Pran Nath (musician)

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For the particle physicist, see Pran Nath.
Pran Nath
पंडित प्राणनाथ)
Born (1918-11-03)3 November 1918
Lahore, Pakistan
Died 13 June 1996(1996-06-13) (aged 77)
Berkeley, California, US
Genres Hindustani classical
  • Singer
  • Composer
Associated acts

Pandit Pran Nath (Devanagari: पंडित प्राणनाथ) (3 November 1918 – 13 June 1996) was a Hindustani classical singer and teacher of the Kirana Gharana (school).

Early life[edit]

Pran Nath was born into a wealthy family in Lahore in present-day Pakistan. While avid devotees of music (inviting musicians into the house to perform nightly), the family did not approve of his desire to become a musician, so he left home at the age of 13 and took up residence with legendary (but reclusive) singer Abdul Wahid Khan of the Kirana gharana, cousin of the more widely known Abdul Karim Khan. Pran Nath served Khan for 7 years before he was accepted as a student, and stayed with Khan for nearly two decades. Both guru and disciple were much attracted to mysticism: Abdul Wahid Khan, a Muslim, to Sufism, and Nath, a Hindu, to a Shaivite sect in Dehra Dun. It is said that Nath lived in a cave near the Tapkeswhar temple to Shiva for five years,[1] serving his guru intermittently. He eventually married and reentered the world at the request (guru dakshana) of his guru, in order to ensure the preservation of the Kirana style. In 1937, he became a staff artist with All India Radio.

However, Nath stuck to a very austere singing style – heavy emphasis on alap, and very slow tempi – which suited his voice well, but was not very popular to the modern Indian taste. Like his teacher Abdul Wahid Khan, Pran Nath's singing emphasized precise intonation and the gradual exposition of tone and mood in the alap section of the music.[2] Nath supported himself as a music teacher, and worked at the University of Delhi from 1960 to 1970. He was also a visiting professor of music at Mills College.[3]

Life in the United States[edit]

In 1970, Pran Nath travelled to New York to visit the American composer La Monte Young and visual artist Marian Zazeela, who heard his first issued recording, Earth Groove: The Voice of Cosmic India. In 1972, he established his Kirana Center for Indian Classical Music in New York City and stayed in the U.S. for the rest of his life. He taught at several universities and attracted a strong following among the American minimalist composers.[4]

Notable Students[edit]

For Nath's notable students, see List of music students by teacher: N to Q#Pran Nath.


  • Earth Groove (1968), Ragas Bhupali and Asavari
  • India's Master Vocalist (1972), Ragas Yaman Kalyan and Punjabi Berva
  • Ragas of Morning and Night (1986), Ragas Miya ki Todi and Darbari Kanada, two ragas for which Pran Nath was particularly noted
  • Midnight (2003), Raga Malkauns, two separate recordings made in 1971 and 1976
  • The Raga Cycle (2006), Ragas Shudh Sarang and Kut Todi, recorded in 1972

Unreleased recordings[edit]

Like his teacher, Abdul Wahid Khan, Pran Nath did not emphasize recording or the releasing of records, preferring live performance. As such, little recorded documentation of the Kirana Gharana style is available. While only three recordings of Pran Nath were released during his lifetime, a large number of recordings exist under the care of La Monte Young. In Pran Nath's will Young, as executor of his estate, was instructed to begin releasing recordings.[5]



  1. ^
  2. ^ Dhar, Sheila (2005). Raga n' Josh. Permanent Black. 
  3. ^ "Music at Mills, An Illustrious Musical History". 
  4. ^ Alexander Keefe, Lord of the Drone: Pandit Pran Nath and the American Underground
  5. ^ Lavezzoli, Peter (2006). The dawn of Indian music in the West: Bhairavi. Continuum. p. 256. 

External links[edit]