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Audio and Video Recordings and Articles on Dhrupad and the Dagar Tradition All articles © Ashish Sankrityayan

Archive for the ‘Dhrupad Vocal’ Category

Ustad Nasiruddin Khan at the Coffee House, Calcutta

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Nasiruddin Khan – the torch bearer of the Behram Khani Dhrupad tradition after his illustrious predecessors, his uncle Zakiruddin and father Allabande, had a great following among the cognoscenti in Bengal. His remarkable singing, his great knowledge of shastra and his extraordinary mastery over shruti, the microtones that bring out the flavour of ragas has been written about by several writers – Dhurjati Prasad Mukhopadhyay, Gyan Prakash Ghosh, and Suresh Chakrabarty to name a few.  His reputation  had already preceded him when he visited the city in the last week of December 1935 to perform at the 2nd All Bengal Conference. The star of the first conference of 1934, inaugurated by Tagore the previous year at the Senate Hall, had been Faiyaz Khan, and Nasiruddin Khan proved to be the most talked about performer in the second. Yet when he took to the stage in the first of his two performances at the Conference on 29th December at the University Institute Albert Hall College Square, he was greeted with a half empty hall. The musicians and connoisseurs were of course present since many had heard him before in Allahabad and Varanasi in the preceding years, but some members of the public had left – a striking reminder of the waning interest in dhrupad.

Nasiruddin Khan Amrita Bazar All Bengal Conference 1935

Review of the All Bengal Conference 1935 in the Amrita Bazar hails Nasiruddin Khan as its Central Attraction

Nasiruddin Khan sang raga desh followed by bhatiyar, accompanied on pakhavaj by Vijay Singh – son of the renowned Parbat Singh. His second morning session at the conference had a full audience, as word about his remarkable singing had by then spread. He sang todi and bhairavi. He of course accompanied his singing with his remarkable exposition on shastra for which he was well known. The Amrita Bazar Patrika hailed him as the ‘Central Attraction’ of the Conference and devoted nearly half of its review of the conference to his singing. This would however prove to be Nasiruddin Khan’s only visit to Calcutta and also his last major appearance in a conference. He was invited to perform again in the next All-Bengal but passed away sometime the following year in his early forties. Born in Udaipur in the early 1890’s, his untimely death at the height of his fame was a major turning point for dhrupad. Several writers have called him the last of the giants of dhrupad. It is indeed unthinkable today that a dhrupad singer would be hailed as the ‘Central Attraction’ of a major four day conference featuring over fifty artists.

Advertisement of the 1938 All Bengal Conference in the Amrita Bazar Patrika

Advertisement of the January 1938 All Bengal Conference in the Amrita Bazar Patrika

After his death his younger brother Rahimuddin Khan appeared at a repeat session of the conference at the University Institute College Square on 5th April 1937. His performance of malkauns which was followed by Enayet Khan’s sitar, was lauded by the Amrita Bazar Patrika which stated that like his elder brother Rahimuddin Khan seemed to have a passion for Alap. Rahimuddin also performed at the All Bengal the following year 1938 in January.

Nasiruddin Khan’s elder cousin Ziauddin Khan – son of Zakiruddin Khan, performed in the All Bengal at the First Empire theatre on 30th December 1940 evening, singing raga darbari kanada, and 1st December 1941 in the morning session, accompanied by Nasiruddin’s eldest son Moinuddin.

The Albert Hall in 1942 became the Coffee House, and we can get a pretty good idea of where the stage on which Nasiruddin Khan and others sang in the 2nd All Bengal was located in today’s coffee house, by comparing later pictures  with this photo on the last page of the Amrita Bazar Patrika of 5th January 1936 which appears alongside miscellaneous photos from the Independence movement,  of Mussolini’s children, M. Visveswaria, Prince Aly Khan shopping in New Market, sports champions and the Bertram Mills Circus. The Conference was of course in the pre-microphone era. By  visiting the Coffee House on College Street after closing hours today we could get a pretty good idea of the kind of acoustics to which Nasiruddin Khan and others sang in the conference, since the space does not seem to have changed much since those days. Given its high ceiling I would expect the acoustics to be very impressive, which is also evident from the awesome din of voices during business hours. What a pity we don’t use venues like this for acoustic concerts instead of using the awful mikes and loud amplification in spaces with dead acoustics today, that kills all nuances.

albert-hall.jpg

Indian-Coffee-House-Kolkata(2)Coffee House

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have discussed at length the various available accounts of Nasiruddin Khan’s singing including his appearance at the All-Bengal, The All-India Conferences of V. N. Bhatkhande, the Allahabad University and other conferences as also accounts of performances of Zakiruddin, Allabande, Riyazuddin, Ziauddin and Rahimuddin Khan in my soon to be published book – Dhrupad of the Dagars, Conceptual Foundations and Contemporary Questions, Munshiram Manoharlal Pvt. Ltd.

photos of the coffee house from
http://www.andhrawishesh.com/375-wishesh-special/38621-yatra-wishesh-a-journey-through-nostalgia-with-indian-coffee-house-kolkata.html
and
http://tasveerjournal.com/2012/11/12/disappearing-professions-in-urban-india/

 

The Suitability of Natural Acoustics for Dhrupad

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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.

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February 11, 2016 at 7:22 am

Pakhāvaj Accompaniment With Aṅgs

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ayodhya_prasad_pakhavaj

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.

Dhrupad Alap and Dhamar Bageshree – Ashish Sankrityayan, Mohan Shyam Sharma

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Short Alap in Bageshree followed by Dhamar (14 beats) by Ashish Sankrityayan with Mohan Shyam Sharma on pakhawaj.

Tanpura Anatoli Lomonosov

14th November 2012 Great Guild Hall Riga Latvia.

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January 26, 2015 at 4:15 pm

The Search for Published and Unpublished Works on Dhrupad

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Rag Prakash of Madhav Singh

Rag Prakash of Madhav Singh

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.

a composition from Sangeet Samuccaya

Sangeet Samuccaya 1924

 

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.

Dhrupad Composition Sangit Kaladhar 1901

Dhrupad Composition Sangit Kaladhar 1901

Sangit Kaladhar 1901

Sangit Kaladhar 1901

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.

Publisher of Sangit Kaladhar Maharaja of Bhavnagar

Maharaja of Bhavnagar

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.

Sangeet Sudha Sagar of Prankrishna Chattopadhyaya

Sangeet Sudha Sagar of Prankrishna Chattopadhyaya

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.

Photo from Sangeet Sudha Sagar of Nihalsen of Jaipur The Authors's Main Teacher

Photo from Sangeet Sudha Sagar of Nihalsen of Jaipur The Authors’s Main Teacher

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.

Sarod Rasa Chandrika by Nirendra Krishna Mitra

Sarod Rasa Chandrika

Nad Vinod Granth Tala Chapter

Laya Prashna of Kudao Singh Pakhawaji 19th Century

Laya Prashna of Kudao Singh Pakhawaji 19th Century

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.

Texts of Dhrupad Compositions Raga Kalpadrum

Texts of Dhrupad Compositions Raga Kalpadrum

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.

Rag Prakash

Texts of Dhrupads in Rag Prakash

 

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 

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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

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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.

उस्ताद ज़िआ फरीदुद्दीन डागर की शिक्षण शैली और ध्रुपद के वर्तमान प्रश्न ( The Teaching Methods of Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar and Contemporary Questions of Dhrupad)

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Nasir Aminuddin and Zia Fariduddin Dagar sing in a concert with Raja Chatrapati Singh on Pakhawaj

Nasir Aminuddin and Zia Fariduddin Dagar sing in a concert with Raja Chatrapati Singh on Pakhawaj

My first essay in Hindi उस्ताद ज़िआ फरीदुद्दीन डागर की शिक्षण शैली और ध्रुपद के वर्त्तमान प्रश्न ( The Teaching Methods of Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar and Contemporary Questions of Dhrupad) Published in Hindi literary magazine Samaas vol 9 February 2014 editor Udayan Vajpeyi.

Samaas Dhrupad Article

Samaas Dhrupad Article

 

Nasir Aminuddin and Zia Fariduddin Dagar sing in a concert with Raja Chatrapati Singh on Pakhawaj

Nasir Aminuddin and Zia Fariduddin Dagar sing in a concert with Raja Chatrapati Singh on Pakhawaj

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July 29, 2014 at 4:18 am

5 day Intensive Residential Dhrupad Workshop 22nd to 26th August 2014 Rasa Intragna CH

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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

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July 15, 2014 at 5:51 pm