Gwalior Gharana

Most authorities agree that this is the oldest of the khayal gharana-s. The gharana is well-known for its full repertoire as the followers of this school are taught and know a rich collection of composition-types. Bada and chota kliayal, thumri, tappa, tarana, ashtapadi, klwyalnuma, bhajan, suravarta, sadra, and tapkhayal have been enumerated. The only omission seems to be the dhrupad. In each song-type, singers are also expected to know a reasonably large number of compositions. The gharana concentrates on aam or known raga-s, that is, those which are in general circulation and may not easily be described as rare. However, it is also plausibly suggested that the gharana has many rare raga-s in its repertoire but it tends to treat them more as varieties of some known raga than as independent entities. Hence, instead of presenting a raga such as, Samantkalyan, it chooses to put it forward as a Yaman-ka-prakar—a strategy designed to make matters simpler, and perhaps also to bring in more flexibility in the treatment.

The singers prefer, and, in fact, insist on using akar, the use of the vowel-sound ‘a’ for alap-s. A corollary is an abundant use of straight tan-s, those moving over wide stretches of three octaves in fast tempo.

The gharana is methodical in its elaboration of the selected raga, however, there is no strict adherence to the general rule of nofe-by-note elaboration. It prefers to present a raga in slow medium tempo and follow it by a drut, creating a general impression of brisk music-making. This may be the reason for the gharana predilection for faster alap-s and tan-s. In turn, selection of the tempo itself can be viewed as a logical consequence of laying emphasis on known raga-s. It is as if a playwright develops a fast-moving plot if the story is known to the audience than I otherwise!

Singers from the gharana do not relish low fundamental I pitches known as dhala in the musicological terminology, there-f fore, the music is bright. This may also be the reason why it does not sound ’emotional’ (which, of course, does not mean that there is no emotion in singing!). Even though the general impression of the Gwalior gharana is one of vigour and strength, it does not seem to follow a specifically masculine mode of music-making and its music does not lose in effect when sung by female musicians.

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