Kirtan is a sophisticated style of vocal music deriving from Dhrupad.
The lyrics of the Vaishnava poets are classified into episodes in the
early life of Sri Krishna. Couplets of the lyrics are sung in a chaste
raga in slow dhrupadic measure by the leader of a group of singers and
their significance is elaborated in recitation or song. The refrain is
taken up by the group in quicker and quicker tempo until the chorus finishes
in a crescendo and then the next couplet is taken up by the leader. The
process goes on until a particular episode is completed. Tampura and khol,
are used for accompaniment. In recent times the box, harmonium and the
violin are also used. The Kirtan style is distinguished by its elements
of group singing and its use of complicated time-measures (talas) belonging
to the pre-Mughal school of Dhrupad. Four sub styles of Kirtan style have
developed in course of time. These are Manoharshahi, Garanhati, Mandarini
and Reneti schools, each with its distinctive manner of presentation
and incorporating some features of the different classical styles. There
is in Kirtan a harmonious combination of the mode and the lyrical message.