Archive for the ‘Dhrupad Vocal’ Category
My Guru Ustad Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar would often speak of the difficulty of presenting the subtle aspects of sound and resonance in dhrupad with microphones and amplification. I have found that the most satisfying performances are always in fine natural acoustics. One of my favourite recordings is this one in a small space in Copenhagen with a high ceiling and wonderful acoustics.
Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar would often talk of pakhāvaj accompaniment that follows the aṅgs of singing, for improvisation in dhrupad compositions is a demonstration of the facets or aṅgs of the rāga within the constraint of the lyrics of the composition and the structure of the tāla – its inner subdivisions and points of emphasis – the tālī and khālī. He would praise the accompaniment of pakhāvaj players like the famed Ayodhya Prasad and Govindrao Burhanpurkar with his father that he heard in his youth.
Here is an example of the kind of pakhāvaj accompaniment he talked about – most probably by Ayodhya Prasad. A very perceptive account of his pakhāvaj playing is given by S. K. Choubey in his essay – Pandit Ayodhya Prasad in Musicians I Have Met (Uttar Pradesh State Publications Department 1958). This and other essays in Choubey’s book are also examples of the kind of critical writing on art and the discussions that went on in musical circles in the pre-Independence era when people freely expressed their opinions and an article on a musician or a performance could also be a critique of some or all aspects unlike articles now which merely express banalities and fulsome praise. I have dealt in detail with many of these aspects in my book Dhrupad of the Dagars – Conceptual Foundations and Contemporary Questions, which is about to go to the press.
In a dhrupad performance the exposition of the Raga through the abstract syllabic alap is followed by the singing of a composed melody with lyrics, set to a tala or a cycle of beats accompanied by a barrel drum – the pakhāwaj. Strictly speaking it is the composed melody, which usually has four parts, that bears the name dhrupad, although the term is now used to identify the entire genre including the alap. A Dhrupad Composition actually embodies within it all the principles of the music, and serves as a model of the exposition of the raga, composed by a master dhrupad singer not only for his own performance, but as a musical statement for subsequent oral transmission to succeeding generations. Compositions represent the fixed repertoire of Dhrupad and encapsulate the musical knowledge and wisdom of many generations of Dhrupad singers. 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. In an oral tradition compositions of course mutate with time and one finds many different versions of the same composition prevalent in different traditions in different parts of the country.
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. The compilation Sangeet Samuccaya done by Beenkar Shivendranath Basu in 1924 mentions 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 in the 1950’s. The author a student of Tansen descendant Nihal Sen of Jaipur and of Dagar tradition singer Abban Khan of Pratapgarh, mentions in the preface that he has applied for State funding and hopes to publish the entire work with 240 compositions of the tradition of Tansen in the first volume. Since the author’s teacher Nihalsen was a descendant of Dulahsen it is quite probable that his work contained many of the compositions notated by Dulahsen in his manuscript.
My enquiries have revealed that the handwritten notes with his descendants got destroyed by termites. However the author did manage to get some State grants towards the end of his life and there is a small chance that a copy of the manuscript survives somewhere. The first volume of the Sangeet Samuccaya mentions that the second volume with 200 compositions is being printed and the author mentions that he has managed to collect notations of more than a thousand compositions. However the second volume never actually got printed. The work was being published by the Nagri Pracharini Sabha the predecessor of Bharat Kala Bhavan Varanasi which underwent major changes and a shift of venue in the late 1920s. It is a major task now to locate the unpublished parts of of works like the Sangeet Sudha Sagar and the Sangeet Samuccaya if they still survive.
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. 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.
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. They reveal unique insights into the concepts of music. For instance the Sarod Rasa Chandrika of 1938 written by a student of Tansen descendant Sarod player Amir Khan gives numerous instrumental compositions classified according to the four banis of Dhrupad. One of the rare instances of classification of compositions according to banis.
The complex charts and diagrams and the cryptic terminology in the handwritten Laya Prashna of Kudao Singh the originator of the Kudao Singh style of pakhawaj are scarcely intelligible to pakhawaj exponents today, yet similar diagrams and explanations in the Tala section of the Nad Vinod Granth of 1896 of Pannalal Goswami might give us the key to understanding Kudao Singh’s methods.
Texts like the Rag Prakash and Raga Kalpadrum give listings of texts of Dhrupad compositions and are invaluable for removing textual distortions in compositions as also reconstructing lost parts from fragments that survive in the oral tradition or in recordings.
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. Along with the digitization what needs to be done is a detailed indexing and creation of a database of all available material including audio and video recordings which dhrupad practitioners could use to regain lost knowledge.
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
All articles on this blog © Ashish Sankrityayan. No part may be used except with written permission and explicit acknowledgement.
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
Many Dhrupad compositions which still survive fragmentarily in the living repertoire of singers or in old recordings can be found in their entirety in old manuscripts, books and journals.
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.
Sil’s manuscript lists it as a Khandarbani composition which agrees well with what my teacher Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar told me about such fast paced compositions in the veer rasa or valourous sentiment. Sources which list Ragas or compositions on the basis of the Banis of Dhrupad are quite rare. Examples of such classification are the Sarod Rasa Chandrika of Nirendrakrishna Mitra 1938 as also the recordings of Bharatji Vyas in the SNA archives.
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. It was difficult in those times to make a living from Dhrupad. Even a well known singer like Danibabu had a job in the Railways. After independence survival as a professional Dhrupad singer became even more difficult with the disappearance of aristocratic patrons.
Till a few decades ago Bengal had many Dhrupad singers who were associated with the traditions of Vishnupur and Bettiah. Many of these singers published compositions in books and journals. The best known of them being the brothers Ramprasanna and Gopeshwar Bandopadhyaya who published the Sangeet Manjari and the Sangeet Chandrika. Another renowned Dhrupad singer of Bengal was Radhika Prasad Goswami whose obituary appears in the January 1925 issue of the journal Sangeet Vigyan Praveshika to which he often contributed.
Here is a Dhrupad composition notated by him in the uncommon Raga Hem Khem that appeared posthumously in the July 1925 issue of the magazine. The article accompanying his obituary also mentions that shortly before his death he was awarded the second prize in the All India Music Conference at Lucknow, the first prize being given to Allabande Khan. It is even now possible to find in Bengal, old students of students of singers like Danibabu, Radhika Prasad Goswami and Ramprasanna and Gopeshwar Bandopadhyaya, many of whom never took up music as a profession but possess a wealth of knowledge and sometimes also old notes and manuscripts of their teachers.
Several compositions whose first two parts exist in recordings by Aminuddin Dagar or his brothers can be found in their entirety with all the four parts in manuscripts or old books and journals.
Here is an example from the notes of Sanatan Sil of a Dhrupad of Sujan Khan in Jhaptal in Raga Megh whose first two parts are often sung in the Dagar tradition in Raga Surdasi Malhar in the same Tala and another in Raga Darbari Kanada in Tala Chautal from the November 1925 issue of the Sangeet Vigyan Praveshika.
Recording from the personal archives of Ashish Sankrityayan
All articles on this blog © Ashish Sankrityayan. No part may be used except with written permission and explicit acknowledgement.
CDS AND DVDS OF DHRUPAD ON CDBABY