Senia Gharana

Jaggu Khan and Makkhu Khan, who were famous Dhrupad singers, were awarded some property in Varanasi by Jahandar Shah, the eldest son of Bahadur Shah Zafar. These two brothers were Ustad Mushtaq Ali’s Great Grandfathers. Makkhu Khan was childless, so he adopted Waras Ali Khan, who received extensive Veena Taaleem from Ustad Bade Muhammed Khan. As Ustad Bade Muhammed Khan was also without any heir, he too adopted Waras Ali Khan and taught him exclusively. When Ustad Ashiq Ali Khan, was only six years old, Ustad Mushtaq Ali Khan’s grand father Ustad Sadaq Ali Khan son of Jaggu Khan, died, so his uncle Waras All Khan taught him all the irtricacies of VEENA on the SURBAHAR. That is why; three Mizrabs are being used to play SURBAHAR. The use of three Mizrabs started with Waras Ali Khan…. positioning of the right hand fingers for the Veena is such, that the three principal Bols-Da, Ga and Ra can be produced . . .. in the “SURBAHAR” the finger-hold is different and so THREE MIZRABS are necessary for the production of the same bols but now a days many artists play it, in a Sitar style. Some believe that the actual instrument was invented by Zafar Khan and Pyar Khan, but it is not known definitely. Ghulam Muhammed Khan and his son, Sajjad Muhammed Khan who used to stay in Calcutta, were renowned SURBAHAR players. Ustad lmdad Khan and Gyanoda Mukherjee were also two of his disciples. Prof. Debu Chaudhuri added useful aside.

Explaining how the Senia Sitar style came into their Gharana, Ustad Mushtaq Ali Khan provided a very cryptic but clear description of the guru-shishya’ lineage commencing from Masit Sen, the originator of the first concretely formulated Sitar Baaj and a direct sixth generation decendant of Mian Tansen. By SENIA mean, of course, the instrumental tradition that originated from MISRI SINGH, who was Tanses’s Son-in-law. Previously the SENIAS used to play on a 16-fret SITAR. But later, another DHAIWAT was added, so that a technique called ‘GADDA’ could be used which involves the production of a note without striking.

“However, unacceptable and Paradoxical the truth may seem, it is actually the maestro’s strength of character, their unrelaxed ideals and their utter refusal to adulterate their standards, for audience benefit that has forced them into their present isolation.

Ustad Mushtaq Ali Khan Sahab’s father late Ustad Ashiq Ali Khan had the fortune of learning from USTAD BARKATULLA KHAN who was a great musician of his time. Ustad Barkat-Ullakhan’s name is always taken with the JAIPUR SENIAS with utmost respect. His Music, but also had a tremendous command over his instrument. Who so ever heard Ustad Barkat-Ulla Khan, still remembers his spell over his Sitar. It is often said that there was no match for him during his time and he was regarded as a player who never performed any RAGA in a casual manner. The Senias of Jaipur were perhaps the only Sitar players who could take the pride of having their lineage directly from MASIT SEN. They were also known for their faithfulness towards their tradition and maintaining the purity of RAGA.


USTAD MUSHTAQ ALl KHAN SAHAB had the fortune of having a link with Sitar Player GHARANA right from MASEET SEN, after Whose name MASIT KHAN, style (BAAJ) originated. In fact Maseet Sen the originator of MASIT KHANI style, is the first to give the Art of Sitar Playing, a definite style and from him, we come across great names of Guru to Shishya or father to Son, like Sukh Sen, Bahadur Sen, Rahim Sen, Amrit Sen, Ustad Barkat-UIla-Khan and Ustad Ashiq Ali Khan. This is just to give an idea how rich is this GHARANA. Ustad Mushtaq Ali Khan’s Music was also influenced very much by BEEN and DHRUPAD STYLE. In this style or Playing, one can come across as it is derived from BEEN-ANG and DHRUPADANG. It is often said, that in this style, especially in MASIT KHANI style, One is not expected to use TIAs. Specialty of this style is in its Music. The application of MEEND Without any “MURKI” is, perhaps, the only style existing in India. Because application of MURKI has become the fashion of the day, one applies even if it spoils the character of the RAGA. It is only the SENIAS, Particularly this GHARANA in India which plays Sitar with 1 7 FRETS only. So far the LAYA is concerned; there are three stages of JOD. There are various specialties of this GHARANA and surprisingly enough, many people play this technique such as “GATBHARAN” “THONK JHALA” and many other technical aspects.

Playing a Gat from the 7th beat is also Ustad Mushtaq Ali Khan Sahab’s specialty and hallmark. Traditionally speaking in the earlier days, RAZAKHANI GAT had many varieties, but Khan Sahab made at least 400 compositions which started from the 7th beat. This is a great contribution by Khan Sahab, to Indian Music, which many musicians love to play.

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