Musicians on Dhrupad

Ustad Nisar Hussain Khan

“I was still very young when I heard Dhrupad for the firs time it was by Allah Bande Khan and Zakiruddin Khan. I did realize the beauty of this music but I was not able to actually understand it. I noticed the gamak mostly. But when I got a chance to listen Nasiruddin it was then that I sat through a Dhrupad concert for one entire hour of slow alap which was his forte this revealed to me what Dhrupad really was. He unfolded all the subtleties of the Dhrupad and till today I can say that I have never listened to anyone who could impress me as much as he did. Since that day my mind underwent a fundamental change as far as this music is concerned. I have come to recognize its depth and weight. I recall that during that particular concert two small children were also sitting and they were asked by their father to sing and I found a grain in their voice which vividly remanded me of their father Nasiruddin Khan Dagar. The beauty and emotional quality of Dhrupad lies in the fact that it is essentially a devotional music sung in a mood of Bhakti rather than Shringar and using layakari in a very esthetical way. It avoids the effects inducing a lighter mood like taan. sapat, murki.

When I cam to Baroda as a court musician, I had already had some practice of Dhrupad, but no proper training which did not prevent me from attending so many Dhrupad performances that my memories of these beautiful moments have remained as fresh as ever. From the little practice I had in Dhrupad singing I could measure how much stamina and determination is needed to become a professional Dhrupad singer. Not only the Kharaj and riyaz is very exacting but also the long gliding phrases require very deep and sustained breath. I readily admit that I would not be able to become professional in that style.

Regarding the further of this art, I can see it very bright and I am sure that most students would like to learn Dhrupad. There are quite a number of leading Dhrupad singer, apart from Dagars, like Siyaram Tiwari, Ram Chatur Mallik each of them with his own personal style. What I greatly appreciated in the present Dagar Brothers is the perfect accuracy of their notes and purity of the Raga.”

Smt. Gangubai Hangal

“I feel that a base of Dhrupad is absolutely essential for any student of music. It helps the student to have a complete grasp over the notes and voice culture. I have has rigorous training the Dhrupad style, which was a must for a student of Dhrupad in our time I remember learning Dhrupad which did not only improve my ‘sur gyan’ but also helped in perfecting my sense of ‘taal’. I owe a lot of my understanding of music to my basic training in this form. However, while accepting its undoubted strengths, I found it limited in that a lot of liberties which are allowed in khayal (and which I enjoy) like ‘taans’ are taboo in the Dhrupad style. Dhrupad, all in all is a great music tradition which must be kept alive.”

Pt. Hari Prasad Chaurasia

“Dhrupad is undoubtedly the only ‘pure’ tradition in Indian music. I belong to Senia Gharana and my initial training of music was started, in the Dhrupad style. It is essential for any student to have a base of Dhrupad to become a good musician of Indian classical music. Sure, it is difficult music but my request to the coming generation of musicians is that if they are interested in learning true and pure Indian classical music, they must start with Dhrupad – it is essential, I certainly don’t agree with the concept that Dhrupad is a limited form of music. On the contrary, it is infinitely vast as compared to the other styles.

I personally owe my popularity and success to Dhrupad as you know, my alap is very long (perhaps the longest any flutist plays) and this is a valuable treasure which I received from my Guru Maa – Smt. Annapurna Shankar.

The problem today is that people prefer light melodies. But purity is essentially in inverse proportion to light music and while the mood of the audience is important, it is ultimately the quality of the performance which is the most important. Dhrupad is like Sanskrit – people regard it as difficult. This is not so – it is just one’s involvement with lighter talk that disallows people to appreciate the purest language of India. I recall in Innsbruck, Austria, once when I was performing, I played an alaap for about fifty minutes but the people were not satisfied as a result of which in the second half I played without a tabla accompaniment – with Zakir Hussain on the tanpura. Dhrupad teachers too have a great duty and responsibility. The future of Dhrupad seems very bright indeed. It’s like a continuous cycle – the depression and the rise. Not any other thing, but the very purity of this music, makes its extinction impossible.”

Ustad. Amjad Ali Khan

“Dhrupad is the most ‘formal’ classical musical tradition – though it would be wrong to say that there was no music before Dhrupad, e.g. recitations of the Gita, Quran, Ramayana existed for a long time, but the original form of ‘formal music was Dhrupad. I think that folk music and folk traditions date back even further.

I personally have great regard and admiration for the Dhrupad style particularly since my father believed only in this style and learnt this style from his father. After his father’s death, he went to Rampur and met Ud. Wazir Khan, the direct descendant of Mian Tansen and subsequently went to Vrindavan and became his disciple to learn Dhrupad and the rudra veena. It was in Vrindavan that he met the brothers – Ganeshi Lal ji and Chukha Lal ji, the direct descendants of Swami Haridas ji from whom he also learnt Dhrupad and dhamar.

I consider myself extremely fortunate that this great tradition and treasure was passed down to me by my father. In the olden days, Dhrupad singers were a place above the rest (they enjoyed a position similar to Brahmins) and if a person did not have a very good voice, he was given an instrument, which is how instrumental music evolved.

I personally have equal respect for all style forms, even those that evolved after Dhrupad like the khayal and thumri, each style is difficult and none can be considered inferior or superior, and even be compared. Each person saves the cause of preservation and presentation in his own way. My only fear, at times, is that any music can get repetitive and this must be avoided at any cost.

My father greatly admired the Dhrupad doyen, Ud.Nasiruddin Khan Dagar particularly his alaap and in fact what I greatly admired was that a time when Amir Khan and Bade Ghulam Ali Khan – the great khayal singers – were at their peak in terms of popularity and following the senior Dagar Brothers – Ud. N.Moinuddin Dagar and Ud.N.Aminuddin Dagar revived this old form by giving emphasis to different aspects and were very successful in creating an awareness of, respect and following for Dhrupad.

I strongly feel that we must do something constructive to preserve his great art form – which is our roots and our tradition. There should be centers of Dhrupad in every state of this country in order to nurture, preserve and make people aware of this great heritage – Dhrupad.”

Courtesy – Sabina Sehgal , Sundaram Oct. 1988