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Archive for the ‘Radheshyam Dagur Tikamgarh’ Category

The Search for Published and Unpublished Works on Dhrupad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.

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A Tribute to Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar

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Interview of Ustad Z. F. Dagar by Deepak Raja

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.

Zia Fariduddin Dagar

Zia Fariduddin Dagar (around 1970)

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

Rahim Fahmimuddin Dagar cleaning Tezbi of Allabande Khan

Rahim Fahmimuddin Dagar cleaning Tezbi of Allabande Khan (click for video)

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. I have written a long article in the Hindi literary magazine Samaas on the teaching methods of the Dagar tradition and contemporary questions of Dhrupad. Samaas Dhrupad Article

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