Time to sing the requiem for Agra Gharana?

June 30th, 2009 - 9:00 am ICT by IANS  

By Brij Khandelwal
Agra, June 30 (IANS) The Rajputs passed it on to the Mughals, in whose courts the classical Hindustani music of Agra Gharana flourished. Now, however with few patrons and students left in the city of its origin, is it perhaps time to sing the requiem of the musical tradition?

The Agra Gharana flourished from the time of the Rajputs, after Faiyaz Khan in the 18th century gave it an identity and a definition, introducing several nuances through voice modulation and rhythmic patterns.

The Agra Gharana was patronised by the Mughals, and its popularity spread far and wide, but over the past few decades musicians in Agra have lost interest in the tradition.

“The rich musical tradition has neither learners nor teachers in Agra and interest is dwindling, except for a few like ghazal singers Sudhir Narain, Debashish Ganguly or Laiq Khan,” said music researcher Acharya Jaimini Trinaguneet of Vrindavan.

Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society president Surendra Sharma told IANS: “The time has come to sing the requiem for Agra Gharana. Right now it is the craze for hip hop music, Salsa, and pop music.”

Agra musicians lament the loss of interest in “the glorious heritage and musical traditions of this area”.

There are only a handful of institutions promoting classical musical traditions. Even the Agra University has downed its shutters on several courses being run by its Lalit Kala Sansthan, due to lack of interest among students.

Others, however, feel that there is still hope for the musical tradition as long as local musicians promote it and the younger generation takes interest.

Keshav Talegaonkar, a leading classical music maestro, said: “It is the duty of local musicians to promote the Gharana.”

Purushottam Mayura who runs a dance academy feels: “The younger generation has to be persuaded to keep the rich traditions alive and for this institutions have to come forward to provide sustenance and support.”

Eminent dancer and composer Jyoti Khandelwal wants the Agra Gharana preserved and enriched with fresh inputs and wants the younger generation to be groomed and patiently tutored in the nuances of Agra Gharana.

“Unfortunately the spurious remix culture is polluting the pure streams,” she said.

Popular ghazal singer of Agra Laiq Khan says the Agra Gharana “is our heritage and we have to ensure that it not only survives but evolves to newer heights”.

Vrindavan’s music maestro Acharya Jaimini feels the Agra Gharana is a unique blend of several streams of the Braj area. “Efforts will be needed to keep it alive.”

Among the few surviving practitioners of the Agra Gharana Ustad Aqeel Ahmad Sahab is struggling to keep the tradition alive, but what after him, worry music lovers like Jitendra Raghvanshi, national secretary of Indian Peoples’ Theatre Organisation (IPTA) and art critic Mahesh Dhakar.

But eminent exponent of Haveli Sangeet of Braj area, Satya Bhan does feels that though Agra Gharana may not be popular in Agra any more, its influence has spread to other parts.

“Agra Gharana may not be popular in Agra, its place of origin, but it is thriving in Maharashtra, West Bengal and Gujarat. It has a fairly wide following all over India,” said Satya Bhan.

Debashish Ganguli, faculty of classical music department of Mangalayatan University(Aligarh) told IANS: “it is wrong to say that the traditional gharanas of Hindustani classical music are losing popularity and following. In fact the interest has increased. The number of students learning classical music has gone up. We are experimenting with newer forms within the strict frameworks of various gharanas.”

Ganguli said the Agra Gharana has several new practitioners like Ruby Malik, Varnali Bose, Ranjan Debnath and himself. The Agra Gharana allows enough freedom for creativity and individual experimentation and this feature attracts new entrants to the stream, he said.

(Brij Khandelwal can be contacted at brij.k@ians.in)

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