(Last Updated on : 12/08/2011)
The Gharana tradition, as one understands today, evolved in North Indian Classical Music
during the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century, primarily in the ambience of certain royal courts of the native states in Central and North India. A Gharana represents a distinctive musical style or idiom, founded and perpetuated by an outstanding artist or an assemblage of great artists. The distinctive features of the Gharanas have been the subject of considerable scholarly attention.
Gharana styles are classified on a continuum defined by rhythmic direction and melodic orientation as the two divisions. Amongst the Gharanas considered the Agra is placed at the rhythmic orientation division and Kirana at the melodic orientation polarity. At the exact mid-point of the continuum, Alladiya is placed as a complex fusion, and Gwalior
as a simple fusion of the two orientations. Patiala
is placed towards the melodic orientation pole, but considerably short of Kirana. The Indore/ Bhindi Bazaar Gharana of Ameer Khan fall between Patiala and Kirana.
Thus the budding of the Khayala genre in various shades symbolized by musicianship in all the Gharanas, made it possible for the century preceding India's Independence in 1947 to be described as the "Golden Age of Hindustani music."
The Gharana system was incapable of sustaining the blooming of true genius and forced it to seek a diversity of exposure in search of its own voice. This phenomenon suggested that stylistic loyalty to a single gharana was no guarantee of quality musicianship and could, indeed, be an inhibitor of exceptional potential in so highly individualistic an art as Hindustani music.
The momentum of homogenizing forces in the musical culture was greatly enhanced by the appearance of the radio and the gramophone record in the early years of the twentieth century. The electronic media ended the isolation of the different gharanas from each other by making the music of every musician accessible to every other musician and aspirant to musicianship. These media also enlarged the market for art music.
However, even before this development, independence and the launch of a parliamentary democracy had demolished the wall of the Gharana system - the feudal aristocracy.
Democratic India forced musicians to migrate from the smaller towns to the big cities. Heredity, already abandoned as the exclusive entry criterion, gave way to a talent-based selection system for grooming.