not only thoughtful but also significant, in that the bill of fare scheduled for the event was designed to be symbolic of the changing face of the orthodox gharana of which the great Alladiya Khan is acknowledged as the pioneer. This was clearly reflected in the content, quality, and approach that marked the individual recitals from representatives of the three generations.

As is the convention, each session began with recitals by artistes from the youngest category, like Rajashekhar Mansur, Arati Ankalikar-Tikekar, GZeeta Javedekar and Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande. In the middle rung were Padma Talwalkar, Shruti Sadolikar-Katkar, followed by Dhondutai Kulkarni and Kishorti Amonkar. The oldest group was represented by the 77-year-old doyen, Pandit Mallikarjun Mansur, who brought the sammelan to a heartwarming finale.

A notable feature of the event which was sponsored by Mansion House in aid of the purva Seema Vikas Prathisthan, a voluntary organisation, dedicated to the economic and socio-cultural rehabilitation of the tribal communities of Nagaland and Manipur was an informal dialogue between Pandit Mansur and Pandit K. G. Ginde, the eminent scholar-musician.

Mansurji, who is now the last titan of the Atrauli-Jaipur gharana, gave the eager audience many brilliant reminiscences of his life and career and the travails and tribulations he chose to undergo in the pursuit of his Muse. The audience shared the maestro’s nostalgia as it kept listening to his verbal performance with the same degree of rapt attention as it would, while listening to his musical performance.

In the audience were many old stalwarts of the gharana, led by the octogenarian Mogubai Kurdikar. That brought the sammelan added dignity and prestige.

This is not all. One also came by undertones of dissent, anguish, anger and even desperation among those who formed a small segment of hardliners in the audience. While some of them looked askance at the manner of performance by artistes of the emerging generation, there were others who bemoaned the vanishing authenticity of the gharana ideology.

There were still a few who chose to overlook, willy nilly, the quality of some performances and found fault with the alleged “lack of volume,” in some voices or the freedom some took in over-shadowing the rigid framework of the gharana. In the process, they also ignored the years of learning and patient practice the youngsters put in in their efforts to make the grade on the concert platform.

This kind of outlook results from a fanatical adherence to the concept of gharana and an equally dogmatic reluctance to move with the changing times. The changing times, is incidentally, only one of the several factors that have collectively contributed to the gradual decline of the ideology. There has been a radical change in the very value system of our times.

Life has become faster, bringing in its wake equally radical changes in the social, cultural and economic aspects of every-day life.

One vital factor which is often rather lightly viewed by even knowledgeable observers of the changing musical scene is that gharana, as an ideology, has lost much of its relevance, because exponents of earlier generations from other gharanas remained content to respect it more in letter than in spirit. The ideology, as a result, somehow came to be equated with the style and manner of its pioneer.

So much so, that the greatness of a gharana exponent was measured by his ability to imitate the pioneer’s personality-bound style and manner with a degree of mindlessness, which was bound to turn fateful in time to come.

For instance, exponents of the Agra gharana, of which Faiyaz Khan was the most eminent maestro of this century, made him their model for their own performing career. They thought nothing of enriching his great vocalism by their own individual contribution. In the case of the Kirana gharana, however, the process of enrichment of the pioneer Abdul Karim Khan’s vocalism was immeasurably enriched by his disciple, Sawai Gandharva, and his disciples like Bhimsen Joshi and Gangubai Hangal.

It is a matter of regret that these two veterans are also fated to be the last titans of the gharana, for the simple reason that their disciples, by and large have also remained content to shine by reflected light. This also holds good to a great extent in the case of the Patiala gharana.

Gharana v/s parampara—II

The Economic Times, January 31, 1988

To my mind, an important cause for the decline of the Gwalior gharana is to be found, rightly or wrongly, in the progress of scholastic education in music.

Learning music through regular academic courses has its virtues to the extent that most of its products merge as scholar musicians.

The late lamented D. V. Paluskar, who died a premature death in 1955, goes down in the annals of music as a rare exception, who shone as a musical genius despite his sound grounding on scholastic lines. That was because he overshadowed not only the Gwalior gharana but only enriched it by his distinctly individual contribution in his brief life span of 34 years.

What is more, he used his scholastic training only as a means to an end, and not as an end in itself, as his awfully the case with the present-day performers who like to be known as scholar-musicians.

Parampara is an integral part of the Hindu way of life. Down the ages it has permeated every creative endeavour. Although the concept of parampara is basically enshrined in the gharana ideology, it has a much wider connotation, with tolerance and catholicism as its distinctive characteristics. Like Hinduism, it is rigid as it is flexible, as traditional as it is progressive. In other words, it is eclectic in character.

And it is this spirit of eclecticism that has imbued the emerging generations of exponents of the Atrauli-Jaipur gharana. With the possible exception of Rajashekhar Mansur, son of Pandit Mallikarjun Mansur, the young participants at the Vile Parle soiree revealed, in varying degrees, a keen awareness of the need to evolve their individual idiom even while keeping their musical morings in the main gharana in which they had the longest studentship.

It needs to be remembered here that all these vocalists have had their training from more than one member. What is more, the gurus who taught them often belonged to various gayakis like those of Kirana, Gwalior and Agra, besides Atrauli-Jaipur. As said earlier, in all the cases, it appears that their studentship with the exponents of the last-mentioned vocalism has made the strongest impact.

But what they present does not show any “patchwork”, revealing influences and impressions of the different styles which they assimilated in the course of their learning, nor any mindless imitation of the Atrauli-Jaipur style. In most cases, they have used their different gharanas only to serve them as a plinth to help them evolve their own individual approach according to their talent and imagination. If, therefore, one discerned the dominant impress of the Atrauli-Jaipur gayaki, it was there just as a foundation, visible only to indicate its breadth and depth.

And given certain conditions, there is certainly no reason why these bright, talented vocalists should not finally emerges as great musicians of tomorrow. If they do so, who knows? They might well have shown the way towards the rehabilitation of the true gharana spirit, which is no different from the parampara spirit. It is time exponents of other gayakis from the emerging generation shed their gharanebaazi, imbibe the true significance of gharanedari and emulate the example of the new generation of the Atrauli-Jaipur parampara.

Even more disheartening is the stark fact that number of male exponents in the Atrauli-Jaipur parampara in particular, and in the wider field of traditional music in general, is seen to be dwindling. This hardly bodes well for the future of the parampara ideology.

Three cheers, again, to the sponsors and planners of the recent Vile Parle sammelan. It has proved a land mark in the field. It should also be taken as a precedent, so that one may legitimately look forward to such annual events, projecting the parampara spirit of the other contemporary gayakis.


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