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Kannadigas in Hindustani Music

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Many of the reigning maestros of Hindustani music are Kannadigas.

The Illustrated Weekly of India, September 21, 1980

Gangubai Hangal was one of Karnataka's foremost vocalists.

Gangubai Hangal was one of Karnataka’s foremost vocalists.

INDIA is perhaps the only country in the world to have two systems of classical music – Hindustani and Carnatic. Both have evolved and flourished independently in a spirit of peaceful, fruitful co-existence over the centuries. Each paddhati has produced many stalwarts of national stature.

Karnataka is the only State in India to have contributed significantly to the preservation and enrichment of both these systems. If, as the late Prof. P. Sambamoorthy rightly points out, the emergence of Hindustani music in North India is a historical accident, then Karnataka’s distinguish can be fairly summed up as a coincidence of a socio-cultural and political character – political in the present context.

Migration of Musicians

All this began over a hundred years ago, with the homecoming of Balkrishna Buwa Ichalkaranjikar after his arduous but rewarding shagirdi (studentship) with the pioneering masters of the khayal gharana of Gwalior. Soon after began the gradual migration of many noted khayal maestros from Central and North India to the south-west and southern regions of the former Bombay Presidency. While these maestros wre welcomed by music lovers, they also received patronage from the ruling princes of several States in the region – like Kolhapur, Sangli, Miraj, Kurundwad, Ichalkaranji, Aundh and Bhor. The States were gographyically contiguous to the then princely State of Mysore, and it was in this region that various khayal gharanas sprang up and crystallized and came to be recognized as distinctive singing styles.

Besides Balkrishna Buwa, who firmly established the Gwalior gayaki in this part of India, there were other doyens like Abdul Karim Khan (Kirana gharana), Alladiya Khan (Atrauli-Jaipur gharana), Natthan Khan (Agra gharana) and Bhaskar Buwa Bakhale (exponent of three gharana), who earned acclaim as performers par excellence and, in the process, attracted several budding youngsters to their ideologies.

The entire region (then known as Bombay Karnataka till its political merger with the erstwhile Mysore State in August 1956) bustled with intense musical activity. The phenomenon could even be called a musical renaissance and its impact could not but be felt by Mysore’s Wodeyar princes. Traditionally known as enlightened connoisseurs and patrons of the performing arts, they soon extended their patronage to North Indian stalwarts with typical munificence. That is how Natthan Khan and his son, Vilayat Hussain Khan, Abdul Karim Khan, Faiyaz Khan of Baroda and Hafiz Ali Khan, the sarod maestro of Gwalior, were among the celebrities who came to grace the Wodeyar darbar either as asthana vidvans or visting vidvans for many years.

Impressive Line-up

In the impressive line-up of Karnataki disciples of some of these maestros, mention must first be made of Nilkanth Buwa Alurmath, who was groomed by Balkrishna Buwa himself. It is of interest to know that Nilkanth Buwa taught the radiments of Hindustani music to the present-day Dharwar maestro, Mallikarjun Mansur, who later learnt from Manji Khan and Bhurji Khan, both sons of Alladiya Khan. The celebrated Sawai Gandharva (Ramrao Kundgolkar), who has given us masters of the eminence of Gangubai Hangal (Hubli), and Bhimsen Joshi (Gadag) and Basavaraj Rajguru (Hubli), was a Kannadiga who achieved fame as the most outstanding disciple of Abdul Karim Khan.

Popularising Hindustani Music

Bhaskar Buwa Bakhale, who taught music at the training college at Dharwar for some time, taught many disciples, one of whom was the noted Hubli vocalist, Shankar Dikshit Jantali. Vocalists Panchakshari Buwa (Gadag) and Ramrao Naik and Govind Vithal Bhave (both of Bangalore) as also Swami Parwatikar, a science graduate turned sanyasi and a veteran rudra-veena player, and Mohammed Khan and Rahimat Khan, veena and sitar masters, all of Dharwar, have also played a significant part in popularizing Hindustani music as much in Karnataka as in the rest of the country.

Besides Mansur, Gangubai, Bhimsen and Basavaraj, the names of Kannadigas that come to mind in the contemporary context are those of Kumar Gandharva (Shivaputra Komkali), a pioneer of the avant garde generaton of vocalists, Sangameshwar Gurav, popular as the sweet-voiced exponent of the Kirana gayaki, and Shyamala Bhave, the young researcher and vocalist.

In the younger set who hold promise are Panchakshari Swami Mattigatti, a disciple of Masur, Narayan Deshpande and Madhav Gudi, taught by Bhimsen Joshi, Krishna Hangal (Gangubai’s daughter) and Somanath Mardoor, who has learnt from Basawaraj Rajguru.



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