The Guru-Sishya Parampara

The Guru-Sishya Parampara

The Gharana is a fact of Music just as parents are a fact of life. No more, no less. And it is the Gharanas that make the Gur-Sishya Parampara a fact difficulat to ignore or substitute. In any given circumstance you may or may not acknowledge the existence of your parents but of the fact that you are born of them you will find difficult to evade. It is the same with the Gharana.

A great part of the present debate about the Gharana, about its legitimacy or suitability and its rightful place in music, arise from a basic misunderstanding of the meaning and function of the Gharana. A Gharana in actual fact is little more than a lineament, a recognisable quality a musician which triggers the mind to find a grid in which to place him. It is this grid, this musical Mercator"s projection that a Gharana actually offers. It arises from the nature of the Raga.

That the Raga is an oral art no one will deny, and as long as Ragas are transmitted personally on a one to one basis and not from a book in ten easy lessons, the art would be difficult to separate from the tradition of the Gharana. Transmitted from a Guru (teacher) to a shishya (student) its personal transmission will out, no matter how hard you try to hide it, as a recognisable quality in the musician in one form or another.

The problem of the Gharana debate however arises from having to trace every musician to one other of the presently accepted lineages of Hindustani music that exist in the public domain as accredited lines of transmission so that if a singer does not obviously conform to one of those lineages, he is believed to be automatically beyond the pale. This is one of the reasons why musicians are always trying desparately to establish their family or teaching lines to various well known names of Hindustani classical music. Think of the many ways in which people claim the Tansen line through son, daughter, cousin, or uncle as long as a fragile link can be connected with that hallowed name. In our own times the names of Kasur and Patiala and Agra have doen much the same with the legitimacy of transmission.

A Gharana can be deemed to exist even if it has no name which is accepted in the world of music and is not instantly identifiable, if it exhibits the following minimum and necessary conditions :

1. The musician must show evidence of having cultivated a particular timbre. The timbre is a vocal quality and colour which is subconsciously consistent. A timbre has nothing to do with a register. For example Ustad Kale Khan who is known to have been Bade Gulam Ali Khan"s teacher did not posses tehe characeristic baritone register of his student. Yet the two had an identifiable shared quality in their timbre. This is why for example it is possible to transmit the hairy-male quality of the Agra Gharana to women singers without losing credibility. A soprano register could also assimilate the Agra Gharana in ts essence quite apart from whether the result has other appealing characteristics or not.

2. There should be a recognisable and consistent enunciation or aakar.

3. The linguistic inheritence should be secure and the distinctive utterance of the language in the Gharana must be consistent and homegenous.

4. The vocalism, like the patterns of Taans and other figures of expression must have a common source of inspiration.

5. The technique of exploration of the Raga should exhibit a consistent small and large design which too should exibit a sense of continuity which is repeated in every recital more or less.


by The Guru-Sishya Parampara