Indistinct future of classical music

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Lahore: A century of Sub-continent’s cultural history has vanished with the eleven classical singing families as they have reduced to only five since the existence of Pakistan.

Author, teacher and classical singer Ustaad Badar Uz Zaman told News Lens Pakistan that when three generations incessantly perform in a classical form of singing, they become entitled to be called as Gharana in the Sub-continent.

“In 1947, most of these Gharanas traveled to Pakistan with their prosperous history and traditions of singing. But gharanas like Talwandi, Agra, Kirana, Haryana, Kapoorthala and Delhi have departed from Pakistan.”

“Jaipur is also at the last juncture of fading after the demise of maestro Ustaad Mehdi Hassan. Talwandi Gharana was the oldest with the style of Dhrupad singing and Ustaad Mehar Khan brought this custom to Pakistan,” he added.

“Kasur Gharana is older than the prodigy maestro Mian Tansen (1506-1589) and Ustaad Chotay Ghulam Ali Khan was the last descendent,” he further said.

“Only my borther Qamar Uz Zaman and I are carrying this tradition being a student of this Gharana. More than five hundred years of cultural heritage is under threat of desertion as the real heirs have abandoned it because of financial restraints and societal attitude towards music”, he added.

Secretary General of All Pakistan Music Conference Dr. Ghazala Irfan described classical singing to News Lens Pakistan as the elegant compilation of notes. She said, “This singing carries sentiments through different Ragas (melodies) that eventually create tunes.”

“Singers of classical Gharanas know how to fill the gaps between two notes which other singers are usually unable to perform. This style of singing is actually a skill in variation of pitches. The children of these families are also trained in creating charismatic Taal (Rhythm),” Dr Ghazala added.

“Hayyat Ahmed Khan established All Pakistan Music Conference in 1959 just to promote classical singing and to offer financial opportunities to singers,” Dr. Ghazala further told News lens Pakistan. However, the rise of western music is another vital reason of overpowering this region’s classical singing.

Dr Ghazala added, “Social behavior couldn’t encourage our singers to bring innovation in classical style. Furthermore, the audience of this form condensed as western music started hitting the global market. Now youngsters of remaining classical Gharanas are shifting to pop music as they take it as a good source of earning money and fame.”

Singer and author of “Melody Makers of Sub- continent” Dr. Amjad Pervaiz told News Lens Pakistan that Agra Gharana of Khayal singing has disappeared after 1975 with the death of Ustaad Asad Ali Khan.

“Roshan Ara Begum brought Kirana Gharana with its rich Khayal and Thomri style of singing. She also sang Ghazals and later Film songs with new style. Haryana Gharana was presented by the only Baba Muhammad Baksh and his sons didn’t carry that historical tradition,” he added.

Former Director General Pakistan National Council of Arts Tauqeer Nasir told News Lens Pakistan that the tradition of classical singing went astray after the downfall of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

“The dictator General Zia Ul Haq’s anti culture activities truly smashed art in the country and it is still going on. General Zia and Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir stand at the same page to destroy culture,” he said.

Only four Gharanas including Shaam Churasi, Patiyala, Gwalior and Kasur still carry their historical cultural tradition while singers of Delhi Gharana have now shifted to Qawali from Khayal singing.

Ustaad Ghulam Hassan Shaggan of Gwalior Gharana who introduced Taal by using his hands passed away on 3rd Feburary 2015. Now, Ustaad Fateh Ali Khan Hyderabadi is the lone singer left of Gwalior style of singing.

“It has been very hard to earn enough livelihoods for us and for our families,” Ustaad Fateh Ali Khan told News Lens Pakistan. “Youngsters make fun of us during our performance. Our next generation has nothing to get motivation as change in listening habits has reduced space for us”.

Patiala Gharana established semi classical singing and light music to be with the changing disposition of spectators but still senior members of this Gharana are discontented.

“My sons and nephews have established pop musical bands as they are set to learn classical method but not ready to perform”, Ustaad Hamid Ali Khan stated while talking to News Lens Pakistan.

Emerging singer of Patiala Gharana Wali Hamid says that there is nothing left in classical singing if you want to perform it in a public gathering. “I learnt this traditional art from my father and uncle but I preferred to establish a pop musical band. In fact, I earn a lot more than my father does”, he told News Lens Pakistan.

“There are several art councils in the country trying to promote classical singing but without the help of civil society and music lovers it seems impossible,” Chairman Lahore Arts Council Atta Ul Haq Qasmi told News Lens Pakistan.

“Only government isn’t capable enough to keep this form of music alive. Singers of Gharanas should also try to make music that creates space in the masses. Arts councils conduct various festivals only for classical music and now a subject has been introduced to give financial opportunities to our maestros”, he adds.

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