Today, we shall discuss Agra Gharana in Hindustani Classical Music.
Though music maestro Tansen’s son-in-law Haji Sujan is considered as the founder of Agra Gharana, yet the credit of its fame goes to Gagge Khudabaksha. Ustad Faiyaz Khan (In the recent past, it was Ustad Fayyaz Khan from Baroda, who made this style of singing made more popular), Natthan Khan, Bhaskar Buva Bakhale, Vilayat Hussain Khan, Master Krishnarao, Latafat Khan, Sharafat Khan, Ratanjankar, Ram Marathe, Khadim Hussain, Dinkar Kaykini, V. R. Athawale, Babanrao Haldankar are some of the esteemed singers of this Gharana, who contributed a lot by spreading this genre of singing through their disciples. Singer Ratnakar Ramnathkar with the pseudo name as ‘Prem Rang’ and Pandit Jagannath Buva Purohit as ‘Gunidas’ have contributed Bandish in this Agra Gharana in Indian Classical Music. Pandit Jagannath Buva Purohit had disciples as C. R. Vyas, Prabhu Deo Sarkar, Manik Varma, Jitendra Abhisheki.
Nayak Gopal has been mentioned as the first known musician of Agra Gharana. The style prevalent then in the Gharana was “Dhrupad-Dhamar”. Ustad Ghagghe Khudabuksh was the musician who added Gwalior Gharana “Khayal” style into Agra gharana. He had learnt it from Natthan Paribaksh of Gwalior. In addition, Atrauli gharana Khayal style was also got assimilated in this tradiation the late 19th century.
This Agra Gharana has ample of Bandish, with their composers and scholarly singers.
Salient feature of Agra Gharana :
The singing style of Agra Gharana is a unification of khayal and Dhrupad – Dhamar. While a disciple is being trained, the Guru teaches him / her both the khayal and dhrupad factors together and not separately. The method of singing notes of this Gharana needs the projection of voice to be more dynamic and ample than comes across in khayal singing.The method of singing notes of this gharana is also suggestive of Dhrupad, where Swaras are sung open and bare (with no grace notes).
To maintain purity of Raag, singing Bandish with respect to Taal, melodious Laya and singing with the words ‘Ridin Tom’ (रिदिन तोम्) and Dhala Soor are some of the prominent features of this Agra Gharana. Singers in Agra Gharana apply open and powerful voice while singing. Thus, singing of this Gharana is more forceful than other Gharanas. Its singers use a special method to sing Thumari, with attractive and aggressive Bol Taan. They also sing Dhrupad, Dhamaar, Hori very elegantly. As much as the music is concerned, Dhrupad, Dhamar, and Khayal have always been a part of Agra style of singing. Thus, the uniqueness of this Gharana is in its singing Dhrupad-Dhamar along with Nom-Tom Alap, Khayal, Thumri, Tappa, Tarana, Hori, Dadra, Ghazal, Kaul, Rasiya etc.
As Gagge Khudabaksha went to Gwalior to learn Gwalior style singing thoroughly, Agra Gharana singing has some features that are common with Gwalior Gharana also. The Agra Gharana perhaps took in gorgeous features from other Gharanas, yet its own inbuilt uniqueness can be seen these day also. Here, it may be taken into account that this gharana relates to vocal music only with no matching part in instrumental music.