Back in 1890, Ustad Chhajjoo Khan, Ustad Nazeer Khan and Ustad Khadim Hussain Khan, who hailed from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh founded the Bhendi Bazaar Gharana. Later, it was Ustad Aman Ali Khansaheb who went on to take the Gharana to new heights. He even taught musicians such as Lata Mangeshkar and Manna Dey. While the locality may have changed immeasurably over the years and is undergoing re-development, few structures exist to celebrate the musicians. Only its music lingers on. Hence, to mark Khansaheb’s 125th anniversary, the Gharana’s disciples are hosting the Bhendi Bazar Gharana Sangeet Sammelan, with 16 musicians from across India.
Age for music
At 67, Suhasini Koratkar is considered as the senior-most disciple of the Gharana, and she has been spearheading the organising of the event with the other shishyas (disciples). “People will be exposed to the unique gayaki (vocals) sargam (musical notes), alap (melodic improvisation) that characterises this Gharana.
Each singer will get 15 minutes to sing and the event will be compered to help the audiences understand the proceedings better,” she says, adding that the attempt is to get a younger audience to attend such events. “If the audience comprises of people in their 40s and 50s, who will attend our shows 15 years from now?” she wonders.
Meenaxi Mukherji, a disciple from the Gharana, who will also be singing at the event adds, “Musicians from Mumbai, Pune, Udaipur and Baroda will be assembling in the city for the event. We have celebrations every year but it’s never been on such a large scale.” Mukherji adds that the Gharana has been one of the lesser-known ones due to the spiritual mindedness of the musicians who were wary of commercialising music. “They didn’t stress on publicity and advertising, so while the critics were aware of the Gharana, the audience out there wasn’t so keyed in,” she states.
In the know
Koratkar admits that awareness has increased: “Earlier, whenever we would perform, people from other Gharanas would be ignorant about the Bhendi Bazar Gharana. Now, there are students who are even doing research theses on this topic. At the same time, it’s necessary to highlight the Gharana because it presents a unique variety in Khayal singing and enriches Indian classical music. It’s a very rhythmical style of singing and never gets boring.”
While co-ordinating with musicians may seem like a daunting task, Mukherji underplays it by comparing it to an event within a family where everyone pitches in. “We are also planning more events in the near future, to raise awareness among youngsters about the Gharana,” she adds. Quiz Mukherji about the anecdotes about the Ustad and Mukherji says that her guru, the Late Ramesh Nadkarni would reminisce about how the Ustad was a Krishna-bhakt and would compose songs on Krishna’s leelas — “His compositions were futuristic and intricate.” Koratkar recalls the glory days, “The Ustad contributed to the freedom movement. He would compose songs daily for the Prabhat pheris or freedom marches.”
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Aarohi, the two-day annual music festival by Pancham Nishad offers a platform to young rising stars of Hindustani classical music. The line-up includes vocalist Sameehan Kashalkar, a flute recital by Ninad Mulaokar, a vocal recital by Ankita Joshi and Surashree Ulhas Joshi, a sitar performance by Shakir Khan and a vocal recital by Ramakant Gaikwad among others.