Abdul Karim Khan (C. 1872-1937)

Posted By: Pooja On 18th Aug, 2012 1:36 PM

Category: Biographical Information
Genre: Hindustani Classical Music
Publisher: Aneesh Pradhan
Author: Aneesh Pradhan

Born in Kairana (Uttar Pradesh), young Abdul Karim Khan had his initial training in music from his father Kale Khan. He attended many concerts and conferences with his father. He left Kairana in 1894 to pursue a career in music, and never returned to his hometown. His style came to be called the Kirana gharana and has been kept alive by many luminaries.


Abdul Karim Khan first settled in the princely state of Baroda, where he taught Tarabai Mane.  Both fell in love and had to escape from the princely state. They came to Mumbai and finally settled in Miraj in about 1901. He began to teach at his residence according to the traditional guru-shishya parampara (master-disciple tradition).


During his stay in Mumbai, he visited S. Rose and Company, dealers of musical instruments.  Their store was situated very close to the present-day Rhythm House behind the Chhatrapati Shivaji Vastusangrahalaya (earlier Prince of Wales Museum) and opposite the Jehangir Art Gallery.  It was during one such visit in around 1905 that he was introduced to the recording experts of The Gramophone Company, who were recording on the first floor of the same building.


Abdul Karim Khan cut 23 recordings for the company. As they had limited stock of wax masters of 7” and 10” size only, the recordings ranged from 90 seconds to three minutes. The recordings were made using the ‘acoustic’ method; hence, the accompanying instruments were not recorded properly.   The repertoire on these recordings consists of Jogiya (Harika Bhed Na Payo), Lalat (Piyu Piyu Ratat Papihara), Hindol (Laljina Kara Ho), Bhairavi thumri (Kanha Tori Batiya), Meera bhajan (Mere To Giridhar Gopal), Kafi, Desh, Khamaj, Basant, Bhoopali, Sughrai, and Malkauns. He has also sung Tilang thumri and taranas in raags Shankara, Sohoni, Jaunpuri and Sarang, each for 90 seconds. These recordings were all forgotten, but Michael Kinnear of Australia re-mastered them in London using the copies at EMI Archives in London and these songs were reissued in 1994 under ‘Chairman’s Choice’ series (CMC 882519), both on tape and CD formats. Surprisingly, he has not announced his name at the end of any song, contrary to the custom during that period.


In 1910, Abdul Karim Khan and Tarabai founded Arya Sangeet Vidyalaya, a music school that soon had branches in many cities. He was one of the first few musicians to perform in ticketed theatre shows, and this became a model for others. He had five children and the entire family would perform at the shows. Unfortunately, the family separated in about 1916 and the children never met the father again. Later the children gained recognition as musicians.  Sureshbabu Mane (Abdul Rahman), Heerabai Barodekar (Champakali alias Champutai), Kamlabai Barodekar (Gulab), Saraswati (Mane) Rane (Gulbadan alias Chhotutai), and Krishnarao Mane (Abdul Hamid alias Papa).


Abdul Karim Khan travelled and performed extensively in southern India. He was honored with the title Sangeet Ratna by the Maharaja of Mysore.  In 1935, Bai Sunderabai of Poona persuaded him to record for the Odeon Company. With the patronage from the Maharaja of Mysore he cut two songs in raags Saveri and Karharpriya. With his persuasion and conditions, Odeon Company also recorded Abdul Karim Khan’s been recital. He wanted to spend the royalty accrued from this record for constructing a tomb in Pune in memory of Bande Ali Khan. His disciples completed this work after his death in 1937.


He spent most of his life teaching and performing in Maharashtra.



- Based on information provided by Dr. Suresh Chandvankar – Hon. Sec., Society of Indian Record Collectors



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