The Sufiana Gharana &The Sopori Baaj
Literally speaking, a Gharana refers to a family or lineage, usually across multiple generations.
In the Hindustani (North-Indian) classical musical tradition, a Gharana represents a lineage of musicians with a distinctive performance style, school of thought or tradition, often being a combination of all these elements. While some Gharanas focus exclusively on only vocal or instrumental music, there are some that have both vocal and instrumental traditions. Gharanas often owe their origin to one or more masters and are often named after the place where these masters stayed and taught students under the traditional Guru-Shishya Parampara.
Successive generations of students carry forward the legacy of the masters leading to the creation of a Gharana.The Gharana system, being a living tradition, is inherently dynamic. Innovations within this system, over time, can lead to the formation of notable, identifiable branches within the existing Gharana, or even entirely new stylistic variations that may in time lead to the formationof new Gharanas.
The Sufiana Gharana of Kashmir comprises of two traditions - Hindustani Classical (from North India) and Sufiana music of Kashmir, which itself owes its roots to the Shaivé Gayan and later Sufiana Mousiqui. It gets its name from Sufi Parampara of Kashmir and is the only musical Gharana from the Jammu and Kashmir region. The Gharana includes both vocal (Sufiana and Hindustani Classical) and instrumental elements - Kashmiri Sitar, Wasool (traditional Kashmiri rhythmic instrument), Dukra (Tabla) and Hindustani Classical Sitar and the Santoor.
The Sopori family of Sufiana Gharana is the exclusive traditional Santoor family of the country. Nine generations of the family have been the traditional custodians of the Santoor for over 300 years. The ‘Father of Indian Classical Music in J&K’, Pandit Shambhoo Nath Sopori, living legend and noted composer, Pandit Bhajan Sopori, and his talented son, Abhay Rustum Sopori, are the present torchbearers of the family. It is also to the credit of the Sopori Family that Hindustani Classical and Light Music acquire legitimate space in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and its culture. With Santoor as its main forte for centuries, the Sufiana Gharana has been the first to establish improvisation rules in Santoor and is responsible for modifying the original Kashmiri Santoor.
Masters from the Sopori family made changes to the structure of the instrument and created innovative playing techniques to incorporate Bols (playing strokes or sound syllables) and other technicalities nuances to maintain the purity of the Raag or the Muqaam that was being played. This has culminated in the development of the Sopori Baaj (style), a formal system of classical Raag exposition on the Santoor based on the seminal contributions of Pandit Bhajan Sopori over as pan of more than fifty years.The Sopori Baaj of the Sufiana Gharana created by Pandit Bhajan Sopori, has a unique presentation style that incorporates both the Gayaki (vocal) and the Tantrakari (instrumental, especially stringed) Ang (aspects) while presenting the Raag (melodic form) on the Santoor in its authentic, purist form in accordance with the traditional Raag–Shastra (grammatical and structural nuances of the individual melodic forms as described in the classical treatises).
This includes playing of the Dhrupad Ang in its purist form to the accompaniment of the Pakhawaj, a pioneering step. Stress is laid on the Alaap, Jod-Alaap in the Dhrupad style, Raag Vistaar (elaboration and exposition of the Raag or melodic form) and variety of taan patterns (tonal and microtonal variations created using various permutations and combinations of the notes of the Raag for ornamentation and to highlight the stylistic nuances of the particular melodic form) to enhance the beauty of the presentation and highlighting all its subtleties. Emphasis is also laid on maintaining the essential stylistic nuances of exclusive technicalities introduced by the maestro like Meend (glissando movement), Gamak, glides, cross glides, double octave taans, krintan, etc. and intricate ‘Layakari’(complex mathematical variations in tempo within a fi xedbeat-cycle), ‘Chhandhkari’ (rhythmic patterns with fixed meters thatare set against various beat-cycles with varying tempos) and variety of Bols.
Further Pandit Bhajan Sopori has composed a number of Gats(instrumental compositions) and Bandishes (vocal compositions) set to different Taals (beat-cycles). Apart from the Dhrupad and Khayal Ang, other classical, semi-classical and light-classical forms such as Tarana, Tappa, Tapp-Khayal, Thumri, etc. are also rendered on the Santoor in the Sopori Baaj.