If there could ever be an embodiment of beauty in Indian Classical Music, then no gharana could probably make a more righteous claim than the Kirana. The word gharana may require enunciation before proceeding further. It has been derived from the word ghar, meaning home and is in fact an abode (not necessarily in the physical sense), but one which enshrines the essential character traits of a gharana (a school of thought). It usually starts with one individual who lays the plinth on which successive musicians for generations to come, continue building tier after tier. The gharana gets its name from the name of the place to which the founder musician belonged.
In the case of the Kirana gharana, the foundation was laid by the two ustads, Abdul Karim Khan sahab and Abdul Wahid Khan Sahab, both of whom shown among the brightest in the horizon of Indian Classical Music in the first half of the last century. The gharana traces its origin to the days of Nayak Gopal and Nayak Dhondu. Kirana was in fact a small village near Muzaffar Nagar in The North Indian State of Uttar Pradesh where many musicians including Beenkars (players of the Been, a string instrument) and Sarangi (a bowing instrument) players took refuge after being driven away by floods. Ustad Bande Ali Khan sahab, the great master of the Been was the first great luminary of the Kirana school who was taught by his father Ustad Sadiq Ali Khan sahab and also combined in him a few aspects of the Gwalior gayaki (one of the oldest Gharanas of India) He had a large following of Disciples including Murad Khan sahab Beenkar, Bhaiya Ganpat Rao (Harmonium), Jafar Khan (the grandfather of Halim Jafer Khan) and Rehmat Khan Dharwarwale. The legendary Bhaskar Buva Bakhle was also initially taught by Ustad Bande Ali Khan sahab .It was late in the nineteenth century that the two ustads Abdul Karim Khan sahab and Abdul Wahid Khan Sahab revolutionized the very concept of khayal gayaki by introducing the vilambit or the slow tempo method to delineate the raga note by note known as the Khandmeeru.
The Kirana Gayaki is a coalescence of various ang (parts) of the Sarangi baaz (style of playing), the Been ang and the Dhrupad ang (original form of Indian classical music). The individual swaras (notes) of the Raga are considered not just random points in the scale but independent realms of music capable of horizontal expansion. Mind blowing, emotion drenched Pukars in the higher octaves form a part of the musical experience. Another unique feature of this gharana is the highly intricate and ornate use of the Sargam Taan, which was improvised by Ustad Abdul Karim Khan sahab as a direct influence of the Carnatic Classical style. The gharana also has its vast repertoire of rarely heard Ragas and exclusive Bandishes .Whereas a popular misconception about the Kirana Gharana is that its performers restrict themselves to the rendition of a few traditional Ragas only and uncommon Ragas are not often heard, the truth is that the Kiaranawallas (those belonging to the Kirana Gharana) have established their indelible mark on certain Ragas so much so that both the audience and the performer desire the Ragas time and again. Ragas like Todi, Lalit, Multani, Patdeep, Puriya, Marwa, Shuddha Kalyan, Darbari Kanhara and many others have acquired new dimensions under the Kirana Gayaki. This is in fact true of most Gharanas and each has its own unique treasure house of Ragas and compositions and favourite Ragas on which to pride on.
Abdul Karim Khan sahab’s music was mesmerizing and never failed to have the entire audience in tears. He was truly a melifluity incarnate and his high pitched impeccable voice was often not discernable from the drone of his jora taanpuras. Abdul Wahid Khan sahab’s music was more authoritative and he is known to be capable of performing a single raga for four or five hours together. He was conferred the title of, “sartaj-e-mousiki”, meaning the crown of all musicians. The two ustads had a whole group of star musicians as their disciples who would carry on the legacy over the decades of the century.
Abdul Karim Khan sahab’s three children Suresh Babu Mane, Hirabai Barodekar, Saraswati Rane established themselves as leading exponents of the gharana, out of whom Hirabai Barodekar became the most illustrious. She in fact received her talim mainly from Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan sahab. Other major disciples included, Balkrishna Buva Kapileshwari, Ganesh Ramchandra Behere, Sawai Gandharva, Firoz Dastoor and of course the inimitable Roshan Ara Begum. These masters in their own time went on to produce greats like Bhimsen Joshi, Gangubai Hangal, Manik Verma, Prabha Atre and many others.
Abdul Wahid Khan sahab cast his magic spell over Ustad Amir Khan, son of Shahmeer Khan a Sarangi player while still young. Amir Khan sahab was not officially a disciple of Abdul Wahid Khan sahab but considered him as his manas-guru, that is idol-worshipped him. Khan sahab’s influence is clearly discernable in his music especially in his vilambit khayal (slow enunciation). Amir Khan sahab was also influenced by Ustad Rajab Ali Khan sahab; another great exponent of the Kirana and a contemporary of Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan sahab. The ustad also exerted his influence over the two famous ustad duos, the ustads Faiyaz Ahmed Khan and Niyaz Ahmed Khan who were taught by their father Ustad Bashir Ahmed Khan. Abdul Wahid Khan sahab taught the nightingale incarnate of Indian Classical Music Begum Akhtar, though she was not a Khayal singer but specialized in Thumri and Ghazals. Among his other disciples are included Pandit Prannath who devoted the later part of his life to the popularizing of Indian Classical Music in the U.S.A. Madhuri Matto and Jawaharlal Mattoo were devoted disciples of the Ustad. The galaxy of disciples includes music director Firoz Nizami and the legendary playback and Ghazal (Urdu love songs) singer of India, Mohd. Rafi.
The other most remarkable disciple of Wahid Khan sahab was his nephew Ustad Shakoor Khan sahab who certainly was one of the greatest virtuoso of the sarangi, not only of his age but of all times. He was also the first sarangi nawaz to be honoured with the Padmashree by the president of India. Today his sons Ustad Mashkoor Ali Khan sahab and Ustad Mubarak Ali Khan sahab, who received extensive talim from the great ustad their father, for fifteen long years, are carrying on the tradition.
Both the ustads have numerous prodigious disciples including their nephews Amjad Ali Khan and Arshad Ali Khan, Sandip Bhattacharjee, the late Shanti Sharma, the American composer/pianist Michael Harrison, Roop Kumar Rathod and his wife Sonali, and Shahana Ali Khan (daughter of Ustad Mashkoor Ali Khan)