THE MUSICIAN AND GHARANA MODERN
Abdul Karim Khan and Hirabai Barodekar
In 1894, a young musician named Abdul Karim Khan and his brother, Abdul Haq, came to Baroda. They were sons of a Delhi musician and, for close to a decade, they had performed in numerous courts and cities—including Meraj, Meerut, Mysore, Jaipur, Junagadh, Kathiawad, and Malwa. Now they came to try their luck in Baroda. It was a court well known for its patronage of music as well as for its famous musicians. Abdul Karim and Abdul Haq came to hear those musicians sing, perform in the court if invited, and to uphold the kirana gharana tradition to which they belonged.
Soon the brothers were the talk of the town. Baroda musicians debated their controversial musical performances, and their fearlessness pleased the ruler, Sayajirao Gaekwad. Their accomplishments might have led to a long career as Baroda court musicians, but instead their stay came to a precipitous end. In 1898, four years after his arrival, Abdul Karim stole out of Baroda under cover of darkness. By itself, this stealthy departure does not leave any wrinkles on the fabric of music’s history. What turns Abdul Karim’s departure into one of Hindustani music’s most loved scandals was that a young woman, Tarabai Mane, went with him.
Tarabai and Abdul Karim’s elopement required stealth. She was Hindu,