Torchbearer of Lucknow Gharana Pandit Swaraj Bhattacharaya spoke to Kaushik Chattapadhyay on behalf of BE
In the early part of the 18th century, Siddhar Khan of Delhi was a very talented tabla player. With his imaginative faculty, he developed a systematic solo performance in tabla. Besides Delhi, popular tablagharanas of present India viz. Lucknow, Benaras, Farukabad and Ajrara took shape from the descendents of Siddhar Khan. The Punjab gharana emerged from a different source of Dukkar (Dhama) baaj and Pakhawaj.
(1842-1847 A.D.) Nawab of Lucknow (Ayodha) Amzad Ali Shah was a great connoisseur of music. Lucknow was then experiencing a rapid development of kathak dance and thumri. The nawab was looking for able tabla players to accompany dance and vocal music in his court. He came to know about Bakshu Khan and his brother Mouju Khan, great grandsons of Sidhar Khan. Eventually both of them were invited by the nawab to ornament his court as accompanists. Thus the foundation of the Luck-now Gharana was laid.(1847-1856 A.D.) The last nawab of Lucknow, Wajed Ali Shah was much more of a musician than a competent ruler. He happened to be a poet, lyricist, singer, dancer and percussionist. During his tenure Lucknow became the most important centre of excellence for Indian music. But unfortunately for Lucknow and fortunately for Kolkata, the British colonial imperialist government took over his domain and banished him to Kolkata in 1856 with an annuity of 12 lakh rupees. The nawab settled in Kolkata and many of the musicians and dancers took courage to visit Kolkata from Lucknow under the patronage of the exiled nawab.
Manmothonath Ganguly of Kolkata took the initiative to learn tabla from Babu Khan, great grandson of Bakshu Khan. Later Ganguly invited Abid Hussain Khan another great grandson of Bakshu khan to teach his son Hirendra Kumar Ganguly (HiruBabu). He also taught his nephew Krishna Kumar Ganguly (Natu Babu) from Chotten Khan another great grandson of Bakshu Khan. Thus three great grandsons of Bakshu Khan, founder of Lucknow tabla, stepped into Kolkata and were received with great respect and humility. Later Wajid Hussain Khan (nephew of Abid Hussain) and his illustrious son Afaque Hussain Khan were also kind enough to teach tabla in Kolkata for a long period.
Since the early 20th century, Lucknow gharana of tabla gradually became confined to Kolkata and Lucknow. All the maestros were spiritualistic and amateurish. They were much more soloist than an accompanist. As a result their disciples became less interested in accompaniment and occupied themselves with promoting solo tabla. The only exception is Swapan Choudhury, an internationally renowned tabla artist who has proved his excellence both in solo and accompaniment. Besides, Illmash Hussain Khan (son of Afaque Hussain Khan), Timir Roy Choudhury, Prabir Mitra, Biswajit Bhattacharya and many more are cultivating tabla as per their potential and opportunity.
I inherited tabla from my father Bibhutibhusan Bandopadhyay, disciple of Hemanta Bhattacharya who was directly a disciple of Manmatha Ganguly. Later I had the fortune to learn tabla from Afaque Hussain and his father Wajid Hussain. Finally I learnt from Hiru Babu till his death in 1993. Thus I came to know about Lucknow gharana of tabla from these maestros.It is impossible for a human being to know about the nuances and repertoire of a particular gharana. Socio-economic-geographic conditions, individual talent, education, physical abilities and financial status are a few of the criteria in pursuing any subject to its highest level. Consequently Lucknow tabla was also manifested in multifarious ways by different descendants and disciples. Accompanying kathak dance necessitated making of many more syllables containing louder and powerful sound of both tabla and bayan, making different rhythms, layakari and speed. On the other hand thumri accompaniment demanded creation of laggi and laree which are characteristic features of Lucknow gharana. I have been trying to blend all the flavours and teaching my disciples, as I was instructed by my Gurus. Some of my students are trying to establish this blended taste of Lucknow gharana of tabla in different parts of our country religiously...