Gharanas in Hindustani Music – a lament

The importance of gharana in furthering the cause of Hindustani music should not be forgotten in the modern days when very few popular /young musicians stick to the tenets of their gharanas,if they have one. All great masters of today did belong to a gharana and thereby furthered their careers as performers,albeit some of them deviated from or made light of their lineage after they earned popularity. Today we find popular and very competent performers saying that gharanas are stifling their creativity and that one should take the best from anywhere and everywhere, the best from every gharana. This is doing disservice to the contribution made by gharana gayaki. It is a naive attitude born out of the popularity they have gained. Like Plato complaining about Aristotle, that the calf kicks it’s mother when it grows up! ( Aristotle was first trained in Pluto’s Academy and then went on to found his own). I can understand it only if today’s denouncers of gharanas were all Aristotles in music. I wonder if you could take the best out of every beautiful flower and make it into the best flower. Every flower has its own beauty and fragrance if you have the heart of appreciation. A pastiche flower has no life of its own,no identity of its own. You may like one kind of flower and dislike another. That is a matter of personal choice and taste.

The proponents of this attitude of picking up things that are beautiful everywhere seem to me to be drunk with popularity. Attempts are today being made to make a division between today’s music and the music of yester years – that today’s music is more romantic more free to please the audience and the music of bygone days was more classicist and that this turn to romanticism is a good sign of music which is changing. Music must change is the war cry of many young performers and young listeners. If this were to be carried to its logical end,there would be anarchy and chaotic music and not classical Hindustani music as it was known, appreciated and savoured by listeners.

Today’s attitude to classical music is to entertain and please the uninitiated public at any and all cost. Classical music is not to please an audience,but to uplift them to a space beyond pleasure – to go deeper into the higher realms of pure joy or”ananda”. This kind of joy is seen when a listener’s being involuntarily feels or says “whaah” in a mehefil, not when the crowd claps! What we are seeing today in music events is the kind of glamour we see in films – right from the stage set in the open (where the comfort of the artist is not taken care of-it could be very cold/the wind might be dispersing the notes,etc)

To the highly tamasha-like decoration of the stage ( with the performing artistes dressed like clowns in a circus – I know of an accompanist who carries a separate case to hold his clowny costume along with another case holding his instrument). “That is the kind of show we want to witness and have a great evening ” is what some among the audience may say. The visuals of a classical music event seem to be taking over! Never mind the vocals so long as they are pleasant to the ears. As for the studied/practiced nakharaas of the main artiste,the less said the better.”shudha mudras and shudha baanis” of yester-years are given the go-bye. Classical music should be great music,not a great evening which it is for large part of today’s listening public. One can only say “What a fall!”

(After the demise of my father-guru,one leading musician after saying he was a great artist,also said “woh puraana gaana gaate the”,as though there is a” nayaa ” gaana today.)

This is not to say that there are no talented musicians today,nor that there are no aspiring music learners. I am only lamenting on the so-called market forces in the music world of today that are pulling them towards the exegies of popularity and not musical “gyaana”.
This is only a lament on the so-called change in Hindustan music.