Monday, 2 December 2013

Who’s Who in Classical Music

Abdul Karim Khan (1872-1937)

By Priyadarshini Ram

In August every year, the town of Miraj in southern Maharashtra comes alive with resonating strains of music. The almost month long series of music concerts pay homage to one of the greatest vocalists of Hindustani classical music of the 20th century, Ustad Abdul Karim Khan. He was a favourite recording artist with the Gramophone Company of India.

A child prodigy who gave his first performance at the tender age of six, Abdul Karim Khan had music in his blood, tracing his ancestry through his grandfather Ghulam Ali, father Kale Khan and uncle, Abdullah Khan. His initial musical training, apart from vocals, included the Sarangi, Veena, Sitar and the Tabla. It is said that he was a proficient Sarangi performer because it was the only accompanying musical instrument to a vocal singer in those days, but the lack of appreciation and encouragement for Sarangi players in comparison to vocalists turned his concentration to Hindustani vocal.

Ustad Abdul Karim Khan was born in Kirana in the Saharanpur District of Uttar Pradesh in 1872. By the age of 15, he had become an accomplished vocalist with many admirers. At the Royal Court of Baroda to which he was appointed, he had the opportunity of receiving guidance from Ustad Rahimat Khan of Gwalior who tutored him in voice modulation and intonation. In later years, Karim Khan grew close to the Mysore royal family. During his frequent visits to the Mysore Durbar, he developed good relations with Carnatic musicians from the south; the influence of these ties was very evident in his adaptable singing style. He was probably the earliest Hindustani classical musician to study Carnatic music in depth and recorded a Tyagaraja kriti.

The Kirana gharana founded by him has inspired many and is a sought after style of singing to this day. Well known vocal exponents of the Kirana gharana include Sawai Gandharva, Bhimsen Joshi, Vinayak Torvi and Kaivalya Kumar.

Ustad Abdul Karim Khan passed away in 1937 while on his way back to Miraj from an extended tour of the south.


  1. Suresh Ramaswamy2 December 2013 at 21:35

    Keserbai Kerkar was a disciple of Ustad Alladiya Khan Saheb and belongs to Jaipur Gharana. Gayan Kokila Padma Vibhushan Vidushi Heerabai Barodekar is another doyen of Kairana Gharana and is the Daughter of Ustad Abdul karim Khan Saheb. Please correct this error

  2. Keserbai Kerkar was a Jaipur Atrauli Gharana vocalist . The kairana Gharana vocalist was Smt. Heerabai Barodekar who was the daughter of Ust. Abdul Karim Khan Saheb. Please correct it