Pandit Pran Nath

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 his guru the legendary (but reclusive) singer Abdul Wahid Khan of the Kirana gharana, cousin of the more widely-known Abdul Karim Khan, and stayed with him 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, 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. Nath supported himself as a music teacher, and worked at the University of Delhi from 1960 to 1970.

In that year, Nath's life took a drastic turn upon contact with American composer La Monte Young and visual artist Marian Zazeela, who heard his first issued recording, Earth Groove: The Voice of Cosmic India (released in 1968 on the budget Douglas label, a subsidiary of Laurie Records), and persuaded him to come to the United States. 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 above all attracted a strong following among the American minimalist composers. His students include Young, Zazeela, Terry Riley, Sargam Shah, Charlemagne Palestine, Henry Flynt, Jon Hassell, Douglas Leedy, Don Cherry, Lee Konitz, Jon Gibson, Yoshi Wada, Rhys Chatham, Michael Harrison, W. A. Mathieu, Sufi Pir Shabda Kahn, Catherine Christer Hennix, and Simone Forti.

Nath made many recordings in the U.S., which are valuable documents of the Kirana style. Three recordings were released during his lifetime, Earth Groove, one by the Shandar label in France and the other by the Grammavision label in the US. Posthumously, Midnight a double CD (Just Dreams JD 003) with two full-length live recordings of the same bandishes in raga Malkauns from 1971 and 1976 was issued, as well as a CD The Raga Cycle published in 2006 on the Sri Moonshine label of a 1972 recording made in the Palace Theatre (Paris - France) of Ragas Shudh Sarang and Kut Todi.

Year / Artwork Title Importance Medium
1992 Aba Kee Tayk Hamaree (It Is My Turn, Oh Lord) 4.00 stars CD
New Music I Comments:
Kronos Quartet plus solists