'With a mind of deep faith we can enter into a divine communion'
Dhrupad is the oldest existing form of North Indian classical music. The nature of Dhrupad music is spiritual, seeking not to entertain, but to induce feelings of peace and contemplation in the listener. The word Dhrupad is derived from DHRUVA the steadfast evening star that moves through our galaxy and PADA meaning poetry. It is a form of devotional music that traces its origin to the ancient text of Sam Veda, which was chanted with the help of melody and rhythm called Samgana. Gradually this developed into other vocal styles called 'Chhanda' and 'Prabandha' with introduction of verse and meter. The fusion of these two elements led to the emergence of Dhrupad.
By the eleventh century, Dhrupad music had crystallised into a perfect form which has retained its original structure and purity through to the present day. One significant characteristic of Dhrupad is the emphasis on maintaining purity of the Ragas and the Swaras (notes). According to some accounts, Dhrupad was sung in the temples, with the singer facing the divinity. From this early chanting, Dhrupad evolved into a sophisticated classical form of music. Even today we hear this majestic form of music performed like it was more than 500 years ago in the royal courts of the emperors and kings of India.
Umakant and Ramakant Gundecha are one of India's leading exponents of the Dhrupad style of music. They are among the most active young performers of Dhrupad in Indian and international circuits. After the Dagar Brothers, it is the Gundecha Brothers who have brought Dhrupad to the forefront on the concert platform. Born in Ujjain in Central India, both were initiated into music by their parents.
The brothers received conventional university education and learned the Dhrupad vocal art under the renowned Dhrupad vocalist Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar and also with Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar (the distinguished performer of Rudra Veena).
The Gundecha Brother's commitment to the preservation and promotion of dhrupad has led them to create the first Dhrupad Institute in Bhopal, which is dedicated to imparting extensive training to aspiring students.
On this recording they are joined by a third brother Akhilesh Gundecha on Pakhawaj. This horizontal barrel-shaped percussion instrument is a precursor of the popular tabla. Its resounding, majestic, open tone makes it well suited to the dhrupad style of singing
For this performance the brothers have chosen the morning melody, Raga Komal Rishabh Asavari, a variation of Raga Asavari, one of the six original ragas of India according to ancient texts. A Dhrupad performance has two main parts. The Alap (tracks 1-3) is an extended improvisation introducing us to the character of the raga. The composition, (tracks 4-5), the dhrupad or dhamar, consists of a poetic text sung to the rhythm of Pakhawaj. Subjects used as a source for dhrupad poetry include hymns in praise of Hindu and Islamic saints as well as philosophical reflections of music.
The Alap is itself divided into three sections. After the initial interpretative unfolding of the raga, slow and meditative in character (track 1), comes the jor, with the introduction of a slow, regular pulse. The exploration of sound is through the use of certain spiritually significant syllables - te, re, nom, tom - derived from the ancient Hindu shloka, 'Hari Om Narayana Taan Tarana Tum'.
The concluding element of the alap is chaugun, the equivalent of the fast jhalla section of instrumental music. Here, the improvisations take on a lively rhythmic form, using a distinctive oscillation of the voice known as gamak.
The Gundecha Brother's approach to alap is characterised by their gentle interweaving of harmonic elements, an innovative feature of Jugalbandi, or duet performance. Ramakant's deep and resonant voice (right channel) blends perfectly with the sweeter, lyrical tones of Umakant (left channel), both demonstrating a keen sensitivity to grasp and relate to each other's improvisations. At times one mirrors or expands on the notes that the other moulds, at other times they dialogue in a playful call and response mode.
The first composition (track 4), Aai Khelan Ko Ho Faag Lalaso', is a celebration of the popular Hindu festival of colours, Holi, a time for fun and celebration. The text is asking why the playful Lord Krishna is being kept inside on this special day. The second dhrupad (track 5), 'Aan Sunai Bansuri Kana Kana, celebrates the flute playing of Lord Krishna, and his ability to attract female followers (gopis). The poetry tells us that all the Gopis of Brij, the birthplace of Krishna, have come out of their houses on hearing the sound of Krishna's sweet flute.