Agra Gharana stalwarts to perform in Mumbai: All you need to know about this school of music

With stalwarts of the Agra Gharana performing in the city, here’s what you need to know about this school of music

Ghulam Hasnain Khan, the most prominent representative and a torchbearer of the Agra gharana, prefers to be known as Raja Miyan. “It’s a tradition in the gharana where the maestros would go by their pseudonym,” says son and pupil to late Ustad Anwar Hussain Khan. Khan will perform on July 6 at Brooke Bond Taj Mahal Tea House in Bandra, where he will be accompanied by Niranjan Lele on the harmonium and Mandar Puranik on the tabla.

Talking about pen names, Khan gives us the instance of Ustad Vilayat Hussain, who would go by the name of Pran Piya, and Ustad Mehboob Khan as Daras Piya. “Every Gharana has a few distinct features, which allow us to distinguish between schools. The main areas where differences arise, relate to the raga repertoire adopted by the Gharana, the manner in which the notes are sung, particularly the relative emphasis given in the Gharana philosophy to swara and laya, and the bandish,” says the 63-year-old. Bandish is a composition that is bound within the frame of a raga.

Having been part of the Gharana since the age of eight, Khan tells us what makes Agra Gharana one of the most complex yet enriching schools of classical music.

“Whenever you talk about Agra gayaki, it’s blasphemy if you don’t start with Aftab-E-Mousiki Ustad Faiyaz Khan Sahab,” says Khan. Ustad Faiyaz Khan Sahab is considered a legendary figure in the recent history of Hindustani classical music. In fact, we learn that it was he who introduced the nom-tom alaap of dhrupad into the khayal singing of Agra. “His ‘halak’ taans and ‘gamak’ taans were extraordinary. His rendering styles have given the Agra gayaki new dimensions,” he says.

Here’s a what’s what of Agra Gharana
>> Agra Gharana uses the nom-tom alaap of dhrupadic traditions. This helps the singer to establish the right mood, which is to be rendered with the help of that raag.

>> Great emphasis is laid on layakari (different rhythmic patterns).

>> The taan portions of the vocal recitals in a fast tempo are sung using words of the bandish. These are known as boltaans.

Where: Brooke Bond Taj Mahal Tea House, 36 A Sanatan Bakery, John Baptist Road, Bandra (West)
When: 7 PM to 8.30 PM
Call: 26420330

What: Lecture-Demonstration on Composition of Agra Gharana
Where: Little Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point
When: July 22, 6.30 PM
Call: 39895050

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