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The central concern of the Kirana style is swara, or individual notes, in particular precise tuning and expression of notes. In the Kirana Gayaki (singing style), the individual notes (swaras) of the raga are considered not just random points in the scale but independent realms of music capable of horizontal expansion. Highly emotional pukars in the higher octaves form a part of the musical experience. Another unique feature of this gharana is the highly intricate and ornate use of the sargam taan (weaving patterns with the notations themselves) introduced by Abdul Karim Khan under influence from the Carnatic classical style.
In the late nineteenth century Abdul Karim Khan and Abdul Wahid Khan revolutionized the khayal gayaki by introducing the vilambit (a slow tempo section) to delineate the structure of the raga note by note.
Frequently performed ragas by musicians of the gharana include Todi, Lalit, Multani, Patdeep, Puriya, Marwa, Shuddha Kalyan, Darbari Kanhara, and Komal-Rishabh Asavari. Noted Marathi thespian PuLa Deshpande has pointed out that performers from the Kirana gharana are particularly fond of the Komal Re/Rishabh (or minor second in the western system) note of the classical music scale, a frequent feature of these commonly performed ragas.
In the 19th-century the Kirana gharana coalesced around Miyan Bande Ali Khan, a player of the rudra veena. The gharana's style was further developed, and established as one of the prominent styles in modern Indian classical music in the late 19th / early 20th centuries by the musicians Abdul Karim Khan and Abdul Wahid Khan. Abdul Karim Khan was an extremely popular musician, and was thus highly influential in popularizing the gharana. Some trace the gharana's roots back farther to the 13th-century musician Gopal Nayak, a Hindu musician (of the dhrupad style) who later (forced to) converted to Islamic Sufism and in the process assimilated the predominantly Muslim khyal musical style.
The name of this school of music derives from Kirana or Kairana, a town and tehsil of Shamli District in Uttar Pradesh. It is the birthplace of Abdul Karim Khan (1872–1937), who was one of the most important musicians of this gharana and of Hindustani music in general in the twentieth century. A frequent visitor to the Court of Mysore, Abdul Karim Khan was also influenced by Carnatic music, and roots of the tradition can also be traced back to his great-grandfather Ghulam Ali and Ghulam Maula, the brother of Ghulam Ali.
Owing to the popularity of Abdul Karim Khan, most contemporary Hindustani musicians from Karnataka are exponents of Kirana gharana, and Kirana gharana in turn has absorbed many of the features of the Carnatic tradition. The culturally rich border region between Karnataka and Maharashtra is particularly well known for its association with the gharana.
- Abdul Karim Khan (1872–1937), gharana founder
- Abdul Wahid Khan (1885–1949), cousin of Abdul Karim Khan and gharana co-founder
- Sawai Gandharva (1886–1952), disciple of Abdul Karim Khan
- Sureshbabu Mane (1902–1953), son and disciple of Abdul Karim Khan, also learned from Abdul Wahid Khan
- Hirabai Barodekar (1905–1989), daughter of Abdul Karim Khan, also learned from Abdul Wahid Khan
- Roshan Ara Begum (1917- 6 Dec 1982)
- Saraswati Rane
- Gangubai Hangal (1913-2006), disciple of Sawai Gandharva
- Firoz Dastur (1919-2008), disciple of Sawai Gandharva
- Bhimsen Joshi (1922-2011), disciple of Sawai Gandharva
- Basavaraj Rajguru (1917-1991), disciple of Panchakshara Gawai, Sureshbabu Mane and Abdul Wahid Khan
- Jayateerth Mevundi, disciple of Shripati Padigar
- Manik Varma (1920 - November 10, 1996), disciple of Sureshbabu Mane and Hirabai Barodekar, also learned in other gharanas
- Milind Chittal, disciple of Firoz Dastur
- Prabha Atre (born 13 September 1932), disciple of Sureshbabu Mane and Hirabai Barodekar
- Sanhita Nandi, disciple of Mashkoor Ali Khan
- Sumitra Guha, disciple of A. Kanan
- "Torch-bearers of kirana gharana, and their followers". Times of India. 26 January 2011. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
- "Kirana gharana". ITC Sangeet Research Academy. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
- Lavezzoli, p. 246
- Roshan Ara Begum (1994). Kirana. Gramophone Co. of India.
- Carolyn M. Starr (1984). Intonation in the Kirana Gharana: A Pilot Study. Mills college.
- Bonnie C. Wade (1984). Khyāl: Creativity Within North India's Classical Music Tradition. CUP Archive. ISBN 978-0-521-25659-9.
- Peter Lavezzoli (2006). The Dawn of Indian Music in the West. Continuum. ISBN 978-0-8264-1815-9.