The gharana centered around India’s capital, Delhi, is considered by its proponents to be THE original gharana. Older even than Gwalior which is often said (by me, even) to be the oldest. But if we do consider the arguments of the Dilliwale, they do make a good case. The seat of Imperial power of successive Islamic dynasties, not just the grand Mughals, Delhi was the very birthplace of a couple styles of singing, said to be the innovation of Hazrat Amir Khusrao: qual (qawwali) and khyal (north Indian classical vocal music).
Delhi certainly had the patronage and audience for music not to mention the best artists. Royal courts always attract talent from across the region and while places like Gwalior did have influence and glory, it would be hard to imagine a singer or sarangi player passing up the chance to perform and be sponsored by the greatest ruler of all Hindustan.
The Delhi musicians are famous for the wide range of their singing and musical styles as well as their prominence in developing the performance of the sarangi and tabla. Two of Pakistan’s/India’s giants of classical music Ustad Bundu Khan and Ustad Shaukat Hussain are recognised as the very best masters of the sarangi and tabla respectively.
Soft, subtle and soothing are the three most appropriate words to describe the [singing] style of rendition in Delhi Gharana. So opens a very informative essay on the Delhi gharana by Malika Bannerjee.
Here are links to two other interesting essays and presentations about the Delhi gharana that are worth a few minutes of your time. At the crossroads tells of the current state and struggles of classical musicians in contemporary Delhi. Dili Gharana is a multi-media presentation full of interviews, performance and historical photographs. Really excellent.
Of the two singers featured in Volumes 16 and 17 we know little. I’ve been unable to find anything at all reliable about Ramzan Khan. There is some mention of an Ustad by the same name who was an influence on the doyen of the Agra gharana Faiyaz Khan but it is not the same person. So as ever, if any reader does have information on our Ramzan I’d be might appreciative.
More is known of Umrao Bundu Khan. One of the most outstanding exponents of Delhi Gharana in undivided India, Umrao Bundu Khan Sahib’s birth date is not clear but he is believed to have been born around 1915. He was the son and disciple of sarangi nawaz Ustad Bundu Khan. He received training in vocal music from his maternal uncle and legend of Delhi Gharana Ustad Chand Khan Sahib but was adept at both vocal music and sarangi. In fact, he was one of the few musicians who was equally skilled both as a vocalist and an instrumentalist. His rendition on the sarangi reflected the nuances of Ustad Bundu Khan Sahib and his vocal performances were highly influenced by Ustad Chand Khan’s style.
Umrao Bundu Khan Sahib migrated to Pakistan in 1947. He was a regular performer at Akashwani (All India Radio) in undivided India as vocalist and after moving to Pakistan was appointed the music director at Radio Pakistan. He was later invited from Karachi for the Akhil Bharatiya Khadi Pradarshini in 1954, where he gave one of his most memorable performances. He was an extremely versatile singer and was adept at khayal, thumri dadra, tarana, Qaul and kalbana. He performed in various countries and for numerous albums even in Pakistan.
The glorious journey of this legend came to an end in 1970 with his demise in Karachi. His music remains immortal not just through him but the various disciples who carry his legacy forward including his sons Mazhar Umrao and Athar Umrao.
Track Listing Volume 16:
01 Jait Kalyan
Track Listing Volume 17:
02 Lalit Pancham
03 Gaur Sarang