Archive for the ‘Dhrupad Vocal’ Category
Compositions represent the fixed repertoire of Dhrupad and encapsulate the musical knowledge and wisdom of many generations of Dhrupad singers. Each composition is a model of exposition of the Raga – created by a master singer not only for his own performance, but as a musical statement to transmit to succeeding generations. Compositions were often created to illustrate specific aspects of the grammar of music. The lyrics of compositions contain a wealth of information about history, folklore, mythology, philosophy and the conceptual framework of music.
Efforts to notate and publish books of Dhrupad compositions started in the 19th Century when mechanized printing came to India. Before the age of mass printing, singers had attempted to notate and keep their repertoire of compositions from being forgotten or distorted. However such works were mostly kept for personal reference and use, and access to them if at all permitted to others, was restricted to the closest disciples or relatives of the author. It is said that Dulahsen or Budhprakash – a descendant of Tansen wrote a work notating compositions of his tradition which remained with his descendants. Many such works remained in private hands zealously guarded from the public and eventually it may be presumed that many such works were lost or destroyed. I personally know of a handwritten manuscript of Radheshyamji Sharma, son of Sitaramji Sharma- the pre-independence court musician of Tikamgarh, with notations of about 400 compositions of Dhrupad, which I briefly saw some years ago in the zealously guarded possession of a relative, which is now completely untraceable.
Most works were published with the support of wealthy patrons like Maharajas and Zamindars – like the Sangit Kaladhar of 1901 published by the Maharaja of Bhavnagar written by his court musician Dahyalal Shivram. Many works were only partly published or could never be published at all because of a lack of funds. Like the Sangeet Sudha Sagar of Prankrishna Chattopadhyaya with compositions in uncommon Ragas, of which only a fraction of the first volume was printed by the author at his own expense.
With most of the repertoire of compositions of Dhrupad now lost or fragmented and distorted, it is a work of great importance to try to save whatever survives of books and unpublished manuscripts. Manuscripts of unpublished works that still survive have to be found, digitized and published. These works contain not only compositions but sargam and prastara exercises, instrumental gats, pakhawaj bols and a wealth of information on the concepts and grammar of music. One can see from studying works written decades ago how ragas have gradually changed over time. Dhrupad singers who are traditionally trained and steeped in the knowledge of tradition can then use their training to reconstruct repair and restore compositions that have been distorted or lost and bring them back to life.
I have over the last 30 years tried to find and digitize published and unpublished works with my own resources and hope that sometime soon a well funded systematic initiative can be launched to carry out this task on a war footing.
On this link can be found a partial list of works that I have managed to digitize – Rare Books on Dhrupad . In the videos below are several examples of Dhrupad compositions that I found in such rare books and developed using my knowledge from tradition to use in my performances and teaching. – The main cost involved in the work of looking for rare books and manuscripts is of course travel. Many of the rare books have been found in the dusty shelves of old libraries and private collections in small towns. There are many places I need to go to – Lucknow, Baroda, Dhar, Ujjain, Calcutta to follow up leads. Donations supporting this work are welcome. Ashish Sankrityayan
Kathak Choreography by Vidyagauri Adkar to a Composition of Chaturbiharidas in Four Parts in Raga Barwa Tala Sultaal from Sangeet Chandrika of Gopeshwar Banerjee, Khajuraho Festival of Dances 2014
Odissi Choreography by Bithika Mistry to a Composition of Swami Haridas in Four Parts in Raga Bhimpalasi Tala Tivra from Sangeet Manjarl of Ramprasanna Banerjee, Khajuraho Festival of Dances 2014
Students of Ashish Sankrityayan Sing a Composition in Four Parts of Suratsen in Raga Yaman Tala Sultal from Sangeet Manjarl of Ramprasanna Banerjee
Dhrupad Intensive Workshop in Rasa Centovalli a little Swiss mountain village near Locarno 22nd till 26th August 2014 with the early morning lower octave Kharaj practice, Vedic chantings with the use of mudras, fundamental Nada Yoga practices of Dhrupad singing, fundamentals of Dhrupad Alap and Dhrupad Composition. Participation € 100 per day including stay and meals (prepared collectively). www.dhrupad.info
Here is a composition in Sooltal in Raga Adana by Ustad Nasir Aminuddin Dagar from a concert in Delhi in the 1980’s. Pakhawaj player not known. The beginning is missing which is why he seems to start abruptly with the antara and comes back to sing the sthayi again. The composition curiously refers to the martial feats of fanatical Mughal emperor Aurangzeb who had banned music from his kingdom.
The composition obviously dates before 1668-69 when Aurangzeb imposed the ban. While this recording has only the first two parts of the composition, I found all the four parts in a manuscript of about 400 dhrupad compositions written by Sanatan Sil, a dhrupad singer who studied both instrumental and vocal dhrupad from several prominent musicians of the Seni, Vishnupur and Betiah traditions – like Birendrakishor Roychowdhury, Shibkumar Mitra and Bamacharan Sil – a student of the well known Dhrupad singer Danibabu of the Betiah tradition.
Like many fine dhrupad singers in the last century, he never took it up as a profession despite reaching a high standard of excellence, but worked in a bank while keeping up a regular routine of practice, teaching and occasional performances. The notations in Sil’s manuscript are so clear and well written that it could be straightaway published as a book.
Another dhrupad singer of the 1st half of the 20th century associated with the Vishnupur and Betiah traditions who never took it up as a profession was Nalinbehari Ghosh. Like Sanatan Sil he also worked in a bank. His manuscript of notations of dhrupads seems to have been more for his personal reference rather than publication. Here is his notation of a Dhamar composition in Kumari and a chowtal dhrupad in Kamod Nat. Nalin Behari Ghosh was an associate of Aghorbabu and Amarbabu two well known dhrupad singers of the 1st half of the 20th century. A lot of valuable material of Dhrupad especially compositions has been preserved by singers like Sanatan Sil and Nalinbehari Ghosh who pursued it as a private passion while supporting themselves from other professions.
CDS AND DVDS OF DHRUPAD ON CDBABY
Recording from the personal archives of Ashish Sankrityayan
A rare recording of the Elder Dagar brothers Nasir Moinuddin and Aminuddin Dagar singing Bihag with Ahmadjan Thirakwan on Tabla. Recorded from a All India Radio Broadcast of a live concert early 1960s by Maharawal Mahipalsinghji of Dungarpur.
The compulsion of giving short performances in the kind of festivals that are organized nowadays with three or four artists sharing the stage and the audience not staying on till late and also the emphasis on improvisation is probably why often only one or at the most two parts of Dhrupad compositions are heard nowadays. Gradually the last two parts of many compositions have been forgotten since they are not often sung. However since the last two parts are essentially variations of the first two, it should be possible to reconstruct them if the entire text of the composition is available.
In books like the Dhrupad Swaralipi of Shri Harinarayan Mukhopadhyay published(1929) and available on the link, or the Geet Vadya Saar Sangraha of Charucharan Mukhopadhyaya (1905) or the Nad Vinod Granth of Pannalal Goswami 1896 can be found the complete texts of many such compositions.
For example though there is no recording of all the four parts of the composition Bansidhara Pinakadhara sung in the Dagar Tradition in Multani, we can find the song text in the Dhrupad Swaralipi and reconstruct the entire composition since the third part is essentially a close variation of the sthayi and always begins with a characteristic hudak ornament spanning a large part of the octave from the lower to the middle. The fourth part is essentially like the second with slight variations. The words of the last two parts of this composition as given in the book (in Raga Shree) are -chandanadhara bhasmadhara maalaadhara sheshadhara gopivara parameshwara gopishwara ishwara. kahe miya taansen dou swaroopa ek tuma garudasana vrishavahana teenaloka kara uddhara. The Raga Vigyan of Vinayakrao Patwardhan gives the following lyrics for the last two parts – nandidhara garudadhara kailasdhara vaikunthadhara kahe baiju baware sunahu gunijana nisadina harihara dhyana uradhara.
A well trained Dhrupad singer should be able to reconstruct compositions in this way. Which again brings us to the important task of collecting all recorded and written material on Dhrupad and going about reconstructing whatever is possible.
Another frequently heard composition whose 3rd and 4th parts can be found in the Geet Vadya Saar Sangraha and the Sangit Manjari of Ramprasanna Bannerjee of Vishnupur (1935) is – niranjana nirakara parabrahma parameshwara. ek hi anek hoye vyapyo vishambhara. alakha jyoti avinashi jyoti rupa jagatarana. jagannatha jagatapati jagajivana jagadhara. baahi mein sab jiva jantu suranara muni guni gyani. nabhi kamal te brahma pragatayo shataroopa manvantara. kahe baiju vahi brahma vahi virata roopa vahi. aap avataar bhaye chaubis vapudhara. The same composition can often be found in different Ragas in different traditions. The first book gives it in Raga Bhairava while the second lists it in Bhairavi.
Here is a recording of the Elder Dagar Brothers singing alap in Sudhdha Rishabh Chandrakauns followed by this composition in a Radio broadcast from the 1960s.
A later recording of the Younger Dagar Brothers has both the sthayi and antara
Here are two more compositions commonly heard in the Dagar tradition with the first two parts along with the texts of all the four parts from the Nad Vinod Granth which could again be reconstructed by singers who are well trained in the tradition.
First two parts of Chowtal Composition in Bhimpalasi sung by the Elder Dagar Brothers
The first two parts of a Dhrupad composition in Raga Bhupali in Chowtal sung by the Elder Dagar Brothers
The Nad Vinod Granth is a valuable book with the texts of many dhrupad compositions and notations of instrumental gats and interesting prastara exercises in various Ragas. The notations of Ragas given in the book show how they have changed over more than a century. However the book would have been infinitely more valuable had the author also included notations of the Dhrupad compositions instead of notations of only the gats and the prastara exercises.
The photos in this post show Ramprasanna Bannerjee playing the Rudra Veena and his younger brother Gopeshwar Bannerjee of the Vishnupur Dhrupad Tradition. The world of Dhrupad will be eternally grateful to them for being farsighted enough to publish their two gems with Dhrupad compositions – The Sangit Manjari and the Sangit Chandrika.
Dhrupad Compositions With Four Parts – Rahimuddin, Hussainuddin, Aminuddin, Zahiruddin and Faiyazuddin Dagar
One often hears it being said that singers of the Dagar Tradition do not sing all the four parts of a Dhrupad composition. The reason could be that the style lays much greater emphasis on improvisation and because of this, the last two parts being not sung often are gradually forgotten. Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar used to tell me that in a Dhrupad composition the first two parts the Sthayi and Antara were the most important – encompassing all the angs of the raga that the composition tries to demonstrate. The last two parts are essentially variations of the first two. Often due to the vagaries of the oral system of transmission and the peculiarities of the family relations and learning histories, some members of the Dagar family remembered all the four parts of certain compositions while others didn’t.
Another quirk of theirs is in the nomenclature of the four parts. The Dagars would insist that the last two parts of a Dhrupad composition are called Abhog and Sanchari and not the other way round. Fahimuddin Dagar told me that the third part always starts with a special ornament spanning a large part of the octave – the hudak and the fourth is more or less the same as the second – the Antara. He said the fourth part should be called the Sanchari or Samachari because it summarized the content of all the four parts and brought the composition to an end. He also added that it doesn’t really matter anyway if it is Abhog, Sanchari or the other way round.
When it came to remembering compositions the Late Nasir Aminuddin Dagar had probably the largest repertoire of them all. He also remembered many compositions of his maternal grandfather Inayat Khan. When I first met him in Calcutta, he spontaneously sang without tanpura accompaniment, several that I had never heard before. It is a real pity that he did not methodically record all that he remembered.
Here are two compositions by him with all the four parts.
Pujana Chali Mahadeva – Raga Malkauns – Chowtal, Composition of Tansen. Notice the tanpura tuning in Pancham. Something he insists on in the beginning before the alap as being required to preserve the tonal relations within the Raga.
Manus Hu To Vahi Ras Khan – Raga Kambhoji – Chowtal – text by Ras Khan – poet and Krishna devotee (16th – 17th century).
Another gem of a composition with four parts attributed to Tansen is Muraliya Kaise Baaje sung here by Nasir Zahiruddin and Nasir Faiyazuddin Dagar the younger sons of Nasiruddin Khan Dagar
Aminuddin Sab sings another composition with four parts in Raga Adbhut Kalyan which I recorded from a radio broadcast around 1990. He probably missed out a part of it somewhere since he has to repeat a phrase in the end to come to the first beat. He told me that the Raga was originally called Khem Kalyan. The composition is of Kalidas – the Pandit from whom his ancestor Baba Behram Khan had learnt in Varanasi.
This composition in Todi sung by Hussainuddin Dagar (Tansen Pandey) mentions the names of Nayak Gopal and Nayak Baiju. The pakhawaj accompaniment is probably by Rajiv Lochan Dey.
This composition in Lalit sung by Aminuddin Dagar mentions the name of Dhondi in the last part. The pakhawaj accompaniment is by S. V. Patwardhan. Recorded by Maharawal Mahipalsinghji of Dungarpur in 1966 from a radio broadcast.
Two more compositions with four parts are these in Miya Ki Malhar and Komal Rishabh Asavari by Rahimuddin Khan Dagar which are also there in his EP records released by HMV.
Raga Miya Ki Malhar
Raga Komal Rishabh Asavari
Young Aminuddin and Zahiruddin Dagar appear in this photo taken in 1936 in Indore – appearing solemn and downcast – understandable since their father Nasiruddin Khan had passed away a few months ago and their mother and elder brother Moinuddin had left for Jaipur. The little child in the lap of their uncle Rahimuddin Khan Dagar could be Faiyazuddin Dagar or one of their sisters – I am not sure. Standing between Zahiruddin and Aminuddin is young Fahimuddin Dagar.
The importance of Dhrupad compositions is that each is a model of the various angs or aspects of a raga – composed by a master Dhrupad singer and passed on from generation to generation as an example of the raga. Compositions document history, folklore, mythology, philosophical and musical concepts. Special compositions were created as pedagogical tools to illustrate certain concepts or methods of treatment. One huge task before us is to locate and digitize and make accessible to the public all existing material on Dhrupad.
The task would have been much easier 40 or 50 years ago when recording technology had become widely and easily available and there were many knowledgeable musicians still around. Right now the task is daunting if not overwhelming. Its a bit like embarking on an archaeological excavation without even knowing where to start digging.
A Tribute to Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar
Came across this old interview of Ustad Z. F. Dagar where he talks about his creation – The Dhrupad Kendra, Bhopal. It is truly wonderful how reasoned, trenchant and lively Ustad’s observations are in all his public pronouncements.
Directorship of the Dhrupad Kendra was an opportunity and a challenge, and it was this man’s utter unorthodoxy and willingness to break rules in an intelligent manner that allowed him to overcome adversity and very trying circumstances and do what none of his Gharana members would probably have done…. which is to develop new innovative and unorthodox ways of teaching under new circumstances, to spread the knowledge outside the confines of the Gharana and still keep as true to the tradition as possible.
The traditional method of training in the Dagar family was of course developed keeping in view that it started very early – at an age of 5 or 6 years. The training focused on techniques which were grounded using exercises that had to be repeated for hours using a chain of beads (tezbi) to keep count. The exercises trained the child not only in the techniques but embodied the entire grammar of the music that was to be taught later. After many years of this grounding came Alap and compositions and then the whole conceptual framework, the grammar – the shastra – behind the whole music.
With his mandate to produce performers within four years Ustad Z. F. Dagar developed a system where the initial long grounding with exercises was shortened to a few months after which the training quickly went on to Alap, compositions and improvisation. He encouraged his students to improvise and sing on their own, which is why most of his students became very confident and successful performers.
Everything has its pros and cons and today I raise a toast to the genius of Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar and what he achieved in his life. Like all geniuses Chote Ustad and indeed all his brothers of the Dagar Gharana are complex, charismatic and truly lovable personalities. Despite their fierce and often bitter mutual rivalries, the difficult circumstances after Indian independence and the erosion and fragmentation of knowledge due to their internecine family warfare, the descendants of Zakiruddin and Allabande Khan – The Dagar Brothers – managed to keep the essence of their knowledge and art alive , often making great personal sacrifices and stoically enduring the disdain and neglect of a society that did not value a contemplative form that did not strive to entertain or please. Their story is the story of all the triumphs and failings of the Gharana system in North Indian music which evolved under feudal patronage, whereby a style or a whole genre becomes the hereditary profession of a family.
Meeting them was like coming across a slice of history, of suddenly walking into another age. Hearing myself speak today I realize that I have subconsiciouly imbibed after all these years of sitting in front of them trying to catch every word they utter – their rich Hindi Urdu Sanskrit blend – in the words of Ustad Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar “mili jhuli ganga jamni zabaan”. I consider myself truly fortunate to have been able to know and observe my Gurus from fairly close. Looking back at all the ups and downs of my complex relations with them, I can only be filled with great awe, love and respect. How could I have been chosen to come into contact with something so old and so deep. Just my destiny or random chance I guess.
After my recent appointment as director of the Dhrupad Kendra Bhopal, the position held by Ustad for many years during which he single handedly reworked the future of the tradition, my
job over the next few years would be to strengthen the institution he founded and use it to further the interests of the Dhrupad tradition with fairness, objectivity, impartiality and above all with kindness and humility.
Having benefited from Ustad Z. F. Dagar’s innovative teaching which instilled great confidence and the ability to improvise on ones own and also the more orthodox and traditional teaching of his elder cousin Ustad Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar which emphasized long grounding in techniques and concepts using repetitive exercises – I combined the two systems in my own teaching in the Dhrupad Kendra with good results.
There is a little video clip of Fahimuddin Dagar cleaning the Tezbi – the chain of beads used to keep count while repeating an exercise – of his grandfather Allabande Khan while teaching. Exercises like this have many subtleties and complexities that may not be immediately obvious to the uninitiated. It is possible to teach the entire technique, grammar and conceptual framwork of Dhrupad through such exercises.
(Students of Dhrupad Kendra Bhopal sing at the Tansen Festival at the end of their first year of training in December 2012)
The rate of attrition of knowledge in Dhrupad in recent times has been exponential. Only 20 or 30 years ago a huge repertoire of compositions still remained with some known and many obscure Dhrupad singers, most of whom were struggling to keep singing and at the same time earn a livelihood. I recently tried to locate disciples or recordings of Dhrupad singer Bharatji Vyas (1923-1983) who lived in Baroda, and I came up on a blank wall. Nothing remains except a few recordings of rare compositions in rare ragas with the Sangeet Natak Academy.
Although I am a singer of the style of Dhrupad practised by Ustad and his brothers, I consider it my duty to also work for the preservation of all traditions of Dhrupad and hope that this job will help me in addressing this task as well. Much of the composed repertoire of Dhrupad was common to all the traditions. One hears different versions of the same composition being sung by singers of vastly different traditions.
There are many more names I need to look into: T. L. Rana, Gajanana Thakur, Hari Shankar Mishra, Radheshyam Dagur of Tikamgarh…. to see if they left behind a few recordings or taught a few students or notated at least some of the compositions in some handwritten manuscript gathering dust and mould or being devoured by termites somewhere.
Some handwritten manuscripts I have located are being zealously guarded by family members of departed musicians who expect to be paid considerable sums of money to part with them. Yet seeing the colossal amounts being mentioned in connection with corruption scandals I cannot blame them. What they expect in comparison for true gems of our heritage is absolute peanuts!
Most of that composed repertoire of Dhrupad – little fixed models of Ragas created by master Dhrupad singers of the past to encapsulate the various concepts of classical music and pass them on from generation to generation has now gone to the grave, because the state system failed to reach out to these people and support them and record for posterity the precious bits of knowledge they carried. The recently enlivened debate on corruption and the abuse of power and misuse of public institutions has yet to permeate into the realm of art, culture and heritage management but is sorely needed there. It will also come. Everyone is waiting for someone to stand up and bell the cat.
All said and done a lot of knowledge has been lost in the last few decades and yet a lot still remains thanks to the efforts of individual Gurus like Ustad Z. F. Dagar and others who dared to take the initiative and do what they believed should be done in the vastly changed circumstances after independence when the entire class of highly cultivated and musically sophisticated royal patrons literally disappeared overnight. To quote one of my gurus (Ustad Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar) – “yeh sab to bas jhaadan hai. khazane to sab chale gaye. lekin yeh bhi kafi hai.” – These are all just leftovers … the real treasures are all gone.. but still this is enough.
In many systems redundancy makes it at least theoretically possible to reconstruct the whole from fragments. Lets hope that the same would be possible for Dhrupad.
ref – Dhrupada – Indurama Shrivastava 1980 Motilal Banarasidass
- Ashish Sankrityayan
This is a very rare composition in Raga Bangal Bhairav – an uncommon Raga -sung by Nasir Aminuddin Dagar without pakhawaj accompaniment in the 1980’s at a concert in Delhi. The photo shows Aminuddin Dagar (left) with his elder brother and singing partner Ustad Nasir Moinuddin Dagar. After the death of Moinuddin Dagar in 1966 Aminuddin Dagar sang alone – only rarely teaming up with some other cousins. He also changed the pitch of his singing far lower than what he used to sing in with his elder brother. As can be seen in the recordings here.
Recording from the personal archives of Ashish Sankrityayan