Paragraphs on Hindustani Music Compositions

Paragraphs on Hindustani Music Compositions!

The dhrupad (druvapada) is an ancient form, probably developed from the Prabandha. Scholars differ on who actually invented it.


It is agreed that Raja Man Singh Tomar of Gwalior and Emperor Akbar played a distinguished part in the growth and development of the dhrupad.

Swami Haridas and his disciple Tansen, besides Baiju Bawra, are also credited with having done much to develop this form. Dhrupad is a serious and sober composition which demands effort from the vocal chords and lungs. It starts with an alap followed by jod and then the four composed sections—sthayi, antara, sanchari and abhog. The lyrics are generally in Braj Bhasa and involve veera and sringar rasas.

The major dhrupad gharanas are Dagarvani Gharana founded by the Dagar family; the Bishnupur Gharana founded by Kirtankars in West Bengal (13th century); the Darbhanga Mallik Gharana, Darbhanga, Bihar, which is known for the style known as Gaurhar Vani and which has good command on Khandar Vani; and the Bettiah Gharana founded in Bettiah, Bihar.

The Dagar family in modern times has done much to revive and popularise the dhrupad.


Dhamar describes the play of Lord Krishna, especially the ‘Holi’ (festival of colours) of Radha and Krishna and the gopis. (Hence some call it ‘Holi Dhamar’).

Khayal is a word derived from Persian, and it implies ‘idea’ or ‘imagination’. Though its origin is attributed to Amir Khusrau, it is agreed that the form came into prominence due to the efforts of Sultan Mohammed Sharqui in the 15th century and gained classical status from the time of ‘Sadarang’ Nyamat Khan and’ Adarang’ at the court of Mohammad Shah ‘Rangeela’ (18th century). Unlike the dhrupad, the khayal is more delicate and romantic, and has more freedom in structure and form.

The gharana system in khayal was much influenced by the decline of the Mughal empire, as the musicians of the Mughal court then moved to settle in several princely states and different gharanas were formed.

The khayal gharanas had their own distinct styles: they had their own ways of enunciating words of the compositions, singing the sthayi and antara, choosing whether to render an unmetered alap at the beginning or not, choosing what improvisations to use and deciding what importance was to be given to the rhythmic aspect.

The Gwalior Gharana is the oldest and most elaborate in technique; its most famous exponents were Nathan Pir Baksh and Nathu Khan. It was founded in the mid-16th century. Its main features are a wide range in taans, alankarik taans, descending sapaat taans, almost equal emphasis on melody and rhythm and preference for simple ragas.

Ghagghe Khudabaksh is said to have begun the Agra Gharana in the mid-19th century. Faiyyaz Khan gave it a fresh lyrical touch so that it has come to be better known as the Rangeela gharana.

It is closer to dhrupad with nom-tom type alap and other elements, rhythmic play, frequent use of tisra jati in teen taal, emphasis on voice culture to achieve a wide range and powerful throw of voice, bol-baant, bol-taan, rare use of sargam, slower taans, use of jabda taan, and repertoire of traditional and self-composed bandishes.

The Kirana Gharana was founded by Nayak Gopal but revived by Abdul Karim Khan and Abdul Wahid Khan in the early 20th century. Slow-tempo raga development, emphasis on melody, long and sustained pitches, usually traditional ragas, use of sargam, very little bol-baant, clarity of text pronunciation are its major features.

The Bhendi Bazaar Gharana was founded by Chhajju Khan, Nazeer Khan and Khadim Hussain Khan in the late 19th century. It emphasised on breath control to be able to sing long passages in a single breath, use of merukhand for extended alaps, use of gamak taan and sargam, and use of some Karnatak ragas.

The Jaipur Atrauli Gharana was founded by Alladiya Khan in the late 19th century. Its features were a repertoire of rare and complex ragas based on Agra Gharana, use of aakaar for badhat, heavy use of teen taal, rupak, jhaptaal and ada- chautaal, rhythmic play, use of bol-baant and bol-taan, rippling taans and heavy emphasis on taans.

The Patiala Gharana was started by Bade Fateh Ali Khan and Ali Baksh Khan in the late 19th century. It emphasised on voice development, roughly similar emphasis on melody and rhythm, bol-baant like sargam with occasional tonic transpositions, occasional use of bol-taan, and variety of taans, fast sargam and taan patterns. It may or may not include antara. It showed influence of tappa style.

The Rampur Sahaswan Gharana was founded in the mid- 19th century by Inayat Khan. Emphasis on melody, little bol- baant or bol-taan, use of sargam, and sapaat taans were its main features.

The other khayal gharanas include the Indore Gharana founded by Amir Khan that showed a tendency towards serious and expansive ragas, use of kan swaras in all parts of the performance, controlled use of embellishments and careful enunciation of text. The Delhi Gharana founded by Qawwaliyas made extensive use of sargam and taan patterns in both vilambit and drut.

The Mewati Gharana started by Ghagghe Nazir Khan and revived by Jasraj in the 20th century was keen on melody and known for bhajans. It also made good use of sargam. The Qawwal Bacche Gharana was created by Saamat bin Ibrahim. It had a repertoire of traditional bandishes and systematic alap, gamak taan and bol taan.

There is also the Sham Chaurasia Gharana founded by Miyan Chand Khan and Miyan Suraj Khan in the 16th century. The gharana laid stress on layakari using bol-baant and tihai, fast sargam and taan patterns.

The thumri is a light form based on the romantic-religious literature inspired by the bhakti movement. It employs folk scales, and the text of the songs is of primary importance. It was very famous in the 19th century under the patronage of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah. Of the two styles, the Poorab or eastern style has slow and subdued exposition while the Punjab style is fast and lively.

Among the thumri gharanas, there is the Benares Thumri Gharana, where the words in the text of a song are musically embellished to bring out their meaning. It was revived by Siddheshwari Devi, Rasulan Bai, Badi Moti Bai, Mahadev Mishra and Girija Devi in the mid-20th century though it was founded by Kirtankarsin the 13th century.

The Lucknow gharana presents intricately embellished and delicate thumris that are explicit in their eroticism. The Patiala Thumri Gharana was founded by Ustad Fateh Ali Khan and Ustad Ali Baksh Khan in Patiala, Punjab (18th century). The principal feature of the thumri of the Patiala gharana is its incorporation of the tappa from the Punjab region. It is with this tappa element that the Patiala gharana makes its impact, departing from the khayal-dominated Benaras thumris and the dance-oriented Lucknow thumris.

Dadra is a light classical form closely related to thumri. Originally set in dadra tal (six beats in three equal divisions), the dadra later adapted to other tals such as keherwa. With a faster tempo than the thumri, the dadra is mostly in Urdu or Braj Bhasha and its topics more mundane. There is a folk element involved.

The tappa is said to have developed from the songs of camel drivers of the North-West. Usually in Pimjabi, the tappa is noted for its quick turns of phrase.

In tarana there are no meaningful words; syllables like teem, tarana, dere, tere, tome, nadir, etc. are strung together in a rhythmic piece set to a raga. It is said that the syllables are “adaptations of mnemonic signatures of the tabla and sitar strokes”, or perhaps “mutilations of Persian and Arabic words”.

The songs of the poet-saints of the medieval age bhakti movement have had an immense impact on Indian music. Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda has provided songs and themes, especially to the thumri. Specific ragas have been named after Surdas and Mirabai—Surdasi Malhar and Mira ki Malhar.

A new type of song developed under the influence of these saint- poets, variously called bhajan, kirtan, or abhang; these form an intermediate stage between classical and folk music—less abstract than the former and more sophisticated than the latter.

Kirtans are special features of Bengal, their best known composers being Chandidas and Chaitanya. The abhangs of Eknath, Jnanesvar and Tukaram have enriched the Marathi repertoire. The sabads of the Sikhs come in the same category of devotional music.

The Indo-Muslim repertoire of religious songs, called qawwali, may be sung by individuals or in groups—as they are at the urs at various shrines. The form is said to have begun with Amir Khusrau. The qawwali may be in praise of Allah, or the prophet Muhammad and his descendants, or in praise of the patron saint of the singer. Many a time the qawwal sings on the basic theme of one God and conveys that all mystic paths lead to the realisation of the one.

The ghazal is yet another product of the Persian influence on Hindustani music. Derived from the Urdu poetic form of the same name, ghazals are composed of independent couplets. Though essentially love or erotic poetry, there is an underlying Sufi element with God as the beloved .The verses of ghazals may be interpreted in several ways—secular, mystical and philosophical. The ghazal has achieved great popularity in the north, some of its famous composers including Mirza Ghalib and Bahadur Shah Zafar.

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