Quietly fading into oblivion

May 29th, 2009 | By editor | Category: City Culture, Heritage, Music & Dance

Rampur gharana, which gave Hindustani classical music many a name to reckon with, is struggling to survive on its home turf. 

Sakuntala Narasimhan’s book “The Splendour of Rampur-Sahaswan Gharana” highlights the genre’s singularities. Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash


Rampur in Uttar Pradesh is a historical city known for its eventful past, grand architectural legacy, places of interest, bazaar and unmatched crafts. Founded by the great Rohilla, Nawab Ali Mohammad Khan, the royal city has seen the rise and fall of many dynasties. Rampur is no less known for its contribution to Hindustani classical music and has produced many great musicians. The Rampur music gharana was founded by Ustad Bahadur Hussain Khan, a descendant of Mian Tansen, and Ustad Ameer Khan. It was characterised by some special charms in the use of alap, dhrupad and dhamar and in the instrumental music which were not found anywhere in India.

Rampur gharana may be called a special formation of the original Tansen gharana. During the early part of the 20th Century, Nawab Hamid Ali Khan of Rampur formed a unique musical association presided over by Sangeet Nayak Wazir Khan, the last direct descendant of Mian Tansen, and built the musical career of many outstanding musicians like Alauddin Khan who formed Rampur-Maiharsen gharana, Hafiz Ali Khan, the father of sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Mushtaque Hussain Khan, Pramathanath Bandopadhyay and many more. The Rampur darbar was a meeting place for scholars and musicians of repute. Alas, the city today is just left with sweet memories of the past. If you walk down the streets, which used to be so alive in the evenings, are just parched today. Rampur used to be choc-a-block with great classical musicians, it is now left with their glory. It must be underlined that the vibrant Rampur musical scene did not evaporate into thin air all of a sudden. Several grave reasons contributed to its decline. Post-Independence, the classical musicians began to lose their patrons, they were compelled to look for other means of livelihood. Though many of them shifted to big cities like Kolkata, Mumbai, Delhi, Lucknow and Varanasi looking for ways to keep their music alive, they couldn’t sustain for a long time.

Unfortunately, classical music in Rampur was restricted to the nawabs and the rich, it was never introduced to common man. “This became an important reason for the decline of classical music,” says Jameel Khan, a classical and light musician fromRampur. Jameel started learning classical music in 1952. He recalls, “At that time there were around 25 classical musicians but at present just two musicians are left in this imperial conurbation.”

Jameel was trained in tappa, khayal and thumri by Ustad Chhote Wazir Khan and on harmonium by Ustad Ibne Ali Mian, who was designated as the harmonium player in Rampur darbar during the regime of Nawab Raza Ali Khan. Today, ask him why he has not passed on his talent to his children, he replies with disdain, “You want my children to suffer like me? They ask me, ‘Abba aapne kya kamaya aaj tak? We don’t want to work for peanuts.’ Even I realise that their decision is good for their future.” He though adds, “Classical music is a very complicated art, but today’s generation is very impatient.”

Finding it difficult to make two ends meet, Jameel has moved to light music.

Talking about the general decline of classical music, Ustad Pranab Kumar of Rampur-Sahaswan gharana says, “Our film industry has become so commercial, there is very little scope left for this genre. I remember the last Hindi film ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’ for it gave space to classical music.”

These local musicians rue that though local politicians come with a long list of things to do whenever elections come they have never thought of reviving the glory of Rampur gharana, which gave many great musicians to Hindustani music.

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