Bhendi Bazar gharana

While a massive redevelopment project is underway at Bhendi Bazaar, a little known fact about the area is its rich contribution to Hindustani classical music

Talk of Bhendi Bazaar and what comes to mind is the usual hustle and bustle that one would associate with a busy marketplace. Set in the backdrop of Bhendi Bazaar, a Bollywood flick called 'Bhindi Bazaar Inc' further brought the area into prominence as the film explored the city's crime scene and exposed its dark underbelly.

Music Maestros: Ustad Aman Ali Khan

While all this is known and often talked about, a little known fact about the area is its rich contribution to Hindustani classical music. It was in 1890 that Bhendi Bazaar Gharana was founded in Mumbai by three brothers �Ustad Chhajjoo Khan, Ustad Nazeer Khan and Ustad Khadim Hussain Khan, who hailed from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh.

Pandit Pandurang Amberkar

In an effort to revive interest in this Gharana, Pune based Sudhir Vishwanath Gadre (65) launched a website called website gives a detailed account of the history of the Gharana, its origin, the renowned exponents and pioneers of this gayaki. Said Gadre, "Practically no information was available about the Gharana on internet or in print form--especially in English.

Pandit ShivKumar Shukla

My mother, Late Mandakini Gadre, was a disciple of Master Navrang Nagpurkar, who was a leading disciple of Ustad Aman Ali Khan, the doyen of Bhendi Bazaar Gharana. I chose Bhendi Bazaar Gharana as the subject of the web site as my mother learnt music from Master Navrang, a maestro of the Bhendi Bazaar Gharana.

Guru-shishya: Guru Pandit TD Janorikar

I strongly felt that artistes of the past era, of Bhendi Bazaar Gharana who had devoted their whole life to mastering, presenting and teaching music are forgotten today.The website provides information about Bhendi Bazaar Gharana, its guru-shishya parampara, some live recordings of some stalwarts from the Gharana.

Suhasini Koratkar

This treasure, if not preserved now, may be lost forever and will not be available to music lovers and students in future." Highlighting various features of the website, Gadre added, "The website, which was launched in 2009 has nearly 250 Bandishes composed by Ustad Aman Ali Khan and other disciples including Pandit Shivkumar Shukla, Pandit Pandurang Amberkar, Master Navrang, Pandit Ramesh Nadkarni. There are Bandishes sung by disciples of the present generation."

Keeping it alive: Meenaxi Mukherji, singer from the Bhendi Bazaar
Gharana. Pic/Rane Ashish

While Hindustani classical music has been dominated by other Gharanas like �Kirana Gharana, Agra Gharana and so on, many feel that Bhendi Bazaar Gharana is a forgotten chapter and barely finds a mention in the Indian music scene. Said Suhasini Koratkar, currently one of the oldest members from the Bhendi Bazaar Gharana, based in Pune, "The problem with this Gharana was the death of many of its stalwarts before time.

Ustad Aman Ali Khan passed away quite early. The singers from this Gharana were not very much into performing at concerts. They used to teach their pupils and they were happy doing that. They considered that music was for spiritual purposes and not for sale.

This is probably one of the reasons why this Gharana did not become so popular." Koratkar (67) recollects days when she started learning music under Pandit TD Janorikar in Pune, "My father loved Shastriya Sangeet and this is why he insisted that I start learning under Janorikar ji.

It was during his time that the Gharana flourished. He knew that for a Gharana to flourish it is important that people should be made aware of it. Hence he performed at a lot of concerts. After intensive practice for 7-8 years we too started performing at various concerts.

We wanted to keep the Gharana alive. My guru passed away in 2006. But I continued the sammelan pratha." Koratkar worked as the Director of Programme (Music) at the All India Radio (AIR) in Delhi. "I started organising various sammelans in Delhi so that people could know about this Gharana," she said.

Another problem with this Gharana was absence of any written documents or books that talk about the Gharana  and its distinguishing features. "It was the oral tradition followed by gurus and this is how knowledge was passed on to the disciples.

It is now that efforts are being made to document its history, origin, etcetera," said Koratkar. With a handful of practitioners remaining, music lovers are not too optimistic about the future of the Bhendi Bazaar Gharana. Said Meenaxi Mukherji from Andheri (W), a singer who has been associated with the Gharana for almost 25 years, "What is required is a more coordinated effort by the singers who come from this Gharana.

Effort at an individual level will not be of much help. But a bigger project with help pouring in from various people will help resurrect this Gharana and make it popular. Otherwise, I think that the Gharana might soon become history." Mukherji also laments the fact that, "in this day and age students look for quick money and fame. It  is not just an art.

It is more of an aradhna (worship)--a way to reach the divine. After a year or two, students insist that they want to perform at concerts. There is also no money in this field. This is another reason why many shy away to take up classical music as a career." Kedar Bodos, a classical singer based in Goa, concurs. "There is lack of patience among students. Their taste, in terms of music too is changing," said Bodos who has trained in five different Gharanas including Bhendi Bazaar.

Bollywood connection
Lata Mangeshkar and Manna Dey learnt from Ustad Aman Ali Khan; Asha Bhosale and Pankaj Udhas from Master Navrang and Mahendra Kapur from Pandit Ramesh Nadkarni.

Nuances of Bhendi Bazaar Gayaki include the following prominent characteristics 
* Improvisation of the raga (alap, taan and sargam) based on Khandmer principle, i.e. various combinations of a given set of notes to bring out beauty and melody of the Raga
* Presentation in Madhya laya (medium tempo), and madhyadrut laya (medium fast tempo)
* Inclusion of some melodious ragas of Karnatak Music, such as Hamsdhwani, Nagaswarawali, Pratapwarali.

In the context of Bhendi Bazaar Gharana, the lineage can be traced to Ustad Dilawar Hussain Khan. His three sons, Ustad Chhajjoo Khan, Ustad Nazeer Khan and Ustad Khadim Hussain Khan (the Founders of Bhendi Bazaar Gharana) shifted in the year 1870 from Bijnaur, near Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh to Mumbai.

Their brother Vilayat Hussain used to stay in an area called "Bhendi Bazaar" . The area "Bhendi Bazaar" is located close to the Fort area, the commercial centre of Bombay (now Mumbai). The locality close to the Fort area was referred to as "Behind the bazaar" by the British, which in local language came to be known as Bhendi Bazaar.

The triumvirate had received training in music, initially from their father, Ustad Dilawar Hussain Khan, and later from Inayat Hussain Khan of Rampur Sahaswan Gharana and from Ustad Inayat Khan of the Dagar Gharana. The three brothers developed their own style and gained reputation as singers from "Bhendi Bazaar" and their style was called "Bhendi Bazaar Gayaki".

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