Ustad Salamat Ali Khan
Gharana is one of the essential concepts and structures in modern north Indian classical music. Stemming from the Hindi word for house/home ghar, the addition of the inflexion ana gives the word the meaning ‘of the house’. In north Indian classical music gharana has been loosely translated as ‘tradition’ or even ‘school’ (as in a particular ‘school’ of thought or practice). Most knowledgeable writers prefer the word lineage which implies a continuous line of practice traceable to an original founding figure.
Daniel Neuman, author of the fantastic book, The Life of Music in North India: The Organization of an Artistic Tradition, defines gharana as
The concept may be said to include, minimally, a lineage of hereditary musicians, their disciples, and the particular musical style they represent…the closest analogues…in the West are loosely structured European intellectual circles.
Today’s dominant North Indian classical music, khyal (Persian for ‘imagination’), emerged out of the Turko-Indian courts of Delhi around the 13th century and is attributed to the innovations of the courtier Hazrat Amir Khusrau. After his death, musicians in the service of the sultans of Jaunpur in Eastern UP, continued to develop this lighter more accessible form of singing which by the 15th century virtually supplanted the ancient temple-based dhrupad. For the next several centuries khyal developed within royal courts across north India but there was little cross fertilization. Certain raga were created, nurtured and developed within specific courts or regions of India; other regions it seems were either unaware of particular raga or relegated them a lower rank than those performed in their own areas and courts.
Hazrat Amir Khusrau
The European, and especially the British, incursions into India which culminated in the British East Indian Company ‘acquiring’ most of eastern India (Bengal up to Benaras and beyond) by the mid-18th century had an unexpected but revolutionary impact on the development of classical music. The armies and rapacious aggression of the British businessmen who ran the Company were no match for the severely weakened Mughal rulers who found themselves dispossessed of their authority, luxuries and lands. Where the British could not, or thought ‘native’ administration a more appropriate form of rule, they compelled existing rulers or ennobled ambitious local landlords and petty aristocrats to do their bidding. By granting rights to establish their own kingdoms, call themselves Nawab or Raja and forcing them to eschew any military and political ambitions, the British created a class of toothless sycophants who enabled the Crown to effectively impoverish what had been the second largest economy in the world in the 17th century, while transforming their tiny island kingdom into the most powerful nation in the world.
With not much at all to do, many of these new monarchs turned to patronising education and the arts, including sponsoring classical musicians. Indian music’s historic continuity has always rested on an intimate, personal relationship between master and student known in the Hindu tradition as guru sishya parampara. A guru (master) accepts a small number of sishya (students) who dedicate their lives to serving the master in exchange for learning his skills, insights, art and secrets. If he is diligent enough, he in turn is recognised as guru and takes on his own sishya who continue and expand the tradition. As Muslim culture and power came to dominate north Indian life, a similar arrangement known as ustad shagird took hold within Muslim artistic communities.
From the mid-19th century when the British Crown seized direct administrative control of India, the new princely states of India invited particular ustads to settle in their courts all the more to give them a sense of glory now that fighting and politics had been forbidden. As these masters settled into the kingdoms their style of singing, the ways they interpreted and performed ragas and their illustrious disciples became to be referred to as gharana. And in most cases the name of the lineage came from the town or locality where the court was located. Gwalior, Jaipur, Patiala, Agra and so on.
By the late 19th century and early 20th century a couple of trends came together to loosen up the closed, almost claustrophobic system of art music. In the big cities of Bombay and Calcutta, entrepreneurs started to open music schools which attracted students who had no connection with the hereditary musical families that up to this point had ‘owned’ the music. Money, for the first time, became the basis of instruction and a critical element of the ustad shagird / guru sishya relationship. The audience for khyal expanded beyond tiny circles of the elite to the entire population; festivals, competitions and music conferences brought performers from different gharana on to a common stage. The rigid boundaries between vocal (and instrumental) styles began to break down; performers even began to ‘borrow’ techniques from other gharana and include it in their own personal style. At the same time performers who had for centuries depended on wealthy or royal patrons for their livelihood started to sell themselves to the highest bidder. Rival rajas vied for the best performers enticing them to move from court to court. As well as earning income from the festivals, radio and then recorded music opened up yet more ways to reach an audience and make money. While most performers always maintained a spiritual, visceral loyalty to their ustad or guru they no longer needed to remain in physical proximity.
Musicans gather for a group shot at 1948 All India Music Conference
Still, though radically altered, the gharana concept remains an important attribute for most contemporary khyal singers and instrumentalists. If for no other reason then to demonstrate the richness, honour and credibility of their lineage (musical if not familial).
In 1979 EMI Pakistan issued a collection of 20 cassette tapes titled Gharanon ki Gayaki (Singing of the Gharanas). These tapes, along with the Music Pakistan boxset of 57 CDs, are a cultural treasure the value of which is impossible to overstate. The 20 tapes covered singing performances across 8 gharana several of which (Sham Chaurasi, Talwandi and Patiala) are especially, and in the case of Talwandi, exclusively, kept alive in Pakistan. The performances by some of the biggest, most respected names in khyal, are simply wonderful. Unlike the Music Pakistan box set, which suffered from generally poor production, the reproduction of the tapes is excellent. Over the next few posts I will be sharing all of the tapes (digitized by others) for your listening pleasure. The only change I have made is to replace the dreary grey coloured covers of the original tapes, with something more bright.
We begin with volumes 1-4 which feature the voice of Ustad Salamat Ali Khan and the singing style of the Sham Chaurasi gharana.
Salamat Ali Khan is the younger brother of Nazakhat Ali Khan who as a sibling singing duo dominated the Pakistani classical music world starting in the mid-1950s and 1960s. Here is an excellent portrait of Salamat Ali.
The Sham Chaurasi Gharana was once a very prestigious gharana. It is said that the Mughal king Mohammad Shah Rangile once paid a visit to this village to listen to the artists of this gharana. He was so pleased that he donated all the income acquired from the 84 villages to the Sufi saint Shami Shah. It is believed that after this episode that became popular by the name Sham Chaurasi taking its name from Sufi saint Shami and 84 villages, Chaurasia adding up as Sham Chaurasi. This village still exists by the same name. The Samadhi of Sufi saint Shami Shah is still there and many people come to pay their homage at this place. Ustad Salamat Ali also used to come to Sham Chaurasi to pay obeisance wherever he came to India.
\Singers of Sham Chaurasi Gharana
According to Pandit Dilip Chandra Vedi, Sain Karim was a great exponent to Sham Chaurasi Gharana. The vocalist as well as the instrumentalists of this gharana earned a lot of fame. One of the eminent Veena players of this Gharana was Baba Inayat Khan. The proficient artists of this Gharana received tutelage under legendry Baiju Bawra, Suraj Khan and Chand Khan. According to history Baiju Bawra had gone to visit the village Bajwada near Hoshiarpur. It is believed that that during his stay the artists of Sham Chaurasi Gharana had received training from him. It is also possible that the name of this village was named as Bajwada after the name of Baiju Bawra.
Several artists of this Gharana had shifted to Pakistan after the partition of India. Meer Baksh, Khairdeen, Vilayat Ali, Haidat Ali, Nazakat Ali and Salamat Ali all began singing in jugalbandi. Presently many singers like master Rattan of Phagwda, Om Prakash Mohan have kept up the tradition of the Sham Chaurasi Gharana. They all perform in the All Indian Radio, Delhi.
Style of Sham Chaurasi Gharana
Sham Chaurasi Gharana has been famous for its simple Sapat taanas that can be performed with ease. The elaboration is done in all the three octaves. The basic feature of this Gharana is the step by step Alap and Taana that gradually returns to the basic Shadaj. The artists of this gharana are popular for their execution of these taanas. The beautiful taanas, murki, khatka and bol banav added to the magnificence of the gayaki of this gharana.
Even today the essence of the Shaam Chaurasi gharana can be felt in the performance and gayaki pattern of the singers
The gharana is believed to have been founded in the 16th century by Mian Chand Khan and Mian Suraj Khan who were contemporaries of Mian Tansen at the court of Mughal emperor Akbar. Successive generations of musicians in the gharana specialised in the dhrupad form of singing and evolved a tradition of duet vocal jugalbandi performances.
Mian Karim Bukhsh Majzoob, Ustad Ahmed Ali Khan, Ustad Niaz Hussain Shami, and Ustad Vilayat Ali Khan were some of the illustrious members of the Sham Chaurasi gharana.
The township of Sham Chaurasia (sham = evening, chaurasi =84) was named after a cluster of 84 villages which constituted a land revenue unit in the time of Raja Ranjit Singh (first half of 19th C). According to one legend, the founders were given a parcel of land here as a grant to them by Akbar the Great (16th C). (Saxonian Folkways)
Track Listing Vol. 1
04 Abhogi Kannada
Track Listing Vol. 2
01 Mian ki Todi
02 Alaiua Bilawal
03 Gaur Malhar
04 Mian ki Malhar
Track Listing Vol. 3
01 Aiman Kalyan
02 Hem Kalyan
Track Listing Vol 4
01 Shudh Sarang