Benares Tabla Lineage
Pandit Ram Sahai Ji : 1780 - 1826
The Benares tabla gharana was developed a little over 200 years ago by Pandit Ram Sahai (1780-1826). Ram Sahai began studying the tabla with his father from the age of five. At the age of nine, he moved to Lucknow to become the disciple of Modhu Khan of the Lucknow Gharana.
When Ram Sahai was seventeen years old, Wazir Ali Khan, the new Nawab, asked Modhu Khan if Ram Sahai could perform a recital for him. Modhu Khan agreed, on the condition that Ram Sahai would not be interrupted until he finished playing.
It is said that Ram Sahai played for seven consecutive nights, and that after this incredible performance, Ram Sahai was praised by all the members of the community and was showered with gifts. Shortly after this performance, Ram Sahai returned to Benares.
Pandit Bhairav Sahai Ji : 1815 - 1894
Pandit Bhairav Sahai Ji was a great devotee of Lord Bhairav from whom he received blsesings to be a great tabla player. His performances were extremely powerful and he was renowned for his playing of laykari (cross rhythms). He boasted that the only way he would get tired while playing was if he accompanied dance, vocal and instrumental all at the same time and with each playing a different taal.
He had a very strong personality and was a sword fighter and a great horseman. Once when he performed in the court of Nepal he was asked by the King what he would like. He asked for a horse, a sword and a gun explaining that he had to cross a mountain to get home and it was a dangerous journey. With the blessings of Lord Bhairav he became a musician in the court of Darbhangar in Bihar. Pandit Bhairav Sahai Ji had one son - Pandit Baldeo Sahai Ji.
Pandit Baldeo Sahai Ji : 1856 - 1906
Pandit Baldeo Sahai Ji was a great devotee of Lord Ganesh and due to His blessings became a musician in the court of Nepal.
He was very softly spoken, quiet and simple in manner, the exact opposite of his father. It is said that when he played the tabla it was like the flute of Lord Krishna. There are many anecdotes told to this day about passers by such as vegetable sellers, stopping to listen to him when he was practising. Pandit Baldeo Sahai Ji had 3 sons: Pandit Durga Sahai Ji, Pandit Bhagwati Sahai Ji and Pandit Lakshmi Sahai Ji.
Pandit Durga Sahai Ji :1892 - 1926
The eldest son of Pandit Baldeo Sahai Ji was Pandit Durga Sahai Ji. He was blind and his nick name was Surdas Nanuji.He spent much of his life in Calcutta where he made his name as a soloist and accompanist.
He was a great devotee of Godess Kali with whose blessings he became a court musician in Maktagacha state of West Bengal. He never failed to visit the Daksineswar Temple of Godess Kali to pray by playing tabla before the deity evvery Tuesday and Saturday. They say that Pandit Durga Sahai Ji had inner eyes. He was highly regarded not only by other Benares tabla players but also by Muslim ustaad jis for his versatility. He was unparelled in his speed, clarity, boldness and sweetness. Pandit Durga Sahai Ji was the favourite accompanist of Ustaad Inayet Khan (father of Ustaad Imrat Khan and Ustaad Vilayat Khan).
Pandit Lakshmi Sahai Ji :1894 - 1935
Pandit Lakshmi Sahai Ji was a gifted all round musician. He devoted his life to looking after his brother, Pandit Durga Sahai Ji.
Pandit Mangala Sahai Ji and Pandit Vidya Sahai Ji
Pandit Bhagwati Sahai Ji's eldest son was Pandit Mangala Sahai Ji (1927 - 1943). He was the last left handed tabla players in the Sahai family. Pandit Kishan Maharaj Ji had said that whenever he listened to Pandit Mangala Sahai Ji he felt the urge to also play. He very sadly died at the young age of 18 and it is believed he was poisoned.
Pandit Vidya Sahai Ji is the second son of Pandit Bhagwati Sahai Ji. At the age of 15 years old he broke his arm and could not continue to play tabla. He undertook training in Sarangi under Pandit Hanuman Prasad.
Pandit Sharda Sahai Ji - 1935 - 2011
Pandit Sharda Sahai, the legendary tabla virtuoso, was widely regarded as one of India's great ambassadors for tabla being at the forefront for the spread of Indian music in the East and West.
As a performer, composer and educator, his contribution to the field of tabla was unmatched and achieved after long years of dedicated study under his father Pt. Bhagvati Sahai, and his illustrious guru Pt. Kanthe Maharaj.
Sanju Sahai Ji
Sanju Sahai (also known as Vishnu Sahai), is currently one of the finest and most sought after Tabla players of his generation. Belonging to the Benares Gharana (lineage) and being the 6th generation of Tabla players in the lineage, he began playing at an early age. Being a child prodigy, he gave his first Tabla solo performance at a major festival in Benares at the tender age of 9. He gained his Bachelor of Music at the age of 13 and Master of Music at 18 years of age.
He is the current Head of the Benares Gharana of tabla which was passed to him after the passing of his father, Pandit Sharda Sahai Ji.