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New dimension to “Gharana” ideology

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The Economic Times, May 8, 1988


Pandit V R Athavale with the author at a symposium.

Last week’s presentation by Professor V. R. Athavale on “Gharanas in Hindustani Music” came like a breath of fresh air.

It is just as well that the presentation drew a discerning audience which comprised a large proportion of performing artistes, researchers, scholars and critics. The presence of serious connoisseurs among the audience was a heart-warming feature of the programme.

Professor Athavale, who is well preserved for his 70 years, has made a substantial contribution as an outstanding performer, erudite teacher and able administrator in his field. A graduate in science, he has been groomed in the traditional manner by veterans of the eminence of Vinayakrao Patwardhan of the Gwalior gharana and Vilayat Hussain Khan of the Agra gharana.

He has held top positions in the music divisions of the broadcasting network and also at universities teaching music upto the post graduate level. Above all, he is one of the few musicians who “thinks” and has the courage of his convictions to put forward his views in a convincing manner.

Initiating the programe, which was in the nature of a lecture-cum-demonstration, professor Ahtavale said, with typical candour, that his extempore presentation was the outcome of years of introspection and all he sought to do before the audience was to indulge in “loud thinking”.

In his opening observations, he said the popular impression that gharana as a concept had become outdated in the changed circumstances was based on a wrong notion of the concept itself. In the process, he sought to challenge, by implication, many major postulates put forward by most writers, led by the scholar-musician and eminent authority, Vamanrao Deshpande, on the subject.

Pointing out that his own approach was designed to be only an analysis of the concept but not an attempt to derive any conclusion, Professor Athavale said that the term gharana was not known in the Hindustani tradition before 1860. Swara and laya were not the only tools that determined the identification of a particular gharana, but the aesthetic values inherent in a khayal presentation. These values were projected through three basic angs (components), namely, alap, bol and taan. The relative emphasis on these individual components by various great masters of the old gae their music its distinctive individuality.

To prove his point, he listed eight styles of singing which, according to him, qualified for recognition as individual gharanas and presented brief demonstrations in order to highlight their peculiarities. The styles he listed were Qavalbachcha (which later came to be known as Gwalior), Atrauli-Jaipur, Kirana, Sahaswan, Delhi, Bhendi Bazar and last, but not the least, the vocalism of Kumar Gandharva. He made it clear that the last-mentioned four gharanas were off-shoots ofvariations on the first four styles of vocalism.

Equally progressive was Professor Athavale’s stand-point that there should be a neat balance between classicism and romanticism in the process of creation in music. This approach would alone ensure the preservation and further enrichment of traditional music. The future lay with musicians who are both creative and imaginative but not imitative, is in presently the case with a majority of performers today.


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