Adarang and Sadarang
They were considered as the pioneers of Khayal singing. In fact, some people trace the origin of Khayal to “Sadarang” Nyaamat Khan, who was a beenkaar in the Mughal court of Muhammad Shah “Rangile”. Sadarang composed a large variety of Khayals in different ragas and talas. This pair was renowned for composing jugalbandi in khayal.
Ali Akbar Khan
Ustad Ali Akbar Khan (b. 1922), popularly known as the “Indian Johann Sebastian Bach”, is considered a “National Living Treasure” in India. He is one of the greatest Sarod players of all times. He is also adept in other instruments like the Pakhawaj and Tabla. He also mastered different forms of music like dhrupad, dhammar and khayal from his father Ustad Allauddin Khan. Ali Akbar Khan gave his first public performance in Allahabad at age thirteen. In his early twenties, he became the court musician for the Maharaja of Jodhpur. Since his father’s death in 1972, he has continued his father’s tradition, that of the Baba Allauddin Seni Gharana of MaIhar in Central India. He has composed music for the Bengali films Kshudhito Pashan and Devi and for the Hindi film Andhiyan, A devoted musician, his aim has been to promote better understanding of Indian music in the Western world. He performed an unprecedented concert at the Museum of Modern Art in New York way back in 1955. Since then, he has continued to tour extensively in Asia, Africa, Europe, The Netherlands, Australia, Canada, and the United States. In order to popularize Indian classical music, Ali Akbar founded colleges to teach Indian music in Japan, Canada and the US. He also established a College of Music in Calcutta in 1956. He is credited with the introduction of five new ragas, Chandranandan Gaurj¬Manjari, Lajwanti, Mishra-Shivaranjani and Hem-Hindol. He is the recipient of several awards which include the President of India award (1963), Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibushan (1988), Sangeet Natak Akademj Award (1963), Sangeet Natak fellowship (1992) and the Kalidas Samman (1991). He is also conferred with an honorary Doctorate Degree in Arts from the California Institute of the Arts, in Valencia, CA. He has also received the degree of Doctor of Literature, honoree causa, from the Rabindra Bharati University in Calcutta. In June of 1991, Ali Akbar Khan became the first Indian musician to be awarded the most prestigious Macarthur Foundation Fellowship in recognition of his excellent work in the field of creating, cultivating and transmitting the highly complex musical tradition of Northern India. He has received four Grammy Award nominations: in 1970 for Shree Rag, in 1983 for Misra Piloo, in 1996 for then and now, and recently in 1997 for Legacy.
Ustad Alla Rakha (1919-2000) was one of the most celebrated tabla players in the world. He was hailed not only for his performing finesse but also for the incomparable accompaniment he provided to other musicians. Alla Rakha got his initial training from Lal Ahmed and later from the renowned Mian Kader Baksh of the Punjab Gharana and Ashiq Ali Khan of the Patiala Gharana. In 1936 he entered the Bombay film world as a music director under his real name. A.R. Qureshi and scored music for a number of Hindi and Punjabi films, including superhits like Sabak, Khandan, Maa Baap, Madari and Bewafa. He founded the Institute of Music in Mumbai in 1986. He earned great recognition abroad as a soloist and accompanist, with a string of awards in San Francisco and California. He was the recipient of Padma Shri (1977), the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1982), the Indo-American Achievement Award and the Maharashtra Gaurav Puraskar. He died of heart attack on 4 February 2000 in Mumbai.
Baba Allauddin Khan
Ustad Baba Allauddin Khan (1862-1972) is a legendary figure in Indian music. He developed a thirst for music and musical knowledge from a very young age that eventually led to one of the most incredible musical journeys of this century. He mastered many instruments including Tabla, Violin, Sursringar and Surbahar but finally turned to the Sarod and became a student of the Sarod wizard Ahmed Au Khan. The great Wazir Khan of Rampur, scion of the Seth Beenkar Gharana taught him for 12 years. He himself remained a student of music till the age of 70 completely mastering the Dhrupad and instrumental compositions of the Seni Gharana and adding innumerable new compositions and many new Ragas, such as Hemant, Shobhavati and Durgeshwari. His eventual contributions are so outstanding that today this Gharana is known as the Seni Baba Allauddin Gharana. Among his large number of disciples, the most famous are his son the supreme Sarodist Ustad Au Akbar Khan and his son-in-law the Sitar Maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar.
Amir Khusro (1254-1325) was a scholar poet and musicologist of rare talent in the court of Allauddin Khilji. He is credited with the introduction of entirely new forms and styles in Hindustani music, which are still in practice today. Amir Khusro is credited with the creation of many ragas, instruments and vocal forms.
Amjad Ali Khan
Ustad Amjad Ali Khan (b. 1945) is one of the greatest exponents of Sarod. He learnt the Sarod from his father Hafiz Ali Khan. He has the distinction of being the first north Indian artist to have performed in honour of Thyagaraja at the saint-musician’s Thiruvaiyur shrine. He founded the Hafiz Ali Khan Memorial Society in 1977, which organizes music festivals in different parts of India. He made many changes to the conventional style and structure of the Sarod. He has also been an innovator in introducing the gayaki ang in the Sarod, which has added new dimensions to performances on this instrument. He has contributed in propagating and creating music for children. He has composed special songs for children all over the country, including a special ‘Birthday Song’ He has composed new ragas like Amiri Todi, 1-laripriya Kannada,Jawahar Manjari and Shivanjali for special occasions. He is the recipient of many awards and honours including the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1989), Padma Shri (1975), Tansen Award (1989), the Padma Bhushan (1991) and the International Music Forum Award, UNESCO (1970).
A very famous and incomparable dhrupad singer, Asghari Bai lives in the small town of Tikamgarh in Madhya Pradesh. She learnt music from her guru, Ustad Zahur Khan from the age of five-and-a-half years. Her devotion to singing brought her awards like the Shikhar Samman, the Tansen Puraskar and the Padmashri.
Baba Ramdas Bairagi
Baba Ramdas Bairagi was the founder of the Ramdasi Gharana Which was established shortly after the death of Aurangzeb? Baba Ramdas Bairagi was a resident of Gwalior and was a court musician of Akbar and Jahangir. He had a close relationship with Abdur Rahim Khan-e-Khana. His singing was famous due to his dramatic deep voice. Baba Ramdas was a musicologist with a great knowledge of Shastras of music. He created many high classical ragas such as Ramdasi Malhar, Ramdasi Sarang, Ramkali, Rama, Ramkaunsi, Ramdas, Ram Kalyan and Ram Sakh. After the death of Baba Ramdas, his son the great Nayak Surdas carried on the tradition and also created many ragas, such as Surdasi Maihar, Surdasi Todi and Surdasi Kalyan. Ramdasi Gharana style of singing is not commercially popular and remains obscure in India.
He was considered as a contemporary and a gurubhai of Mian Tansen, since both were the disciples of Swami Haridas of the 16th Century AD. Baiju Bawra composed a variety of dhrupads on diverse themes and gained immense popularity during his time.
Dr. Bal Murali Krishna
Dr Bal Murali Krishna (b.1930) is an enterprising instrumentalist who plays Violin, Khanjira, Veena and Mridangam, besides being a renowned music composer. He is the recipient of several awards which include Padma Vibhushan, Padma Shri (1971), the Best Playback Singer (23rd National Film Festival, 1976), Best Music Director (34th National Film Festival, 1987) and the UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Silver Medal (1995). Dr. Balamuralikrishna has also been conferred with Doctor of Letters by the Sri Venkateshwara University (1981).
Begum Akhtar (1914-1974), an eminent ghazal, thumri and dadra singer, was one of the most adored musicians in the Indian subcontinent. Begum Akhtar was born in 1914 in Faizabad in Uttar Pradesh. She began her musical training under Atta Ahmed Khan of Patiala. She initially sang with the name of Akhtari Begum Faizabadi. She very soon reached the heights of fame and popularity and came to be known as Begum Akhtar. Begum Akhtar possessed all the qualities that are vital for a good ghazal singer. The notes which she produced were so limpid and hauntingly sweet, that the audience was immediately captivated. She had the uncanny knack of choosing the right kind of ghazal and adorning it in a befitting tune, which she would render it so endearingly that her every note would grip the hearts of the audience. Her art was a vivid portrayal of the pure Lucknowi traditions of the nawabs dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Begum Akhtar, popularly described as ‘the Ghazal Queen of India. She was honoured with the Sangeet Natak Academy Award in 1972.
Born on 21st March, 1916 in Dumraon, Bihar, Ustad Bismillah Khan is the most outstanding and popular Shehnai player of contemporary times. His ancestors were court musicians in the princely state of Dumraon in Bihar and he was trained under his uncle, the late Ali Bux ‘Vilayatu’, a Shehnai player attached to Varanasi’s Vishwanath Temple. His first major public appearance was in 1930 at the age of 14, when he played in the All India Music Conference in Allahabad. Ustad Bismillah Khan’s specialisation lies in his ability to produce intricate sound patterns on the Shehnai which was hitherto, considered impossible on this instrument. For his outstanding services in the field of music, he has been bestowed with several honours and awards including, the Sangeet Natak Akaderni Award (1956), Shehnai Chakravarti by the National Cultural Organisation (1955), Padma Shri (1961), Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan and the Tansen Award. A jugalbandi of the Shehnai and Sitar performed by Bismillah Khan and Sitat Nawaz Abdul Halim Jaffar Khan, for the film Gunj Uthi Shehnai was an outstanding success. He performed at the Edinburgh Festival along with Ustad Vilayat Khan and the album produced, known as Thumri Piloo, is considered as one of the best by the Ustad. He has also been conferred with honorary doctorates from the Benares Hindu University and Shantiniketan.
Bundu Khan (1880-1955) is the legendary Sarangi Nawaz belonging to the Delhi Gharana. He has written several parts of Sangit Viveka Darpan, which was published in 1934.
Chinna Maula (b. 1924), who is a renowned Nagaswara player in South India, hails from an illustrious music family whose ancestry goes back to Sheikh Nabi Sahib (18th Century). He gave his first concert in 1960. Chinna Maula’s favourite themes are Ramayana and Mahabharata. He is a recipient of several honours and awards which include Padma Shri, Kalaimamafli, Nagaswara Kalanidhi, Kala Prapoorna, Isai Perarignar, etc. In 1982 he founded and nurtured the Sarada Nagaswara Sangeeta Asramam in Srirangam, which later produced several promising nagaswaram players like Pedda Kasim, Chinna Kasün. Mahaboob Subani and Kalishabi.
The Dagar family is considered as the torchbearers of the dhrupad style of singing. It claims 20 straight generations of being dhrupad singers and bin players. They consider Swami Haridas to be their original one and the guru (teacher). Musical research says that the Dagar Gharana has been in existence for nearly 500 years. The Dagar family had seven performing members and held an annual Dagar Saptak festival in different parts of India. The singing of the Dagar brothers is considered as a meeting point of words and music. The peculiarity of the Dagar brothers is that they always perform as a pair. The first and the famed Dagar brothers were, Nasir Aminuddin Dagar of Calcutta, who used to sing with the late Nasir Moinuddin Dagar. Nasir Faiyyazuddin Dagar (d. 1990) and Nasir Zahiruddin Dagar were sometimes known as the “The Younger Dagar Brothers” to distinguish them from their elder brothers. Later on, they came to be known in their turn as Dagar Brothers. Nasir Aminuddin Dagar was honoured with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1985 and Nasir Zahiruddin Dagar was given the same award in 1991.
Gangubai Hangal is the doyen of the Kirana gharana is and one of the senior-most performing artistes in the world today. Born in 1913, to a family of musicians from Hangal, a small village in north Karnataka, her family shifted to Hubli where she has lived since 1928. She began learning Carnatic music at a very early age from her mother but soon showed her preference for the Hindustani music and began learning under the guidance of Krishnacharya Hulgur. At the age of 16 she went to learn under the legendary Sawai Gandharva, who also taught Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and Firoze Dastur. Her first public performance was in the Belgaum Congress Session, which was attended by Mahatma Gandhi. She received several awards that include the Padma Bhushan (1971) and the Sangeet Natak Akademi (1996) award among others.
Umakant and Ramakant Gundecha have emerged as the torchbearers of the great dhrupad tradition, which they have inherited from their gurus, the Dagar brothers. Born in Ujjain, the Gundecha brothers had their musical training at the Madhav Music College in Ujjain. After obtaining post-graduate degrees in music, both brothers received rigorous training in dhrupad from the renowned vocalist Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar and his elder brother, the veena virtuoso Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar, at the Dhrupad Kendra in Bhopal. The Gundecha brothers’ rendition of dhrupad is marked by a sense of melody, sensitivity and an emphasis that takes the listener back to dhrupad’s ancient and timeless roots. The brothers have, in fact, led the way in the revival of dhrupad by incorporating the poetry of Tulsidas, Padmakar, Nirala and Keshav Das into their music. This has served to significantly enhance the poetic content of dhrupad over the last several years. The brothers’ fame and popularity have spread steadily both in India and abroad. They have been featured internationally in various festivals including the Festival of India held in various countries and have won the hearts of audiences and critics alike.
Inayat Khan was born in Baroda on 5th July 1882. He was the grandson of Prof. Moula Baksh, the eminent founder of the Academy of Indian Music established in Baroda under the patronage of Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad of Baroda. Inayat Khan was adept in both the Hindustani and the Carnatic music. He was one of the firsts to bring the strains of Indian music to the West. He won great Popularity and fame in the West during his travels in the USA, UK and Europe from 1910 to 1926. He performed at San Francisco’s Ramakrjshna Mission way back in 1910. He was the author of many books on music such as Minqar Mousiquar, Stee Sayaji Garbavali, Inayat Fiddle Shjkshak, Inayat Geet-Ratnavali, Inayat Harmonium Shikshak and The Mysticism of Sound and Music. He Contracted pneumonia and died in Delhi in 1927. Since he spent large part of his life from the age of 28 till the last year of his life abroad, very little is known about him in India.
Kesarbai Kerkar was the disciple of such eminent gurus as Ramkrishnabuva Vaze, Bhaskaj-buva Bakhaje and Ustad Alladiya Khan. She studied music under these masters for no less than 25 years and became a proficient exponent of the gayaki of the Jaipur gharana. Her Voice had a range of three saptakas and she could move through the whole range with ease. Her presentations of khayals were models of graceful elaboration. Gurudev Ravjndranath Tagore honoured her with the title ‘Surashri’ the Indian government awarded her the Padma Bhushan and the Maharashtra government adorned her with the title ‘Maharashtra Rajya Gayika’. This brilliant singer died a few years ago at a ripe old age.
Kishori Amonkar is one of the most outstanding musical personalities of India, who is acclaimed today as one of the leading exponents of Jaipur Gharana. Born in 1932, this music genius from Goa has attained such mastery over her art that she can justifiably claim to be the sole heir to the exacting standards set by her predecessors— her illustrious mother, the septuagenarian vocalist Moghubai Kurikar, a distinguished disciple of the late Gayan Samrat Ustad Allahdiya Khan Saheb, and the formidable Surashree Kesarbai Kerkar. Kishori sings with utmost intensity and sincerity and believes in introspection and guidance from the ancient sages and seers. Kishori Amonkar has added new dimensions to the khayal singing with her aesthetic interpretation and the introduction of rasas through her beautiful cultivated voice. She is equally at ease with thumris, bhajans and ghazals. She, like her mother, was also honoured with the Padma Bhushan in 1989. It is indeed a rare feat for a mother and daughter to get one of the highest National awards in the same field i.e. Hindustani Classical Music. She has also been honoured with the Presidential Award and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1985).
Pandit Kumar Gandharva (1924-1992) (original name: Shivaputra Siddharamaiyya Komkali) was the leading intellectual among Hindustani Classical Musicians. He was an eminent khayal singer of this century. His original style and his refusal to stay within the confines of the Gharana tradition of Hindustani music made him a controversial figure. He had a very wide repertoire that included standard ragas, rare and complicated ragas, and folk songs, particularly from the Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh, bhajans and Marathi stage songs (“natya sangeet”). Kumar studied very closely the folk music of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Malwa and other regions. This led him into composing Geet Hemant, Geet Varsha, Geet Shishir and Triveni—bhajans of the three great saints Kabir, Surdas and Meera—which proved to be a sensational hit. These experiments portrayed his revolutionary spirit and his bid to be a trendsetter. Kumar is credited with the creation of a substantial number of new ragas, which include the Sanjari, Malavati, Bihad Bhairava, Saheli Todi, Gandhi Maihar and Sohoni Bhatiyar. He also composed songs attributed to different seasons, devotional songs and compositions of thumri, tappa and tarana. He was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 1974, Kalidas Samman Award in 1985 and the prestigious Padma Bhushan and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship in 1988.
Mallikarjun Mansur (1910-1992) was a torrent figure in the world of music and to the Jaipur gharana. He took guidance form Nilkantha Buwa, Manji Khan and Burji Khan. He was famous from a very young age and sang for more than sixty years. His performances featured a variety of rhythmic patterns and imaginative elaboration. There was always special intensity to his singing, a special urgency and earnestness in his treatment of melody. The most captivating aspect of Mallikarjun Mansoor’s music was its dramatic element. His autobiography in Kannada, Nanna Rasayatre, which can be roughly translated as “My Emotional Pilgrimage”, is a masterpiece and throws light on the Hindustani music of his time. He was honoured with Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship in 1982 and Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1971.
Omkar Nath Thakur
Omkar Nath Thakur (1897-1967) was a distinguished vocalist and an eminent representative of the Gwalior Gharana. He was a disciple of Pandit V.D. Paluskar. He was one of the rare musicians who combined in him the attributes of a magnificent performer as well as that of a serious scholar with several books to his credit. He had a naturally smooth and vibrant voice. His rendering of the bhajans was extremely heartfelt. Omkar Nath Thakur helped to establish the Kala Sangeet Bharti (Faculty of Fine Arts) at the Benaras Hindu University. A renowned scholar, he was also the author of several works on music, like Sangeetanjali and Parnava Bharti. He also composed the music for Vande Mataram. He was honoured with titles like Sangeet Samrat, Sangeet Prabhakar and Sangeet Mahamahopadhya. The Sangeet Natak Akadenii honoured him for his fine delineation of Hindustani vocal music. Rabindra Bharti and Benaras Hindu University also conferred honorary degrees upon him. He was also awarded the Padma Shri.
Pandit Basavraj Rajguru
Pandit Basavraj Rajguru was a performing artist of a very superior caliber and is counted among the rare breed of Indian musicians. Born on 24 August 1917 in a family of scholars, astrologers and musicians, Basavraj was initiated into classical music at the age of seven by his father, who was himself a renowned Carnatic musician trained in Thanjavur.
Pandit Bhaskarbuwa Bakhale
Pandit Bhaskarbuwa Bakhale (1869-1923) received his training from Faiz Mohammed Khan of Gwalior gharana from 1884-1894. Thereafter, he had further training from Natthan Khan of Agra Gharana and Alladiya Khan of Jaipur-Atrauli gharana. The very beginning of Bhaskarbuwa’s musical career was associated with stage music. It was he who provided music for the songs in Khadilkar’s plays ‘Vidyaharan’, ‘Swayamvar’ and ‘Draupadi’, which brought a revolution in the stage music. The credit for popularizing obscure ragas like Shyam Kalyan, Bihagada, Suhagkanda, Gouri, Patabihag, Khokar and Savani Nat also goes to him.
Pandit Bhimsen Joshi
Bhimsen Joshi, who is riding the crest of popularity for the last several years, is a musical genius noted for his extraordinarily rich and sonorous voice. He is one of the most popular and respected names in contemporary music. His singing invariably provides listeners with a divine musical experience. He was born in 1922, into a Brahmin family in Gadag, Karnataka. He was trained from a very early age by several gurus in Gwalior, Lucknow, Jalandhar and Rampur. However it was the association with Sawai Gandharva of the Kirana Gharana that struck the key note of his musical career. Bhimsen’s classical singing has mass appeal Bhimsen a versatile khayal singer belonging to the Kirana Gharana and is also adept in the presentation of thumris, bhajans and songs from plays. Bhimsen Joshi has created a number of ragas and raginis and also composed music for musical plays. His lilting thumris and his innumerable popular Abhangs composed by the saints of Maharashtra point towards his total command over his field. He was honoured with the Padma Shri and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1975).
Pandit D. V. Paluskar
He was the son of Vishnu Digambar Paluskar. He had studied music under the guidance of Pandit Vinayakrao Patwardhan and Pandit Narayanrao Vyas but he did not adopt or copy the peculiar gayaki of the Gandhrava Mahavidhyalaya. Instead he evolved and developed his own style.
Pandit Firoz Dastur
Pandit Firoz Dastur, the doyen of the Kirana Gharana is the disciple of Sawai Gandharva, one of the greatest exponents of the Kirana Gharana and disciple of the legendary Ustad Abdul Karirn Khan. In a singing career that has spanned almost six decades, he has enthralled audiences both in India and abroad. In addition to performances at prestigious conferences like the All India Music Conference, Sadarang, Sarba Bharatiya Surdas Sangeet Sammelan, Sur Singar Sansad and Tansen Music Festival, he has participated in every Sawai Gandharva Mahotsav since 1952. He has been a Professor of Hindustani Classical Music at the Bombay University since the inception of its Department of Music in 1969. He has received many honours and awards, which include the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, the Tansen Award given by the Madhya Pradesh Government and the Maharastra State Gaurav Puraskar, awarded by the Maharastra Government. The South Gujarat University has conferred an Honorary Doctorate on him.
Pandit Jasraj was born into a highly cultured family that has given to Indian music four generations of outstanding musicians, lie took his initial training from his elder brother and guru, the late Sangeet Mahamahapadhyaya Pandit Maniramji. One of the most popular contemporary khayal singers, Pandit Jasraj belongs to the Mewati Gharana. Perfect diction, clarity of sur and commands over all aspects of laya are other highlights of his music. His biggest contribution to Indian music is his concept of a novel jugalbandi based on the ancient system of moorchanas, which has been so highly acclaimed that connoisseurs of music in Pune have named it Jasrangi Jugalbandi. He has sung a number of Soor Padavalis. Pandit Jasraj has been honoured by the Harvard University Art Museum in the US and has set up the Pandit Jasraj School of Music Foundation in Vancover and the Pandit Jasraj Academy of Music in New Jersey. He has received several titles and awards including the Padma Shri, Padmabhushan, Sangeet Markand, Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and Rajiv Gandhi Award for Professional Excellence.
Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar
“Sangeet Bhaskar” Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar (1872-1931) is the composer of Ramdhun “Raghupati Raghav Rajaram”. He took up the task of conveying the message of music to every home in the simplest way. In 1901, he founded the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya in Lahore, the first music school run by public funds. Here he trained individuals who would dedicate their lives to teaching music. In 1908, Paluskar migrated from Lahore to Bombay and opened a branch of the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya. Prominent among his disciples was his son DV. Paluskar, Vinayak Rao Patwardhan, Narayan Rao Vyas and Pandit Omkarnath Thakur. Paluskar also set the song Vande Materam to a tune and sang it for the first time in the Congress session at Lahore.
Siddheswari Devi (1903-1977) traced her musical lineage to her maternal grandmother Maina Devi, a reputed singer of Kashi of nearly a century ago. She was the inheritor of great musical traditions from a family, which produced several famous singers like Maina Devi, Vidyadhari Devi, Rajeswari Devi and Kamaleswari Devi. She got her initial training from Siyaji Maharaj, Ustads Rajab Ali Khan of Dewas and Inayat Khan of Lahore. However, her greatest guru, the one to whom she attributes most of her musical training was Bade Ramdasji of Varanasi. Siddheswari’s vast repertoire included a large number of khayals, thumris, dadras, tappas, kajaris, chaitis and bhajans. In recognition of her valuable contributions to the enrichment and perpetuation of the Benaras (Poorab) ang of light classical music, Siddheswari was honoured with the Presidential Award in 1966 and the title of”Desikottama” from the Viswa Bharati University.
T V Gopalakrishnan
T.V. Gopalakrishnan has a solid musical heritage of over two centuries. He is an accomplished Mridangam artiste and a creative music composer gifted with a mellow, bass voice, capable of a large and panoramic range. He is especially famous for bringing out the rich tonal Colours and the evocative and articulate rhythm patterns on both faces of the Mridangam.
Tansen (1506-1589) was born as ‘Ramtanu’ to Makaranda Pande, a resident of Gwalior. He soon became a disciple of Swami Haridas of Brindavan and learnt classical music from him. He later joined the court of Raja Man Singh Tomar of Gwalior and enhanced the dhrupad style of singing. Seeing his musical genius Emperor Akbar had brought and installed him as one of the Nine Jewels of his court in 1552 AD and conferred on him the title of ‘Tansen’ (meaning the ‘King of Melody’). It is said that Akbar got a special seat, Anup Talao, constructed for Tansen in the middle of a pond facing his palace at Fatehpur Sikhri. Tansen composed many new Ragas, such as Darbari Kanada, Darbari Todi, Miyan Ki Todi, Miya ki Malhar and Miya ki Sarang, and laid down the foundations of North Indian classical music through 300 Dhrupad compositions. Tansen had a Hindu wife as well as a Muslim wife, called Mehrunissa. From the latter he got a son Bilas Khan (composer of the Raga Bilaskhani Todi) and from the Hindu wife he had three children Tan-Taranga, Suratsen and Saraswati Dcvi. Tansen composed about one thousand Dhruvapadas which are even now remembered not only for the wonderful exposition of the Ragas contained in them but also for their very high poetic value. Tansen died in 1589 AD and was buried in Gwalior. Tansen’s mausoleum lies close to the tomb of Saint Shaikh Mohammed Ghaus, under whose influence he was converted to Islam.
Ustad Abdul Karim Khan
Ustad Abdul Karim Khan (1872-1937) was born in Kirana near Kurukshetra in the Punjab and dominated the world of Hindustani music for well over a generation. He has been acclaimed as the “maestro who conceived, evolved, and popularised the Kirana gharana”, and in fact, he changed the entire mood of khayal and thumri-singing. Some of the finest exponents of khayal today are either his disciples or their pupils. He was perhaps the first North Indian musician to study Carnatic ragas and incorporate several of them into Hindustani music. His records of songs in “Kharaharapriya”, “Saaweri”, “Hamsadhwani” and “Abhogi” as well as his style of sargam-singing are proofs of his great admiration and love for Carnatjc music. In 1913 Abdul Karim Khan founded the Arya Sangeet Vidyalaya in Pune. He was an expert on many musical instruments, especially the Veena and the Sarangi. In Maharashtra great men like Lokamanya Tilak and Gopalakrishna Gokhale were drawn to his music. In the South, he became a favourite musician in the Mysore darbar, and his music was highly appreciated by great Camatic musicians. He also created a stir by advancing the “Shruti Samvad” theory in collaboration with the British musicologist Mr. E. Clements, and is said to have given a fine demonstration of 22 Shnitis with the help of 2 Veenas at a public function presided over by Dr. CV. Raman.
Ustad Alladiya Khan
Ustad Alladiya Khan was one of the pioneers of Hindustani classical music with a distinctive style of his own. He had the honour
Veena Venkataramana Das
Venkatramana Das was a dynamic performer. To listen to his concerts was a treat, intellectual and aesthetic. One an average, he practiced for ten to twelve hours a day. His daily practices included (1) technical exercises in four degrees of speed in allthe three octaves and (2) Tanas of variegated patterns and tempo. During his early morning practices, he partially muted the strings by passing a hand-kerchief over the playing strings near the region of the bridge in a cross-wise manner. He practiced buskies and dandals regularly. The fore-arm of his right hand was strong, stout and well-developed like that of a champion tennis player.
The three striking features of his play were:
the remarkable rich tone that he produced (in his days there were no mikes in concert-halls.)
the unimaginable speed that he developed.
The fecundity of his creative skill.
He played pieces like Koluvaiyunnade (Bhairavi) and Sri Subrahmanyaya Namaste (Kambhoji) with amazing rapidity, every note of the compositions in the trikala sangat is being heard with surprising clearness. When he played trikala tanas, one got the impression that heaps of pearls were literally being dropped on to the floor from the ceiling.
The title of Shatkala Chakravarti was conferred upon him for his extraordinary speed in Veena play.
Lord Curzon while presenting the distinguished Vainika with a simhatalatam (a bracelet set with precious stones and with the figure of a lion-head on either side) early in this century, paid a handsome tribute to him. This Simhatalatam as also the costly sadaras received by Venkataramana Das in the various samasthanams can still be seen in his house in Vazianagaram.
It is very appropriate that the street were in he lived in Vizianagaram is named Veenavari street. This reminds one of Wagner Strasse (Street) in Cologne, Germany.
Ananda Gajapati and Venkataramana Das were playing Veena together face to face for a period of 19 years. the Ruler gave him lands, besides a house. THE RICH TONE AND TECHNIQUE OF HIS VEENA PLAY The rich tone of his Veena was due to the following causes:
His Impressive plucking and fingering.
The shorter length of his Veena which enabled him to tune the instrument to a high pitch.
The thick strings that he used, the anumandra string of his Veena was a double – twisted metalic string.
The large size of the gourd resonator on the top.
The absence of the waxy ledge the frets being served onto a wooden ledge.
The Veena being of the Ekanda type. (in the Ekanda Veena, the entire instrument is scooped out of a single block of wood. In the present – day Veenas, the bowl; the dandi and the head – piece are separate pieces made and joined together. If these three parts were made from the wood of the same tree, the instrument will be uniformly responsive. But in practice, this is rarely the case. Ekanda Veenas are ideal and are uniformly responsive over the entire body of instrument).
In his Veena, he used a ledge of ebony and the 24 frets were screwed on to this wooden ledge, at the correct positions. The ebony ledge was exactly shaped like the waxy ledge and it rested on a wooden plate which was screwed on to the dandi.
From the point of view of instrumentation, this arrangement is of special interest. The waxy ledge arrests to some extent the free vibration of the dandi.
Venkataramana Das had to travel to places of varying seasonal conditions in the course of his professional career. The resetting of frets on the waxy ledges, when ever they got out of tune, presented a problem. He solved this difficulty and with advantage by having recourse to a wooden ledge. The frets of his Veena were of steel and each fret was welded onto a rectangular brass plate. These plates were screwed onto the ledge of wood, at the correct positions. The entire fret board was glued on to a wooden plate and when the fret board was removed, the instrument virtually became a gotuvadyam.
From a single svarasthana, he used to play as many as six higher notes by deflecting the string to the required extent.
Sometimes he played beautiful combinations by tapping and pressing the strings in the region of head i.e., between the pegs and the top of dandi. Once he played the gita Sri Ramachandra in Bhairavi raga, dhruva tala by keeping his finger wholly on the 3rd svarasthana, and by playing alternately on the panchama string and the Sarani string.
The head piece of his Veena was not carved into the shape of a Yali, but into an ornamental floral design after the Vallaki type of Veena. In his Vina, the length of the dandi and the head part together was equal to the circumference of the bowl. In the present day veenas, the length of the dandi will be found to be equal to twice the diameter of the bowl. It is usual for his height of the bowl to be equal to its diameter.
In his Veena, there was a steel plate on the top of the bridge and the side bridge was an arc of bronze. The rings on the langer had a fish plate metallic top which facilitated easy movements.
Venkataramana Das was also a good performer on the Sitar and Rudra Veena. The plucking technique of the Sitar helped him to play tanas on the Veena in an attractive manner.
It was a pleasure to watch the graceful and circling movements of his left hand fingers when he played Chakra bandham. A sanchari of sixty – four avartas in Sriraaga was played in the Chakrabandham style, the svarasthanas touched on all the four strings being only the third fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh.
A Veena with a metallic spring and suspended from the underside of the top plank was presented to him by a former Maharajah of Mysore. In this instrument when necessary, it was just titled and the spring inside gave a ringing, melodious series of sounds. This series of notes was in consonance with the pitch of the instrument.
A veena made of sampangi wood is also seen in his house.
He has delighted Madras audiences a number of times with his scholarly performance. His concerts were discourses on absolute music. His alapanas and tanas took rasikas to unknown regions of aesthetic paradise. In many of his concerts he did not have even a mridangam player to accompany him.
Venkataramanadas was born in Kriodhana nama samvathsara magha bahula asthami thursday on 08.02.1866 in Vizianagaram in the family veena vidwans. His father veena chinna Gururayacharyulu mother Lakshminarasasmma.janma nakshathram being visakha and gothram being sounakasa. He belongs to Madhwa brahmin. Hisgrandfather and the grandfather of famous veena vidwan Veena Seshanna of Mysore were brothers. These great vainikas belong to the dynasty of Viriboni Varna Kartha Pachchimirium Aadi appiah.
Venkataramanadas was developed severe deafness in theyear 1926 and distanced himself from the music field and he spent his the rest of life in his house only. He breathed hislast in the year 1948 february 28th .