Lyrical lead to a complex form
The amazing voice control of the dhrupad maestros Gundecha Brothers drew even the uninitiated into the grand old form
INTENSE Umakant and Ramakant Gundecha's dhrupad recital gripped one and all in the packed auditorium
It's easier to write of imperfections, you realise, as you set out to write about the impeccable dhrupad lecdem presented by the distinguished Gundecha brothers, organised by SPICMACAY at Surana College, Bangalore. The shimmering lyricism and subliminal value of Umakant and Ramakant Gundecha's dhrupad recital gripped one and all in the auditorium packed with mostly students (it was, however, evident that the backbenchers were captive), taking them to the realms of something wondrously new.
"This is so different from khayal music, so fluid and completely engaging," remarked an enchanted listener, when the house was thrown open to queries at the end of the concert. "Usually the opinion is contrary to your observation. Dhrupad is regarded as a complex form," responded Ramakant, the younger of the duo, in his characteristic concise manner. It was a comment surely on the siblings' ability to rope in the listener, both the initiated and the uninitiated. It reminded one of dhrupad exponent Ustad Fariduddin Dagar's four-hour concert in a tribal settlement, at the end of which the audience wouldn't let him go.
Their highly evocative exposition of the morning raga Gurjari Todi (Shubhapantuvarali that), like most dhrupad recitals, was a demanding one. Unlike the khayal, the dhrupad doesn't believe in holding on to defining phrases, but builds a grand raga structure. Their detailed exposition of the raga (shadava-shadava jathi), note by note, ranging from the ati mandra to the tara saptak, covered about two-and-a-half octaves. The seamless symmetry wrought by the duo was almost uncanny, and even as you wondered how the brothers manage such perfection, they surprised us with yet another stunning exchange highly individualistic interpretation, yet strikingly complementing. For instance, majestic negotiations were contrasted with a staccato volley of notes. The texture of their voice allowed for intense forebodings and nuanced microtonal variations, almost like a string instrument. So you got to hear dramatic, powerful gamaks alongside long, thoughtful meends. But nothing in their presentation ever disrupted the ponderous, thinking nature of the dhrupad. Western concepts of music such as counters and syncopation worked beautifully in their presentation and at different registers. The amazing ease with which the masters could manoeuvre their voice to perfection something achieved through technological interventions alone these days probably struck the youngsters in the audience the most.
After the involved alaap (which was cut short for the occasion) in three stages, the Gundechas chose a Tansen composition, "Tere bal prataap, aiso jaiso udagan" set to 10 beats. The brothers, renowned for their emotional rendition, laid special emphasis on the lyrics, considering it was a lecdem. On the pakhawaj, a percussion instrument as old as the form itself, was yet another brother, Akhilesh Gundecha.
The scholarly Gundechas took most questions politely which ranged from simple to informed ones. There were questions on why a particular raga was rendered at a particular time, the various gharanas of the dhrupad tradition, and the meaning of the word dhrupad itself. When an enthusiastic youngster asked if it was necessary to have a particular voice quality to sing dhrupad, "Yes, and it has to be achieved," came the stoic reply. Why are all compositions of the dhrupad spiritual? "There are compositions that are based on the shringara rasa. But in Indian aesthetics there isn't much of a difference between bhakti and shringara," explained Ramakant, who was taking most of the questions.
And in the true spirit of the season, they concluded with a piece on the rains in Miyan ki Malhar, "Ghana gamanda".
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