Gharana Agra

Lalith Rao

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Balakrishna Iyer
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Baban Manjrekar
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Sabri Khan

About this album

'Gharana' is derived from the root word 'Ghar' connoting house, home and most appropriately family. The term is applied to the various schools of Hindustani classical music, especially khayal. The concept is closely linked to the oral tradition, the Guru-Shishya Parampara and to the ethos of the guild system, which continues to operate in the development and handing over of skills from father to son, in closeted traditions in many fields of Indian learning and expertise.

As Indian art music flowed along the millennia developing from gandharva to gana, and from prabandha to dhrupad to khayal, multifarious sub-traditions of raga music crystallized into several gharanas of khayal as we know them today. These lineages germinated around seats of patronage and often were named after them.

The critical factor individual styles of rendition, which acquired distinct and special aesthetic value, along with individual repertoires of compositions and even raga specialties. The styles of the gharanas often tend to be dominant creations of individuals, whose command over audiences has been extraordinary.

As Indian classical music moves into the 21st century, it is significantly redefining its position within the blitz of commercial music proliferation. The sensitive and subtle aesthetics of gharana individualities may merge into an electric approach. Yet, representing the aesthetic and functional value of heritage (virasat) - living tributes to centuries of disciplined artistic endeavor.

The Agra tradition, is one of the three highly respected Dhrupad khayal traditions living today, the other two being Gwalior and Jaipur. The Agra gayaki today owes its shapes colour and character to the formidable stamp influence of Ustad Faiyaz Khan. While the fundamental dhrupad edifice is common, exhibited in the richness of Raga repertoire, compositional repertoire, and variety of formalized techniques of improvisation, this gharana owes its individual character to a special quality of masculine, almost rough rendition, which yet achieves superb romanticism and lyricism.

This special quality comes across very strongly in madhayalay teental in the bol banao and bol bant. A very strong edifice of layakari thus runs through. Extensive nom-tom alaap is also a special feature of the Agra School as is the rich addition of thumri and dadra.

Lalith Rao is the most authentic representative of the gaikee of Ustad Khadim Hussain Khan, who himself had achieved a brilliant confluence of the gravita and lyricism of the Agra school. An engineer by education, Lalith Rao's style is perhaps the truest to the Agra image amongst female vocalists.


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