The city of Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh was added to UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network (UCCN) for its “strong commitment to harnessing culture and creativity”.
Kozikodhe from Kerala was also among the 55 new cities to join the network.
- The oldest musical gharana and a significant chapter of Hindustani classical music’s history flourished under the aegis of Raja Man Singh Tomar during the 15th century.
- Man Singh’s great grandfather Dungarendra Singh Tomar, a musician himself, attempted a revival of Indian classical music through academic interest and patronage.
- He is known to have gifted two music treatises in Sanskrit – Sangeet Shiromani and Sangeet Choodamani – to his friend and Sultan of Kashmir Zain-ul-Abdin.
- Dungarendra also composed Vishnupadas (songs in praise of Vishnu) with a unique style of singing that he passed down to Man Singh, who ascended the throne in 1486.
- It’s also believed that Man Singh invented dhrupad, in a classical genre sense.
- His Horis and Dhamars also became quite popular.
- Man Singh also wrote Manakutuhala (Quest for Learning), considered the first treatise of music in Hindi, helping a wider audience to understand high art performed in kings’ courts.
The glory of the Gwalior gharana
- Before Hindustani classical music was divided into various gharanas musical ideologies and systems where the musicians identify with a style either by lineage or by learning and following this style Gwalior emerged as the first proper gharana of music and evolved under the Mughal rule.
- The initial ustads of the gharana included Naththan Khan, Naththan Pir Baksh and his grandsons Haddu, Hassu, and Natthu Khan.
- Khayal singing, as we know it today, emerged from dhrupad under the aegis of Gwalior gharana while incorporating the elements of qawwali.
- Ustad Naththan Pir Baksh was one of the early masters to create khayal the orderly system of presenting a raga which became extremely popular in the 18th and 19th centuries and remains significant even today.
- What’s interesting about Gwalior is the inclusion of Persian words in the pieces and concepts of bandish ki thumri (a more structured style of thumri or love song).
- Mian Tansen born as Ramatanu to a poet and musician was one of Gwalior’s early proteges.
- At the beginning of the 16th century, he trained under Swami Haridas, who practised dhrupad but the poetry was dedicated to Krishna instead of Vishnu.
- The famed Sufi saint Mohommad Ghous also had a huge impact on Tansen.
- While learning from Ghous, Tansen understood and honed the Gwalior gharana style and was the court musician for King Ram Chandra Singh of Rewa, Madhya Pradesh, for many years.
- Abul Fazl’s Ain-i-Akbari mentions 36 imperial musicians, out of which 15 were from Gwalior.
The Bangash gharana and Ustadt Hafeez Ali Khan
- Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan, son of sarod player Nanneh Khan, and one of the most significant and sought-after musicians who lived in Gwalior for many years, learned music under Ustad Wazir Khan of Rampur, who is considered a descendent of Mian Tansen.
Some notable names from the Gwalior gharana
- The well-known names include Haddu Khan’s son Bade Inayat Hussain Khan (1852-1922), Vasudeva Buwa Joshi, Balakrishnabuwa Ichalkaranjikar (1849–1926) who taught Vishnu Digambar Paluskar who later founded the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya which continues till today, famed educator BR Deodhar and Pakistani singer Farida Khanum among others.
- Any student learning Hindustani classical music even today will find themselves including the techniques and nuances invented and taught by the Gwalior gharana.
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