Saturday, September 16, 2006

Dhrupad overdrive

On one late sunday afternoon in fall 2002 near a remote town called Starkville in Mississippi, I had come across, in my T.A. cubicle, a few names totally new to me-- first was the raga Shankara, next was the word Dhrupad, and next was 'Gundecha brothers'. After listening to the clip of their vArUri Mrig drighan kO' in Shankara at SAWF, I had already become a fan of all the three. That was the age of discovery.

When I came to know that the Gundechas are coming to perform for SPICMACAY, Bangalore, a random thought occured to me-- why not request them to sing 'Adbhut Kalyan' (NiroshTha in carnatic-- it is Kalyani without ma and pa... a really special and unique raga)? One of the DAgars had sung it long back, and the Gundechas belong to DAgar tradition-- so they must be knowing it. So, I sent a rather senti (yet, honest) mail to them. I got an equivocal reply that they would see if they can make it.

Saturday 9th sep. 2006:
The Gundechas were coming to Bangalore for someother concert as well, so some of SPICMACAY money was saved there. Their first concert was on Saturday, 9th Sept. at Chowdaiah Hall. I had to pleasure of meeting them along with another member Vinay before concert, courtesy GAyathri, the convener of SPICMACAY, Bangalore. They were practising Rageshree (close to carnatic Natakurinji). They pleasantly inquired who was the one that asked for Adbhut Kalyan. That evening, they sang an elborate Rageshree alap (about 50 mins) and then a Dhrupad 'NirAkAra niranjana' and then a fast paced Bhairavi Dhrupad based on Kabir's verses 'Hum sab mahi'. I daresay that any person with a little interest in classical music would have loved this one!

Sunday 10th sep. 2006:
The sunday was a very odd one. There is something called a 'Forum' in Bangalore which does warrant much attention, except for the fact that it houses a posh book store called 'Landmark'. Even that might have escaped the displeasure of my acquaintance if not for Gundacha brothers' workshop-- right in the book-store! It was a surreal sight-- a stage with a red carpet; some room for the small gathering (lets not denigrate the word 'audience' by using it here); all the cups, cutlrey, books, etc arranged all round us. Go through this article for more:
The gathering, as usual, was made of only enthusiasts and die-hard listeners, and of course, 2 SPICMACAY members. They sang Durga Dhrupad 'Adi Shiva Shakti' first and started answering those basic FAQs, intermittently singing some Hameer ('Abeera GulAla', misreported in the Hindu article), and Kedar ('Radhika Aj Anand mein dOlE'), and then wound up with their trademark, much loved, CharukESi 'jheeni jheeni' based on Kabir verse.

And then, Arijit and I (SPICMACAYites) took them to woody's, and during the time we were there, we did have some time to establish our credentials as serious Dhrupad listeners, and of course, I was always on to my not-so-hidden agenda of Adbhut Kalyan. I also asked them why they dont do any sargam upo which they smiled and said they dont do it. (I paid the bill and lost the receipt!). And while returning home, I had the pleasure of the company of two of their lady disciples (one of whom has already spent 3 years in training, and the other, might well be on-road to become the first female Tamizhian Dhrupad singer!).

Monday 11th sep. 2006:
In a nice open room (not an auditorium for God's sake!) with large windows on sides, and breeze flowing in, it was the inaugural concert for Virasat 2006, the SPICMACAY Bangalore concert series at MES college, MalleSwaram. One of the best concerts ever attended, perhaps because I was sitting on ground and the artistes were hardly 10 feet away. In fact, I dont remember enjoying a concert sitting on those cushioned chairs. They sang an elaborate AlAp in Khamaj and then a Sadra (a lighter form of Dhrupad) 'Sudh bisarath gayI' in Khamaj. Absolutely mesmerising-- I never knew Khamaj, a folksy raga can be sung this way by the DhrupadiyAs. After that,they sang a Dhrupad in Shahana (remember 'Radha kaise ne jale' interlude?) 'AvaguNA bhayO sakala'.

Tuesday 12th sep. 2006:
I received an inside information from GAyathri that afternoon, and I was restless from then on. The venue this time was IISc. I went to the green room and listened to their practice from outside, and smiling, I came back.
When the artistes entered and took their places, they announed-- "We are going to sing a very beautiful and special raga called Adbhut Kalyan. It is a type of Kalyan without madhyam and pancham. First we are going to sing an elaborate AlAp and then a DhamAr [a form of Dhrupad piece set to 14-beat Dhamar taal]". And they sang the AlAp for more than an hour. Surprisingly, they did some nice sargam (perhaps to introduce the raga to the audience ) and then picked up on a Dhamar that they had just composed that afternoon; lyrics are from Sumitranandan Pant's poem 'Mein nahin chAhtA chir sukh'.

Needless to say, I was floored! Just on some random request, they spent a whole day composing and practising in that raga, and made it the main piece! And what raga! What extemporisation! The output may have been sub-optimal (mostly because of the sound-system quality, and the fact that it was not a thoroughly rehearsed one), nevertheless, it was no mean effort, and I cannot thank them enough. More importantly, I think they are making a great effort not to get 'stereotyped'. In 4 days, I got introduced to listening dhrupads 'live', in chautaal, sooltal, a dhamar, a sadra, their experimentation with a rare (and unprepared) raga, and their newly introduced sargam singing. Their zeal for trying new things and still be within the prescribed parameters of Dhrupad is amazing. They are making a more than wonderful effort at taking the Dhrupad to the average classical music listener.

After that, they started on CharukeSi AlAp. Though short (may be 10 mins), it was truly heavenly, and there was not a soul that was not moved. The way the two brothers moved and coordinated with each other reflected the amount of practice that went by. Truly awe-inspiring! And they employed sargam here to a terrific effect. After that, they went to their customary 'Jheeni, jheeni'.

My next stop: raga Durga of Khamaj thaat (S G3 M1 D2 N3 S" : S" N2 D2 M1 G3 S).

Dhrupad Update:
Attended the Gundechas' last concert of their Bangalore circuit today evening. The elaborated AlAp was in Jayanth Malhar-- a delicious cocktail of Jayjaywanti and Miyan-ki-malhar, follwed by the Dhrupad 'Mayi rI barkhA kO Agam'. It was followed by Shankara (quite coincidentally I must add, for I was thinking about it wistfully just today morning while typing this post) Dhrupad in 9-beats 'Shankara Pancha Vadana PannagabhushaNa', and then they wound up with their Adana 'Shiva Shiva Shiva'. The AlAps seemed all top-notch with their meeNds and all, but the execution of the first two Dhrupads indicated that they were new and they could get enough time for a thorough rehearsal together. Or may be the continuous travelling and performance has tired them a tad.



Karthik Rao Cavale said...

Aw! How envious I feel! Adbhut Kalyan. Must have been amazing.

Gandaragolaka said...

well yes. If you are lucky, you might get to listen to it as well.

Have you listened to the Adbhut Kalyan piece on sawf library?

Gandaragolaka said...

added an update-- today's gundecha concert.

Random Walker said...

durga! u mean THE durga? or is durga of khamaj thaat different? Cuz the durga I know is hindustani equivalent of suddha saveri - s r2 m1 p d1 s and symmetric descent (of course with the usual hindustani twist of vakra scale). the scale you mention seems to be more like suddha hindolam or varamu. could you confirm?

Gandaragolaka said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gandaragolaka said...

Durga of bilawal thaat is analogous to the shuddha saveri of 29th janya.

The durga I am mentioning is of khamaj thaat (28th Mela) and it is supposed to hav been in vogue before rageshree (S R2 G3 M1 D2 N2 S" : S" N2 D2 M1 G3 R2 S). It also goes by the hame Madhuradhwani.

This Khamaj omits N2 in arohaNa and instead has N3. Hence its swaras are: S G2 M1 D2 N3 S: S N2 D2 M1 G2 S. It is an old raga, now performed only by the Dagars.
Listen to a clip here-- N3 stands out through its peculiar use:

Varamu, on the other hand, has S G2 M1 D2 N2 S: S N2 D2 M1 G2 S, differing with Durga only in arohaNa. In the Hindustani system, it is called "Chandrakuns of Bageshree ang". Shashank, in a recent concert in Bangalore, played it as his first piece.

I can think of 2 pieces in varamu that need verifying:

1) the theme of the old ad of siyaram suitings--"coming home to siyaram" conforms to varamu--- (though!).

2) the hindi song "rab jaisa roop tumhara, deta hai dil ko sahara"

references for the above typed material:

Music Fan said...

good post....

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Gandaragolaka said...

thanks. I will certainly remember that change.

Tara Kini said...

Interestingly we spent the whole of Saturday afternoon July 17, 2015, learning Adbhut Kalyan from Ramakant Gundecha ji. If you are interested in learning more about this please write to