The name Agra immediately brings to mind the exquisite Taj Mahal, the magnificent Agra Fort, the beautiful tomb of Itmad-ud-Daula and of course the mouth-watering pethas. However, Agra is equally famous for an illustrious gharana of Hindustani classical music, whose distinguished exponents and teachers have imparted the muse to countless disciples over the centuries.
The history of the gharana is shrouded in mystery. Its earliest musician is believed to be Nayak Gopal of Devagiri (now Daulatabad). When in 1307 Allauddin Khilji declared war on and defeated King Ramachandra of Devagiri, the legendary Amir Khusro is believed to have accompanied him with the specific intention of meeting Nayak Gopal. The defeated king was restored to his throne at the insistence of Amir Khusro on the condition that Nayak Gopal would accompany them to Delhi. Nayak Gopal thus established a distinct music system in Delhi that later came to be known as the Nauhar Bani.
One of Nayak Gopal’s descendants was Sujan Das ‘Nauhar’, a musician at Akbar’s court in Agra. He was a great musician, almost equalling Tansen in his musical prowess. Akbar was very fond of Sujan Das and persuaded him to convert to Islam and perform the Haj, after which he came to be known as Haji Sujan Khan, a name greatly revered by all musicians of the Agra Gharana. The story of the lamps being kindled upon the rendering of Raga Deepak is, like most musical miracles, generally attributed to Tansen, but some believe that the feat was performed by Haji Sujan Khan, after which Akbar conferred on him the title of ‘Deepak Jyot’. There is a dhrupad (a literary composition in praise of the divine, contracted from ‘dhruvapada’) attributed to Haji Sujan Khan in which the words Deepak Jyot appear, which seems to give some credence to this story. The style of music practised during that period was primarily the alap (gradual development of a raga through improvisation), dhrupad and dhamar (one of the tempos used in Hindustani music associated with the Dhrupad style), although some rudiments of the khayalgayaki (elaboration of a raga with a lyrical composition) were also in existence in the form of KhusraviMausiqi, the precursor of khayal.
During Aurangzeb’s reign, Haji Sujan Khan’s great-great grandson, Dayam Khan ‘Nauhar’, alias Saras Rang, was attached to the Mughal court. However, when Aurangzeb banned music in his domain, the talented musicians of his court, as also those who had migrated to Delhi for royal patronage were forced to return to their hometowns and start their own ‘houses’ of music. Saras Rang thus went back to Agra, to continue his musical pursuits.
From Akbar’s reign right down to Aurangzeb’s period, the musical tradition of Nayak Gopal, Haji Sujan Khan and his descendants was known as Nauhar Bani. The word bani’ denotes a tradition or system of music, whereas gharana refers to a house of music. Indeed ‘gharana’ is an extension of the word ‘ghar’ (house). Thus, the houses of music started by the various musicians in their respective places came to be known as gharanas distinguished by the names of the town or village as their prefixes. Thus Nauhar Bani came to be identified primarily with the Agra Gharana and Saras Rang was its originator.
Saras Rang had four grandsons of whom the youngest Khudabaksh had a gruff voice and was ridiculed for it by his highly musical family, which referred to him as ‘Ghagge’ (meaning gruff). Khudabaksh ran away from home and went to Gwalior, convinced that if his voice was unsuitable for the dhrupad gayaki of his own gharana, it might be better suited to the khayal gayaki of the Gwalior Gharana. He went to Natthan Peerbaksh, the Gwalior Gharana maestro and falling at his feet begged the ustad (learned teacher and musician) to take him as a disciple and teach him the khayal gayaki. Natthan Peerbaksh, who had himself learnt some dhrupads from an Agra ustad (most probably Saras Rang), took pity on Khudabaksh and resolved to make him into a good musician. He started with rigorous voice training, note by note, for two years until his voice lost its gruffness and became melodious. Thereafter he started teaching him the various aspects of khayal in earnest. Khudabaksh stayed with Natthan Peerbaksh for 12 years and mastered the khayal gayaki. Natthan Peerbaksh himself admitted that he had never heard such a ‘sureel’ (sweet and tuneful) voice as Khudabaksh had developed and gave him permission to return to Agra.
When he reached home his brothers could not believe that the same Khudabaksh now had the most melodious voice in the family and that his music had acquired an entirely new dimension a delightful blend of the methodical and majestic dhrupad gayaki of Agra and the soulful and melodious khayalgayaki of Gwalior. The family immediately resolved that the next generation of musicians of the khandan (family) would only be trained by Ghagge Khudabaksh. However the prefix Ghagge remained with him till the very end. Ghaggeji thoroughly groomed Sher Khan, his eldest brother Junghu Khan’s son in his newly acquired inimitable style, and much later his own two sons Ghulam Abbas Khan and Kallan Khan. Ghulam Abbas Khan and Kallan Khan were not only great musicians but teachers par excellence and taught all the musicians of the three generations succeeding them, prominent among them being Natthan Khan (Sher Khan’s son), Faiyaz Khan (Ghulam Abbas Khan’s grandson), Vilayat Hussain Khan (Natthan Khan’s son) and Khadim Husain/Hussain Khan (Natthan Khan’s grandson).
Another major influence came from the Atrauli Gharana of Gobarhari Bani, of which the legendary Mehboob Khan ‘DarasPiya’ was the most prominent musician. Natthan Khan, the 19th-century Agra Gharana maestro, married DarasPiya’s sister Jasiya Begum and Faiyaz Khan married Daras Piya’s daughter. There were other inter-marriages between the families too. Later, Daras Piya’s son, Ata Hussain Khan, though initially trained by his father, became Faiyaz Khan’s disciple and stayed with him for many years. Also, some of the great musicians and teachers of the Agra Gharana, like Khadim Hussain Khan, Latafat Hussain Khan and Sharafat Hussain Khan were born in the Atrauli khandan but were taught by ustads of both the Agra and the Atrauli Gharanas, and they all performed a beautiful amalgam of the two styles. Thus it aptly came to be known as the Agra-Atrauli Gharana.
The gharana absorbed all these diverse influences, without forgetting its roots, for over a century and blossomed into a complete and multifaceted gharana where, starting from dhrupad, dhamar and khayal, the repertoire includes tarana (composition using musical syllables based on Persian and Arabic phonemes), thumri (popular semi-classical idiom), trivat (composition with three prominent features—sargam, tablabols and tarana), dadra (form of semi-classical compositions) and folk idioms like kajari, jhoola, rasiya, dhola etc. It has in equal measure almost all the angs (aspects) of the classical and semi-classical genres like nom tom alap (when syllables are sung at a rapid pace), surkalagaav (emphasising the appropriate note in its proper place), raga vistaar (elaboration of a raga), meend (glide from one note to another, faintly going over the intermediate notes), gamak (a melodic embellishment giving special vibratory effects), bolvistaar (note by note delineation of the raag using syllables of the lyrics of the song text), barhat (development of a raga), phirat (free run of the notes), sargam (singing style in which the notes are sung to the names of the notes), layabol (unique feature of the gharana where the text is pronounced in close relationship with the tempo), bolbaant (rhythmic variations in dhrupad or khayal with the text of the song), layakaari (use of different rhythmic patterns), boltaan (singing of very rapid melodic passages utilizing the words of the bandish), sapattaan (the notes are placed in order in one or more octaves), choottaan (short melodic phrases executed with jumps across the scale), vakrataan (phrases move upwards and downwards while adhering to the raga), khatka (cluster of notes embellishing a single note), murki (a swift and subtle taan-like movement), zamzama (addition of notes with sharp gamaks), etc. which are used appropriately depending on the raga, bandish (words of the song) and format. The open-throated articulation and a resonant voice are the hallmarks of this gayaki, and an exquisite interplay of words and notes with the taal (rhythm), called layakaari, characterise its unique and attractive complexion. With an immense repertoire of ragas and bandishes, the gharana is very deeply rooted in preserving, presenting and propagating both these in their pristine purity. A methodical raga-ang (raga-based) exploration of the raga with the bandish as the base, a neatly structured form built up layer by layer into a magnificent edifice rising to a crescendo of boltaans and taans with the undercurrent of intricate layakaari, makes this a captivating and emotional style.
Some of the famous musicians of the Agra Gharana
Ghagge Khudabaksh (1790–1880), creator of the harmonious blend of the dhrupad and khayal gayakis, noted in his time for his sureel voice, had such pathos in his voice that it would bring tears to the eyes of listeners. Therefore, he was never invited to perform at festivities like marriages because tears are taboo at such occasions! The Maharajah of Jaipur was so moved when he heard Ghaggeji performing, that he immediately invited him to become the court musician of the Jaipur darbar (royal palace or court). He spent the rest of his life in Jaipur where he trained his two sons and also taught Pandit Shiv Deen (Prime Minister of Jaipur darbar) and some others.
Sher Khan (1802–1882), the first musician of the khandan trained by Ghaggeji after his return from Gwalior, was also a brilliant musician. He was invited to perform all over the country and was the first musician to bring the gharana in 1840 to Bombay, where he lived for 15 years and which became the primary seat of the gharana in the next century.
Ghulam Abbas Khan (1825–1934), elder son of Ghagge Khudabaksh, the ‘grand old man’ of the gharana, a chip off the old block, was a great musician. Being very particular and careful about his health he had developed tremendous breath control. He is believed to have been able to sing a taan in a single breath for 18 medium-paced avartans (full rhythmic cycles) which is a difficult task for any musician today. He lived up to the age of 109 years and taught, among others, three of the most distinguished ustads of the Gharana—his younger brother Kallan Khan, nephew Natthan Khan and grandson Faiyaz Khan.
Kallan Khan (1835–1925), was considered to be the nearest to his father Ghaggeji’s style of singing with particular reference to the tuneful aspect of the gayaki. He was a worthy successor to his father in the Jaipur darbar. His disciple Khadim Husain Khan used to say that he would go into a trance every time Kallan Khan was elaborating a raga. He trained numerous disciples of the next three generations of his khandan and several others too.
Natthan Khan (1840–1901), was the only son of Sher Khan but was taught rigorously by his cousin Ghulam Abbas Khan to become one of the best performers of his time. His fame spread far and wide, and he was the first Hindustani classical musician to be appointed asthaanagavaiya (resident musician) in the darbar of far away Mysore, a bastion of Carnatic music. Apart from teaching his two elder sons Mohammed Khan and Abdullah Khan, he trained two outstanding musicians, Bhaskarbuwa Bakhale and Bablibai.
Zohrabai Agrewali (1868–1913), was an exceptionally talented musician and among the first women to master the Agra gayaki which until then was the exclusive preserve of men. Trained by two of the Gharana’s greats, Sher Khan and Kallan Khan, she was amongst the earliest women musicians who sang for recording companies. Her 78 rpm records that came out at the turn of the twentieth century amply prove her virtuosity.
Bhaskarbuwa Bakhale (1869–1922), disciple of Natthan Khan, was one of the very few Hindu musicians of the nineteenth century who equalled and in some cases even surpassed the top Muslim ustads of his time. He was given the title ‘Deva Gandharva’—a god among the gandharvas (celestial musicians). Agra maestro Faiyaz Khan used to say in all sincerity that he was just a chavanni (25 paise) if Bhaskarbuwa was a rupee, and added ‘Vakkayivobhaskarhai’ (‘He really is the sun’).
Mohammed Khan (1870–1922), the eldest son and disciple of Natthan Khan and son-in-law of Kallan Khan, was a veritable repository of rare and difficult ragas, and even musicians of the Gharana senior to him used to say that a raga that Mohammed Khan did not know was not worth knowing! His son and disciple Bashir Khan was also a fine musician and teacher, who taught the well-known musicians Dipali Nag and Aparna Chakraborty.
Abdullah Khan ‘ManharPiya’ (1873–1920), was the second son and disciple of Natthan Khan and his singing style was considered closest to that of Natthan Khan. The Mysore Maharaja happened to listen to Abdullah Khan singing when he was being taught by his father and was so impressed that he too was appointed asthaanagavaiya of the darbar alongside his father.
Tasadduq Hussain Khan ‘Vinod Piya’ (1876–1946) was the son of Kallan Khan. He was a fine musician, composer, historian and a repository of the gharana’s ragas and cheezas (compositions). He had compiled a very comprehensive treatise on the gharana’s history and evolution based on extensive discussions with his elders but unfortunately it was lost, which is a great tragedy for the gharana. However, he had revealed many of the details to his contemporaries and most of the gharana’s history now available to us is from these revelations.
Faiyaz Khan ‘Prem Piya’ (1881–1950), was the posthumous child of Ghulam Abbas Khan’s elder daughter Abbasi Begum, who returned to her father’s home, being disowned by the Rangila khandan after the death of her husband SafdarHussain Khan of the Rangila Gharana. The grandfather took total charge of raising and thoroughly grooming Faiyaz Khan into the outstanding musician of his time. He is referred to as the musician of the century. He was indeed the reigning master of the gharana for several decades. He also composed some beautiful bandishes that are a delightful interplay of bol and laya. Although attached to the Baroda darbar, Faiyaz Khan travelled widely and regaled audiences in almost every major city and town in undivided India. Honours and titles were showered on him by Maharajas and Nawabs but the title that is permanently attached to him was ‘Aftaab-e-Mousiqi’ (‘the sun of music’) conferred on him by the Maharaja of Mysore. Almost all musicians of the gharana associated themselves with him and tried to imbibe his inimitable style to a larger or smaller extent. Many musicians came from far and wide to learn from him, prominent among whom are Dilip Chandra Vedi, Srikrishna Ratanjankar, Swami Vallabhdas, Kundan Lal Saigal (of film fame), Sohan Singh and Kumar Mukherji.
Vilayat Hussain Khan ‘Pran Piya’ (1892–1962), the fourth son of Natthan Khan, was a great musician, teacher and also a prolific composer. His compositions are very popular and widely sung. He taught numerous disciples; prominent among them are Menaka Shirodkar (mother of famous singer ShobhaGurtu), Jagannathbuwa Purohit (Gunidas), Gajananrao Joshi, Ram Marathe, Ratnakant Ramnathkar, Dr. Karan Singh, Maharajkumar Bapusaheb of Ratlam, and his own three sons, Yusuf Hussain, Yunus Hussain and Yakub Hussain. Many of them in turn have groomed a large number of disciples.
Ata Hussain Khan (1898–1980), was the son and disciple of Atrauli’sDarasPiya. After his sister’s marriage to Faiyaz Khan, he went to learn from Faiyaz Khan, gave him constant vocal support and was associated with him for nearly 25 years. He taught most of the musicians who came to Baroda to learn from Faiyaz Khan, as the latter used to travel widely to give concerts. Swami Vallabhdas, Rama Rao Naik and PurnimaSen are among his prominent disciples.
Srikrishna (Annasaheb) Ratanjankar (1900–1974), was the pattashishya (most prominent disciple) and worthy successor of the great musicologist and visionary Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande. Bhatkhande specially sent Ratanjankar to Faiyaz Khan for sound musical grooming and was among the most distinguished disciples of Faiyaz Khan outside the khandan. He was the Principal of Marris College of Music in Lucknow for several years and trained numerous disciples in the authentic Agra style of Faiyaz Khan. He was also a great composer and his compositions are sung widely today. Some of his prominent disciples who achieved name and fame are Chidanand Nagarkar, S.C.R. Bhat, K.G. Ginde, Dinkar Kaikini, Sumati Mutatkar, Govindrao Dantale, D.T. Joshi and Chinmoy Lahiri.
Dilip Chandra Vedi (1901–1992) was a distinguished musician of the Gharana, having learnt directly under two of the gharana greats Bhaskarbuwa Bakhale and Faiyaz Khan. He was particularly popular in the cities of the pre-partition Punjab and has given some memorable performances and regaled audiences all over the country.
Basheer Khan (1903–1960) was the son of Mohammed Khan, the eldest brother of Vilayat Husain Khan and a repository of the gharana’s ragas and cheezas. He was a fine performer and teacher and has groomed several disciples in the authentic tradition of his gharana, among them his son Aqeel Ahmed Khan, Dipali Nag and Aparna Chakravarti.
Jagannathbuwa Purohit ‘Gunidas’ (1904–1968), was one of the outstanding disciples of Vilayat Hussain Khan. He was an excellent performer, teacher and composer. To him goes the credit of composing the very popular and widely sung raga Jog Kauns. He taught several disciples prominent among them are C.R. Vyas, Manik Verma, Jitendra Abhisheki, Ram Marathe and Vasantrao Kulkarni.
Khadim Husain Khan ‘SajanPiya’ (1905–1993). Born in the Atraulikhandan and groomed rigorously by Agra’s maestro Kallan Khan, Khadim Husain Khan veritably possessed an ocean of musical vidya (knowledge), having imbibed the best of both Agra and Atrauli traditions from their legendary musicians and teachers. He was also a sensitive composer and made vidyadaan (imparting of knowledge) his life’s mission and taught innumerable disciples for almost seven decades in Bombay. The trio of Agra-Atrauliustads, comprising his uncle Vilayat Hussain Khan, younger brother Anwar Hussain Khan and himself, imparted their gayaki to so many shagirds (disciples) that it was said that in every street of (old) Bombay, one or more ustads of this trio taught music. The prominent disciples of Khadim Husain Khan who made name and fame nationally (and internationally) include his younger brother Latafat Hussain Khan, Vatsala Kumthekar, Krishna Udyavarkar, Jyotsna Bhole, Saguna Kalyanpur, Baban Haldankar and Lalith J. Rao. Others like Sharda Mukherji (ex-Governor of Gujarat) and film personalities Durga Khote, Surendra, Suraiya and Madhubala also learnt music from him.
Acharya S.C.R. Bhat (1908–2008) was one of the senior-most disciples of Annasaheb Ratanjankar. Like his guru, he dedicated his entire life to the cause of Hindustani music, working selflessly for the propagation of this invaluable aspect of our ancient culture. His honesty and large-heartedness made him one of the most revered Gurus. He trained numerous disciples and was the head of Swami Vallabhdas’s Shreevallabh Sangeetalaya in Sion, Mumbai. Before that he also taught music at the Sangeet Nartan Shikshapeeth of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. He ranked among the leading exponents of the Dhrupad-Dhamargayaki.
Rama Rao Naik (1909–1998), was the most authentic proponent of the Gharana from South India, having learnt from Swami Vallabhdas, Ata Hussain Khan and Faiyaz Khan. He was a great musician and teacher, and one of the primary musicians responsible for popularising Hindustani music in the Carnatic bastion of Bangalore. Rama Rao groomed several disciples in the true tradition of his gayaki and it was said that Bombay and Bangalore are the two places where the Agra-Atrauli Gharana flourished. Rama Rao’s most famous disciples are M.R. Gautam, Lalita Ubhayakar, Meera Savoor and Lalith J. Rao amongst several others.
Anwar Hussain Khan (1910–1966) was the younger brother of Khadim Hussain Khan and was the youngest disciple of the legendary Kallan Khan, along with his elder brother. He was also a repository of the gharana’s authentic ragas and cheezas. He was one of the ‘trio of ustads’ who taught innumerable shagirds in Bombay. Among his numerous disciples Anjanibai Lolekar is the most prominent. Unfortunately, he died early. His eldest son, Ghulam Hasnain Khan, a.k.a. Raja Miyan, is a popular performing musician.
Sumati Mutatkar (1916–2007) is one of the seniormost disciples of Annasaheb Ratanjankar. She was the Chief Producer of music at All India Radio, Delhi and to her goes the distinction of being the first lady musician to perform the Dhrupad-Dhamar styles of music on All India Radio.
Sunil Bose (1916–2007) was a senior disciple of Ata Hussain Khan. He also had the privilege of associating with Annasaheb Ratanjankar and Faiyaz Khan. He was Head of the Classical Music section of the Music Teachers’ Training College in Kolkata for ten years, and in 1978 he joined the ITC Sangeet Research Academy Kolkata as a senior guru and actively groomed many scholars in the Academy till he retired in 2004.
Chidanand Nagarkar (1919–1971) was a senior disciple of Annasaheb Ratanjankar. He was an outstanding performer and was nicknamed ‘Hindu Faiyaz Khan’. When Kulapati K.M. Munshi wished to start the Sangeet Nartan Shikshapeeth at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Mumbai, Annasaheb had no hesitation in recommending young Nagarkar to be its first Principal. His untimely demise at the peak of his musical career robbed the Gharana and the classical music world of a truly outstanding vocalist. The raga Kaishik Ranjini, composed by him, is widely sung by various musicians.
Latafat Hussain Khan ‘Prem Das’ (1920–1986), was the disciple of his eldest brother Khadim Husain Khan and was also taught by Faiyaz Khan. He was an outstanding and popular performer and came nearest to Faiyaz Khan both in voice quality and singing style. He was an ustad in the ITC Sangeet Research Academy and taught many disciples, foremost amongst them being the Academy’s Director, Vijay Kichlu.
Sohan Singh was a senior musician of the Agra Gharana. He initially learnt from Dilip Chandra Vedi in Delhi. Later he went to Baroda and became a disciple of Faiyaz Khan and Ata Husain Khan. He too was acknowledged by many as having a voice and singing style closest to Faiyaz Khan’s. He initially started a music institution at Ludhiana and later taught music at the Government College in Patiala and has groomed many disciples in the traditional style of the Gharana.
Dipali Nag (1922–2009) was a senior vocalist of the gharana and a regular performer at concerts and on the radio from a young age. She was a disciple primarily of Basheer Khan, but also received training under other ustads of the gharana. A versatile personality, she has authored books and articles, given lectures on music at Universities in India and abroad and was a senior Adviser to the ITC Sangeet Research Academy.
Aparna Chakravarti (1923–2007) received her musical training under Basheer Khan and was a senior vocalist of the gharana. She was equally adept at classical, semi-classical and light music and has performed widely in India and abroad. She was the Chief Organiser of Jhankar Music & Dance Circle and was the music critic for The Statesman for many years.
C.R. Vyas (1924–2002), a celebrated khayal singer and composer, had his initial musical grooming under the Gwalior Gharana maestros Paradkarbuwa and Mirashibuwa. However, it was under the active tutelage and close association with JagannathbuwaPurohit of Agra Gharana that he honed his musical skills and blossomed into one the country’s top musicians. He has performed all over India and many countries abroad and regaled audiences with his unique style of rendering khayals. He has groomed several disciples many of whom have achieved national and international repute.
Krishna ‘Chotu’ Ginde (1925–1994) was the prominent disciple of Annasaheb Ratanjankar and Annasaheb had named him his ‘chosen successor’. He was a fine musician and a grammarian par excellence. His knowledge of music was so vast that it was said that what Gindeji did not know about Hindustani classical music was not worth knowing! Initially he was part of the Sangeet Nartan Shikshapeeth of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan but when Swami Vallabhdas established the ShreevallabhSangeetalaya in the Bombay suburbs, he and his senior gurubandhu S.C.R. Bhat were given the charge of running the Sangeetalaya by Swamiji. Apart from khayal, Gindeji was also a master of the Dhrupad-Dhamar styles. He gave numerous very erudite lecture-cum-demonstrations on all aspects of classical music all over India, and particularly at the ITC-Sangeet Research Academy in Calcutta.
Govindrao Dantale was a disciple of Annasaheb Ratanjankar at the Marris College of Music in Lucknow and a noted musicologist. He was Principal of the Government College of Music & Dance in Ramkote, Hyderabad, for many years and has groomed several disciples.
Yunus Hussain Khan ‘Darpan’ (1927–1991), was the second son of VilayatHussain Khan. A fine musician, musical historian and excellent composer of ragas and bandishes, he was a professor of music in the Delhi University and also for a while at Shantiniketan. He has taught many disciples, prominent amongst them is Yashpal.
Dinkar Kaikini ‘Dinarang’ (1927–2007), one of the prominent disciples of AnnasahebRatanjankar, he was one of the ace performers of the country. He initially worked for the All India Radio in Delhi as a music producer and was part of Ravi Shankar’s early musical ‘Discovery of India’. Later he became the Principal of the Sangeet Nartan Shikshapeeth of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Bombay after the demise of his senior ‘gurubandhu’ Chidanand Nagarkar. A prolific composer, he has to his credit numerous compositions that are now widely sung by his large circle of disciples.
Lalita Ubhayaker (1928–2012) had her early musical training from Chidanand Nagarkar but it was under the expert guidance of Ramarao Naik that she blossomed into an ace performer. She also had the benefit of guidance from the senior Dagar Brothers Moinuddin and Aminuddin Khan. An ace performer, she has given concerts all over India and abroad. She was the founder of Devnandan Ubhayaker Yuva Sangeet Utsav in memory of her son to encourage young talent in the country and to provide upcoming artistes a platform and opportunity to perform before discerning audiences. This is an eagerly awaited annual musical event of Bangalore.
Sharafat Hussain Khan ‘Prem Rang’ (1930–1985), was the nephew and adopted son of Faiyaz Khan and grandson of Atrauli’s Daras Piya. He was the most popular and brilliant performer of the Gharana and regularly gave recitals all over India. His demise at a comparatively young age of 55 deprived the Gharana and the world of Hindustani classical music of a truly outstanding musician. His son Shaukat Hussain and Purnima Sen are amongst his prominent disciples.
M.R. Gautam was a noted musicologist and performer, who obtained two doctorates in music –- D. Mus. and Ph.D. He had his musical grooming in Bangalore under RamaraoNaik for several years and later also received valuable guidance in Delhi from VilayatHussain Khan and Dilip Chandra Vedi. He was the Dean of Music in the Banaras Hindu University, and later the Vice Chancellor of the Khairagarh Music University.
Manik Verma, a prominent disciple of VilayatHussain Khan and Jagannathbuwa Purohit, was an ace performer and gave brilliant concerts all over the country. She was also very proficient in Marathi stage music. Unfortunately a health problem cut short her performing career.
Srikrishna (Babanrao) Haldankar is one of the seniormost disciples of Khadim Hussain Khan and an erudite musician and musicologist. He also learned for a while from Moghubai Kurdikar of the Jaipur Gharana and has authoreda book titled ‘Aesthetics of Agra and Jaipur Traditions’which is an English translation of his original in Marathi. He has also written a book ‘Ragas sung in Agra Gharana’. Both these books are very popular and frequently consulted by serious students of music. He is also a prolific composer and has published two books of his own compositions. He is an adjunct Professor of Music in the Bombay University and was also heading the Kala Academy at Goa. He has groomed several disciples many of whom have achieved name and fame.
Jitendra Abhisheki, a prominent disciple of Jagannathbuwa Purohit and C.R. Vyas, also took guidance from Gullubhai Jasdanwala, a disciple of the legendary Alladiya Khan of the Jaipur-Atrauli Gharana. He was a very popular performer and composer, particularly in Maharashtra. He composed music for some of the very popular and famous Marathi musical plays and earned name and fame.
Purnima Sen is a disciple of Vilayat Hussain Khan, Ata Hussain Khan and Sharafat Hussain Khan and currently the leading lady singer of the Gharana. She is a gifted vocalist and a regular concert performer all over India and abroad. She is a member of the Expert Committee of the ITC Sangeet Research Academy of Kolkata and has several commercial albums to her credit.
Indudhar Nirody is a senior and respected vocalist and teacher of the Gharana, currently living and teaching several students in Mysore. He had intensive musical training from S.C.R. Bhat, K.G. Ginde and Dinkar Kaikini and gave them vocal support in most of their concerts over several years and honed his style to perfection. He has given concerts all over India and has received several awards. His greatest service in the cause of music is his truly monumental work of recording and releasing all the over 1,800 compositions listed in Bhatkhande’s four-volume Kramik Pustak Malika, for which the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi honoured him with their prestigious award.
Vijay Kichlu learnt initially from the senior Dagar Brothers and later from Latafat Hussain Khan. He was the first Director of the ITC Sangeet Research Academy of Kolkata and literally built it up from scratch and nurtured it for 25 years into a well-recognised Institution that groomed several noted musicians in the traditional guru-shishyaparampara. He has performed all over India and abroad and has taken the gurus and shagirds of the Academy abroad to popularise classical music.
Lalith J. Rao is a doyenne of the Agra-Atrauli Gharana and disciple of Khadim Hussain Khan. She learnt music from a young age in Bangalore from Rama Rao Naik and for a year from Dinkar Kaikini in Delhi. She took to music full time despite having studied Electronics Engineering in IISC, Bangalore and the University of New Brunswick in Canada, which was primarily due to her good fortune of getting Khadim Hussain Khan as her guru in 1969. She was groomed by the Ustad for 14 years into one of the ace performers of the country. She has performed all over India and abroad. Unfortunately a major voice problem cut short her performing career after 1994, but she regularly gives very erudite lecture-demonstrations and teaches the authentic gayaki of the gharana to several students, many of whom are regular concert performers. She did a unique archival project for the Ethnomusicology Department of the University of Washington in Seattle in 1993 in which she rendered a few hundred traditional ragas and cheezas of the Agra-Atrauli Gharana.
Yashpal is currently one of the popular performers of the country, and he learnt from Yunus Hussain Khan. He regularly gives concerts all over India and is considered as one of the authentic representatives of the Agra-Atrauli Gharana.
Kumar Mukherjee was an A-grade artiste of All India Radio and sang the authentic Agra-Atrauli gayaki of Faiyaz Khan. While he took some guidance from musicians like Ata Hussain Khan and Latafat Hussain Khan, he was essentially self-taught through several recordings of Ustad Faiyaz Khan that were in his possession. He has performed in the AIR National Programmes and Akashvani Sangeet Sammelans, and has given concerts all over India and abroad, despite being a very senior executive in a public sector undertaking.He has published two books on music titled Kudrat Rang Birangi and Lost World of Hindustani Music (New Delhi: Penguin, 2006).
Sudhindra Bhaumik is a leading vocalist of the Gharana, having learned from Ramarao Naik in Bangalore for many years, and later from S.C.R. Bhat, K.G. Ginde and Dinkar Kaikini. He also took guidance from Shobha Gurtu in the Thumri genre and continues to take guidance from another veteran Y.M. Mahale. Interestingly, despite graduating from IIT and IIM, he has eschewed a lucrative corporate career and taken to music as a full-time pursuit. He currently lives in Mumbai and regularly gives concerts all over India and abroad.
Ghulam Hasnain Khan a.k.a. Raja Miyan is the son of Anwar Hussain Khan, the youngest disciple of the legendary Kallan Khan. Raja Miyan took his talim primarily from Khadim Hussain Khan and Latafat Hussain Khan, as his father passed away when he was still young. Singing with a melodious voice, he brings out the essence of his Khandan’s gayaki in his renderings. He gives concerts regularly all over India.
Shaukat Hussain Khan, the son of Sharafat Hussain Khan, can be called a chip off the old block. Having received talim from his illustrious father, he is a true representative of the Agra-Atrauli Gharana and is a popular performer. He gives concerts all over the country.
Waseem Ahmed Khan is the grandson of Basheer Khan from his father’s side and of Ata Hussain Khan from his mother’s side. Thus he has inherited the rich repertoire of both the khandans. He was an A-Grade scholar of the ITC Sangeet Research Academy and is currently a musician-tutor in the Academy.
Subhra Guha is a popular performer and learnt from Gyan Prakash Ghosh and Sunil Bose at the ITC-Sangeet Research Academy as a scholar and also received guidance from Vijay Kichlu. She also benefited from the series of lecture-demonstrations given by Gindeji at the Academy. Currently she is one of the gurus at the Academy teaching the Agra-Atrauli style to the scholars.
Susheela Ullal-Mehta is a versatile artiste being equally adept at classical vocal music and Bharatanatyam. She was also exceptionally brilliant in her studies having won gold medals in law. She learnt music from a young age under Rama Rao Naik for 20 years and later had the privilege of enhancing her skills under Khadim Hussain Khan and took advanced guidance from Lalith J Rao. She regularly performs all over India and abroad and is currently the President of Sur Sagar, the most popular Hindustani Music organisation in Bangalore.
Aditi Kaikini-Upadhya, daughter of Dinkar Kaikini, learnt from her father and also learnt the thumri style from Shobha Gurtu. She is a regular concert performer and also grooms several students. She, along with her brother Yogesh Samsi, is the founder of ‘Svarit’, a music organisation that propagates the legacy of her father Dinkar Kaikini.
Bharathi Prathap, a senior disciple of Lalith J. Rao, can be considered as one of the most prominent rising stars of the gharana and a very popular performer, having regaled audiences in several prestigious sangeetsammelans all over India and abroad.
Over the years these great musicians have performed, propagated and enriched the gharana, and their numerous proponents are passing on the gayaki to countless talented disciples all over the country and even abroad.
The author does not claim that this is an exhaustive list of all the musicians that this great gharana has produced and sends his apologies in advance in case any musicians have been left out.