How did Dharwad become ground zero of music?

Kumar Gandharva, Basavaraj Rajguru, Puttaraj Gawai, Mallikarjuna Mansur, Gangubai Hanagal, Bhimsen Joshi, Venkatesh Kumar….

The roster of titans from within a hundred-mile radius of Dharwad is long and illustrious. But how and why did the north Karnataka town become the ground zero of shastriya sangeet, the confluence of classical Hindustani and Carnatic music? Is it the mannina guna? Is it the guru-shishya tradition?

The Bangalore-based historian Ramachandra Guha offers a view in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“It was part of the Bombay presidency, and thus subject to influences from those two great musical centres, Pune and Mumbai. Even closer were the towns of Kolhapur and Miraj, where some famous (Muslim) teachers of music had settled, at the invitation of princes who were patrons of culture. Since Dharwad falls broadly in the region known as ‘South’ India, perhaps these vocalists also drew to some extent on the Carnatic style of music. We do know for certain that they were deeply influenced by folk traditions and by medieval saints. Both Bhimsen and Mallikarjun liked to sing songs composed by Purandaradasa, whereas Kumar Gandharva reinterpreted Kabir with great feeling and sensitivity for a 20th-century audience.”

Photograph: courtesy The Indian Express

Read the article in Kannada at Praja Vani: Jagathige serida sangeetha lokada dheemantaru

Also read: Where the soil, air and peda help the vocal chords

From Dharwad, India’s best shehnai player today, S. Balesh