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Arts & Crafts of West Bengal


Music

Vishnupur School or Gharana Style


The Charyapadas, the collection of Bengali devotional songs, were sung to the classical ragas, whose tonal formulation is different from the standardized formulation developed in the time of the great Mughals by musical masters of northern India. The court at Delhi patronised classical music. The tradition was set by Mian Tansen, court musician of Emperor Akbar, an exponent of dhrupad style, who ruled the musical world of northern India. As the Mughal authority declined, the disciples and descendants of Tansen started leaving Delhi. A number of them found warm reception with Bengali feudatory chiefs. A descendant of Tansen, a 'dhrupadiya' named Bahadur Khan, settled himself in the court of the feudatory chief of Vishnupur and started a school of music which came to be known as the Vishnupur school or Gharana which produced a line of eminent musicians, many of whom were retained by wealthy landlords interested in Indian classical music. Prominent among such patrons in the mid-nineteenth century were the members of the Tagore family, Saurindramohan Tagore and his brother Jatindhramohan Tagore whose efforts made Calcutta a main centre of Hindustani classical music in Bengal. Some other masters of this school were retained by Devendrnath Tagore for coaching the members of his family and also for setting the music of Brahmo devotional songs in the solemn and dignified style of Dhrupad.

A lighter style of song which had great vogue in nineteenth century Bengal is Tappa, originally introduced during the first half of the century by Ramnidhi Gupta or Nidhu Babu who composed a number of memorable songs of secular love in Bengali which became quite a fashion among the gentry in a short time. By and by its features were assimilated in popular music of diverse kinds-in songs of devotion, in Jatra songs and other compositions by later composers.

Thumri was a later arrival, having been introduced by Nawab Wazid Ali Shah of Oudh. Thumri was the lightest of all classical styles. It  took a considerable time to earn popular appreciation which came only after Kazi Nazural Islam and Atulprasad Sen  composed scintillating love lyrics in this style during the early years of the present century.

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