Musicopedia >> History >> Tabla-Benaras Gharana
Tabla-Benaras Gharana
In Indian classical music, there are two primary conventions, the north Indian tradition of Hindustani, and the south Indian convention of Carnatic. In Hindustani music, a gharana is a system of social regulation associating musicians or dancers by ancestry and/or learning, and by abidance to a given musical form. Gharanas is present in the vocal & instrumental forms of music. The Benares gharana of tabla playing happens to be one of the two oldest establishments of tabla gharanas, dating back to nearly three hundred years ago. It is one of the six most widespread forms of performing of the Indian tabla. The other gharanas comprise Ajrada, Delhi, Farrukhabad, Lucknow, and Punjab.At present, the Benares tabla gharana is renowned for its influential sound, though it is vital to point out that Benares performers are equally adept in performing gracefully and delicately. This gharana was evolved about 200 years ago by the great Pandit Ram Sahai (1780-1826). Sahai began learning the tabla with his father at the age of five, and at the age of nine migrated to Lucknow to become the follower of Modhu Khan of the Lucknow gharana. When Ram Sahai was seventeen, Wazir Ali Khan, the new Nawab, asked Modhu Khan if Ram Sahai could take part in a performance for him. Modhu Khan accepted, on the stipulation that Ram Sahai would not be perturbed until he was done playing. It is believed that Ram Sahai performed for seven consecutive nights. Following this tremendous performance, Ram Sahai was lauded by all the members of the commune and was overwhelmed with gifts. Soon after this performance, Ram Sahai came back to Benares.Following his performance Benares for some time, Sahai was struck with the need to make a massive alteration in his tabla playing skill. For six months, he isolated himself from the world, and strived to create what is now considered as the Benares baj of tabla playing. Around the bend of the 20th century, Baldeo Sahai (1856-1906), the grand son of Ram Sahai, was the leader of the gharana. Two of his chief followers were Bhagavathi Sahai (1896-1946), the son and Kanthe Maharaj (1880-1969).The Benares format employs of the more ringing thumps of tabla, such as Na (performed on the lao), and Din. Benares performers choose to use the full-hand TeTe strokes, as opposed to the single finger modification favoured by the Delhi style, even though both stroke forms are incorporated into the Benares baj range. The Benares baj also employs nearly twenty different compositional types, and has a greatly varied range of each type.

The thinking behind this new style (Benaras baj) of tabla playing (as created by Ram Sahai) is that it would be flexible enough to play solo, and to accompany any style of music or dance. The tabla would have the ability to play sensitively, as required for khayal, or more forcefully, like pakhawaj, for the accompaniment of dhrupad or kathak dance.Ram Sahai created a new way of fingering the tabla strokes; particularly critical is the sound Na, being performed with a curved ring finger to allow for maximum resonance of the dahina. He also created numerous compositions within existing compositional forms (gats, tukras, parans etc.) and created new forms, such as uthan, Benarsi theka, and fard.Influences as diverse as vocal music and instrumental, pakhawaj playing and dance forms have led to a distinct technique and presentation. Rare taals such as pancham sawari, dhamar and shultal are performed. There are many similarities with the Punjab gharana, particularly in the repertoire.

Major Artists
Founder- Ram Sahai,Eminent leaders of the initial portion of this century in this gharana have been Pandit Kanthe Maharaj, Pandit Vacha Maharaj, Pandit Baldev Sahai and Pandit Vikku Maharaj. The more recent pundits of this form include Pandit Kishen Maharaj (follower of Pandit Kanthe Maharaj), Pandit Samta Prasad or Gudai Maharaj (follower of Vacha Maharaj, Vikku Maharaj and Baldev Sahai), Pandit Mahadeo Prasad Mishra (follwer of Baldev Sahai) and Pandit Anokhelal Mishra (Baldev Sahai), and Pandit Sharda Sahai (son of Baldev Sahai). Some of the foremost advocates of the current times are Kumar Bose (a disciple of his father Biswanath Bose), Mahapurush Mishra (Anokhelal Mishra), Sukhwinder Singh Namdhari (Nihal Singh and Kishan Maharaj), and Sandeep Das (Kishan Maharaj).Some of the foremost advocates of the current times are Kumar Bose (a disciple of his father Biswanath Bose), Mahapurush Mishra (Anokhelal Mishra), Sukhwinder Singh Namdhari (Nihal Singh and Kishan Maharaj), and Sandeep Das (Kishan Maharaj).

Hindustani Classical Music- Instrumental

o    The Benaras gharana of tabla performing (Hindustani classical music) is characterized into the Purbi (eastern) baj, which also comprises the Farukhabad and Lucknow gharanas.

o    Benares tabla players are triumphant in all aspects of tabla playing, even tabla solo, instrumental, vocal, and dance accompaniment. The tabla solo is greatly evolved in the Benares gharana, and certain artists, like Pandit Sharda Sahai, Pandit Kishan Maharaj, and Pandit Shamta Prasad, have achieved much fame as tabla soloists.