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Etawah Gharana and the Indian Classical Music

by Dr. Binoy Shanker Prasad*


On 28 May 2016, the Malhar Group, at its 11th Annual Springfest, featured a young Sitar player, Shakir Khan, the first son of Shahid Parvez Khan. Both Shahid and Shakir come from the lineage of an established family of musicians, Etawah Gharana.

A short description on the Etawah Gharana should be in order.


In the mid-19th century, Haddu Khan and Hassu Khan, the two Dhrupad and Khayal singing brothers at the Gwalior Princely court (Darbar), accepted one Sahib Singh, a Hindu Rajput music prodigy, as a disciple. Sahib Singh became Sahabdad Khan after embracing his teachers’ religion and dedicated himself to a rigorous exploration of music and reyaz. He also learnt from the Senia musician Nirmal Shah and later himself became a musician at the Naugaon court.

Accredited with the invention of such musical instruments as Surbahar and Jaltarang, Sahabdad Khan lived in Etawah (in Uttar Pradesh close to Agra) and raised his two sons, Imdad Khan and Karimdad Khan, training them rigorously in music for the first twelve years.

Imdad Khan achieved great fame in his lifetime, became a court musician in Mysore and the first Sitar player ever to be recorded. Although trained by the legendary beenkar Ustad Bande Ali Khan (disciple and son-in-law of Ustad Haddu Khan), Imdad Khan introduced changes in his style of playing instruments.

 In the 19th century, the instrumental classical music of north India was still on the accepted pattern of the Senia Gharana style. The Senia tradition was handed down through the musical dynasty of Mian Tansen’s descendants whose emphasis was on the Dhrupad Ang. Taking a break, Imdad evolved a style that was based on the newer but more popular Khayal singing.

Imdad Khan trained his two sons Enayat Khan and Waheed Khan in Sitar and Surbahar. Around this time Imdad Khan moved from Etawah to Kolkata, his two sons setting off the family tradition of music named after their father, Imdadi Gharana or Etawah Gharana.

Enayat Khan (1893-1938) turned out to be another prodigy and in his short life of 45 years, he did a lot of pioneering work on the Sitar. Besides standardizing its physical dimension, he added the upper resonator gourd to the instrument. But, most importantly, as the nationalist feeling along with the national culture was surging around his time, Enayat brought the Sitar to the masses from the confines of an elite audience. He worked in collaboration with Rabindra Nath Tagore too.

Enayat Khan and his wife Basiran Bibi, the daughter of a famous khayal singer, Bande Hussain, gave birth to two boys, Vilayat Khan and Imrat Khan, who would carry on the tradition of the Etawah Gharana in Sitar and Surbahar. Perhaps, influenced by the DNA of vocal singing, the Etawah Gharana is known to have introduced a lot of gayeeki (singing) style in the details of instrumental playing.

Etawah Gharana is popularly associated with Enayat, Vilayat or Imrat. But the brother of Enayat, Waheed Khan was also renowned and had his descendants. Shahid Parvez Khan and Shakir Khan are from Waheed Khan’s lineage. Shahid has established a great name for himself in the art of Sitar believed to be ahead of all his peers.

It’s up to the progoenies now to carry on the torchlight of their Etawah Gharana. In this age of technology, globalization and competition, it will definitely be a challenge. Answering a question, Shakir Khan, who earlier that evening had enthralled the audience with raag Yaman and Piloo, told me only he (the first of the three siblings) was into the pure Indian Classical Music.


* Dr. Binoy Shanker Prasad is one of the founding directors of The Malhar Group.





Tenth Annual Springfest.

In May 2006, The Malhar Group initiated a festival of Indian classical music in Hamilton Ontario Canada. We called it Springfest. On 23 May 2015, we will be celebrating the tenth anniversary of this signature event in Hamilton Place.

It has been a long road. We are proud to be able to continue this festival in a sustainable manner over these years and have hosted many musicians both from abroad and from the local area. We have had well known artists as well as not so known names to support them and to give them a platform. In Hamilton, this event is now an annual fixture in the local art scene.

This year, we are hosting Sitartist Indrajit Banerjee (Visit Indrajit Banerjee’s Website) of Maihar Gharana along with Hindole Majumdar on the Tabla. After the intermission with complimentary refreshments, we will have Uday Bhawalkar ( Visit Uday Bhawalkar’s Website ) singing Dhrupad along with Pratap Awad on Pakhawaj.

For further information, please email: Send Mail

Season’s Greetings from The Malhar Group!

Anupam Bagchi, President, The Malhar Group

On behalf of all of us in The Malhar Group, we wish you all happy holidays and a happy and prosperous New Year of 2015.

We are working hard to present to you Indian Classical Music in various events as best as we can.  Our upcoming events in 2015 are as follows:

  • April 4: Annual General Meeting & Listening Session
  • May 23: Tenth Annual Springfest
  • August 8: Listening Session
  • September 19:  Third Annual Arohi
  • December 5: Listening Session

Please make sure that you pencil in the above dates!  Further details on each event will follow.  For any questions, email:

On December 6, 2014, The Malhar Group of Canada held its 25th Listening Session. What is our listening session?

By Anupam Bagchi – President, The Malhar Group.

For those who love Indian Classical Music, there is nothing more satisfying and exciting than attending live concerts and listening to the artists performing on stage.  In a country like Canada, these opportunities are available but there are limitations.

The next best thing after live concerts is to listen to recorded music.  We collect music, exchange music and talk about music with other music loving friends almost on a continuous basis!  This is our passion!

These days we can of course sit at home and listen to Indian Classical Music all we want via the Internet.  It is an enormous boon and it will quickly change the way we interact with the music and the musicians in general.  However, it is a lot more fun to enjoy music with your like-minded friends who have the same passion.

The Malhar Group has been organizing Listening Sessions of recorded music for our music loving members for more than a decade.  They are more structured than just casual listening and well planned music selections with a specific theme such as a Raga, an artist, a Gharana and the like.  For example, if the theme is a specific Raga, then details of the Raga namely Aroha, Avroha, Pakad, Vadi, Samvadi, That etc. are explained before the music begins.  Occasionally, we have musicians demonstrating the topic at hand.  The listening is serious and continues for hours without any undue distractions other than good food!

So far, The Malhar Group has held Listening Sessions on the following themes:

  • Thumri & Dadra by Female Vocalists
  • Raga Desh
  • Malhar Group of Ragas
  • Raga Khamaj
  • Raga Kirwani
  • Memorable Jugalbandis
  • Raga Shree
  • Raga Jog
  • Raga Bageshri
  • Raga Kirwani
  • Music of Ali Akbar Khan
  • Raga Kaushik Dhwani
  • Sarang Group of Ragas
  • Raga Bihag
  • Tarana
  • Raga Darbari Kanada
  • Raga Jaijaiwanti
  • Raga Basant/Raga Bahar
  • Morning Ragas
  • Raga Jhinjhoti/Raga Khamaj
  • Dhrupad
  • Music of Ravi Shankar
  • Ragas Marwa/Puriya/Sohini
  • Raga Kedar
  • Raga Madhuvanti

Pre-eminence of Dharwad in Hindustani Classical Music

by Binoy Shanker Prasad, PhD

Hubli-Dharwad, a twin-city in Karnataka, occupies a unique spot in the narrative of the Hindustani Classical Music (HCM). Music lovers have called the place a Line of Actual Control between Hindustani and Carnatic music. It’s regarded as the southern outpost of the Hindustani classical music tradition and from there southward the Carnatic music tradition has its sway. Hubli-Dharwad is home to the musical tradition which has still not compromised on its exclusive and defiant purity. The market forces haven’t diluted its dedication to perfection. The city has at least three centers of music, one of them set up by two Canadian HCM enthusiasts.

In addition to the cultural disposition of the people, geography and history are also responsible for Dharwad to become a prominent place in the HCM. Situated on the border of Karnataka and Maharashtra, Dharwad is semi-circled by Bangalore in the south, Goa in the west and Pune in the north.

From the 12th century Chalukya’s rule, Dharwad was rummaged by a series of conquerors including Shivaji, Mu Azam (Auranzeb’s son), Peshwa Balaji Rao, Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. Once a part of the Vijaynagar Empire, Dharwad was under the rulers from both Maharashtra and Karnataka. After the fall of the Mughal Empire, the Marathas had their sway over Dharwad until defeated by the British in 1818. Dharwad’s indigenous Carnatic culture got mixed with the Maratha and the Muslim cultures.

Musical geniuses belonging to the two schools also criss-crossed Dharwad and the region. The Vijayanagar Empire, as is well known, had great contribution to the evolution of Carnatic music. The famous Carnatic music composer Purandara Dasa was born in Shivamoga district and his last years were spent at Hampi, close to the region. The legend has it that Swami Haridas, the teacher of Tansen, was a disciple of Purandara Dasa whose compositions are sung by Hindustani classical vocalists as well.

With the decline of the Mughal Empire in the north, the court’s culture of singing was adapted by the imitating northern princely states. When the British influence gained ascendancy in those states, the drift of the HCM to the south began. Abdul Karim Khan, a famous Kirana Gharana court singer in Baroda state, was a frequent visitor to the court of the Mysore kings. On his way, he regularly stayed with his brother in Dharwad and taught HCM to students. His most famous disciple, Sawai Gandharva later became the guru to Gangubai Hangal, Bhimsen Joshi and Basavaraj Rajaguru. With the addition of Mallikarjun Mansoor and Kumar Gandharv, Dharwad’s ascent in Hindustani classical music consolidated.

Dharwad is often mistaken as a Gharana. We will have to be clear about this. Gharana usually refers to a group of musicians who share the same “lineal linkages” and, therefore, the same (particular) musical style. The Guru-Shishya Parampara (the master-disciple relationship) is central to this larger socio-musical structure. Generally, the knowledge of music is passed on to the off springs in the musicians’ family or to dedicated disciples. They become the torch-bearers of the gharana. Gharana are mostly named after the places of origin of the musical style. The Agra, Gwalior, Atrauli, Patiala, and Kirana are the leading gharana in vocal Hindustani music whereas Imdadkhan and Maihar are the instrumental gharana. Gharana usually enjoyed a king’s patronage.

In Hubli-Dharwad other styles like the Jaipur gharana and the Gwalior gharana can also be found. However, the place is mostly identified with the Kirana gharana, a style with origins in Uttar Pradesh. This is also because from Abdul Karim Khan(1872-1937) to Bhimsen Joshi (1922-2011), Kirana gharana  incorporated many features of the Carnatic tradition.

Most Hindustani musicians from Karnataka are exponents of Kirana gharana. Kirana gharana was reputed to have revolutionized khyal singing in the late 19th century by introducing the slow-tempo method to delineate the raga note by note (vilambit). Performers from Kirana gharana are believed to have marked their print on certain ragas. Ragas like Todi, Lalit, Multani, Patdeep, Puriya, Marwa, Shuddha Kalyan, Darbari Kanhara, Komal-Rishabh Asavari, etc. have acquired new dimensions under the Kirana school of singing. While Bande Ali Khan, Pt Sawai Gandharva, Pt Sureshbabu Mane, Hirabai Badodekar, Ustad Amir Khan, Gangubai Hangal, Prabha Atre, Manik Varma, Raskilal Andharia and Shripati Padigar were the pioneers of the Kirana gharana, the generation after them included Niaz Ahmad Khan-Faiyaz Ahmad Khan duo, Shakoor Khan (sarangee player), Mani Prasad, Pt Channulal Mishra, Mashkoor Ali Khan, Arshad Ali Khan, Sanhita Nandi and others.

Jayateerth Mevundi, Kaivalyakumar Gurav, M Venkatesh Kumar, Vinayak Torvi, Sulabha Neeralagi and Gayatri Deshpande – all from Dharwad district – constitute a new constellation to which Kumar Mardur also belongs.