From the Jacket:
Dhrupada is the oldest genre of North Indian vocal music, referred to by Indian musicians and music scholars with high respect as the fundamental style, the ancient and most sacred genre - the quintessence of North Indian art music. Despite its key function in the music history, dhrupada has assumed the role of a museum piece within the rich and colorful tradition of Hindustani classical music. Having been the predominant style at the Mughal court of Akbar in the second half of the 16th century, dhrupada suffered continuous decline from the 17th century onwards. The tendency started changing only by the middle of the present century when musicians, music scholars and other responsible individuals in India and abroad initiated various activities for the revival of the dhrupada genre. One of the few family traditions who maintained the art of dhrupada singing to the present day is the Mallik tradition associated with the royal court of Darbhanga in Northern Bihar. It was founded by two brothers named Radhakrsna and Karttarama around the middle of the 18th century. Being among the main exponents of dhrupada of the present, along with the Dagars, the Darbhanga tradition is continued today in two lineages. The most senior living musician of the Darbhanga gharana is Pandit Vidur Mallik of Vrindaban.
The present book offers insights into a variety of aspects of dhrupada performance in Darbhanga style, with focus on the branch of Pandit Vidur Mallik, and including research papers, interviews, and transcriptions of both traditional and modern dhrupada compositions of this tradition. After Indurama Srivastava's book Dhrupada, a study of its origin, historical development, structure and present state (published in 1980), the present account is the second book on the subject of dhrupada to be published in English, and it is at the same time the first comprehensive account of dhrupada in the Darbhanga tradition. With the publication of this book, the author wishes to pay tribute to her musical teacher Pt. Vidur Mallik, and to pay her respects to Shri Shrivatsa Goswami, the academic director of Sri Caitanya Prema Samsthana in Vrindaban, for his tireless support for the promotion of dhrupada.
About the Author:
Selina Thielemann, who belongs to a family of musicians, began her academic carrier with a first degree in Western music and violin performance. Thereafter she completed her M.Mus. in ethnomusicology from the school of Oriental and African Studies / University of London, and M.Phill from the University of Cambridge. Her research focuses on Indian music, in particular on dhrupada and on Vaisnava devotion music. Since 1994 she is based in Vrindaban where she studies dhrupada singing with Pt. Vidur Mallik. She is currently completing her doctoral thesis on Vaisnava temple music of Vraja at Banaras Hindu University.
Dhrupada is the oldest genre of North Indian vocal music, and as such it is the basis for the development of classical music in northern India. Despite its key function in the music history, the art of dhrupada singing has declined over the past centuries, and today, only few musicians are acquainted with this style. It is therefore not surprising that relatively little musicological study has been carried out on dhrupada as distimct from other branches of North Indian classical music. The tendency started changing over the past two or three decades when musicians, music scholars and other responsible individuals in India and abroad started various activities for the revival of the dhrupada genre. Annual dhrupada festivals such as the ones of Vrindaban and Banaras were initiated in India, and several renowned dhrupada singers began to travel abroad and to introduce their art to non-Indian audiences. Eventually, dhrupada became also increasingly the subject of musicological literature. Nevertheless the field of dhrupada opens huge spaces of uninvestigated material, and further efforts are needed in order to fill those gaps.
The present book focusses on one of the major dhrupada traditions of the present: the Darbhanga gharana associated with Darbhanga in northern Bihar. Up to now, written musicological accounts of this tradition are very scarce. The present account of dhrupada in Darbhanga style as practiced in the school of its most senior musician, Pandit Vidur Mallik, is a compilation of collected research material rather than a monolithic study. It consists of a number of research papers written at different stages of investigation and pursuing di fferent aims. The general approach, based on participant observation and active participation. combines the theoretical basis with insights and experience gained from music practice in order to support the theoretical argument - an approach which I felt was needed after numerous more or less merely theoretical accounts of dhrupada published over the past twenty years.
I am grateful to all those who helped me: at various stages of research and in the preparation of this book. First of all, my deepest thanks is directed to my guruji, Pandit Vidur Mallik, who introduced me to the art of dhrupada singing and devoted much time to me in the lessons. I further like to thank his students, in particular Mukesh Kaushik, for help of various kinds. Very helpful additional information on the subject was provided by Dr. Ritwik Sanyal and Amelia Cuni. The translations of some of the dhrupada verses by Svarni Haridasa were kindly provided by Dr. Ludmila Rosenstein. For the Dagar tradition, I am very grateful to Umakant and Ramakant Gundecha as well as to Dr. Ritwik Sanyal for providing insights into the performance style of this gharana.
Special thanks is due to those without whose help and encouragement the compilation of this book would not have been possible. In the first place, I wish to express my deepest gratitude to my respected teacher Prof. Dr. Josef Kuckertz who constantly encouraged me in the process of my work and helped me with his invaluable advices and support. The dedication of this book to his memory cannot express adequately what I really owe to him. I am specially indebted to Shri Shrivatsa Goswarni whose understanding and continuous encouragement made my research on dhrupada possible. Much of my inspiration as well as practical support in the preparation of this work I received through him. Last but not least, the research could not have been undertaken without the invaluable moral and financial support of my parents, Mr. Peter Thielemann and Mrs. Serena Mitzscherling, my gratitude to whom is beyond telling.
Dhrupada, or dhruva pada, the 'fixed verse', is referred to by Indian musicians and music scholars with high respect as the fundamental style, the ancient and most sacred genre - the quintessence of North Indian art music. For many of these musicians, however, dhrupada is alive only in the books, in the ancient treatises on music whose undoubted authority has been sustained over many centuries. Thus, dhrupada becomes associated with the remote past, with the legendary time when music took its origin. In many cases, Indian musicians of today - be they vocalists of khyaIa or other styles, or instrumentalists - would like to emphasize that their tradition evolved from a dhrupada school in order to underline the ancientness of their own family tradition. What remains unmentioned, out of ignorance or lack of attention, is the fact that dhrupada is more than a remnant fit for display in dusty museum show-cases. When, during the early sixties of the present century, members of the Dagar family started touring the West and the first commercial recordings of dhrupada were released, the genre was considered as being extinct and preserved only in the Dagar family. It took almost two decades and numerous efforts on the part of individuals attached to the case of dhrupada to make the public aware of the fact that dhrupada was alive and thriving in various traditions all over northern India. Only gradually, the audiences of Indian music concerts came to understand that dhrupada, despite of being largely forgotten, was not dead.
Nevertheless, the general tendency and atmosphere of revival ovei the past three decades has not prevented dhrupada from being given a random place within the scene of contemporary Hindustani music, and the role of dhrupada is that of a rare genre which is little known to the public. Moreover, in conceit performances dhrupada is hardly given the respectable place proper for the presentation of this ancient musical style. Thus, even the greatest artists of dhrupada such as the senior singers of the Dagar family are allotted unsuitable times to perform - in all-night programs they may have to perform at the end, when the majority of the audience have already left the venue. Ustad Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar characterized the situation very clearly in a few introductory words before his presentation at the Srisvami Haridasa Samgita Samaroha in Vrindaban in September 1995, where the organizers had made him wait for his performance for six hours: "Dhrupada is a very ancient genre which is being preserved in our family tradition, and I do not sing anything apart from dhrupada. But today's people do not care, they all prefer to see the television". Apart from the fact that such practice contradicts the traditional sequence of musical genres in performance according to which the presentation of alapa and dhrupada, i.e. of the most ancient and most serious genres, preceds the performance of all lighter styles, the improper place given to dhrupada in Indian music concerts is a major obstacle for the efforts to make the genre known to a wider spectrum of listeners. The audience of dhrupada performances, both in India and in the West, consists of a limited number of experts and music-lovers who are specially acquainted with and interested in the dhrupada genre. When Ustad Nasir Aminuddin Dagar, the present head of the Dagar tradition, performed at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in London in November 1992, the auditorium was hardly half filled, whereas tickets for concerts of even minor artists performing in other styles of Indian music in this venue would be sold out well in advance. In North India, the general public is not acquainted with dhrupada in the way they would be familiar with khyala and other light classical genres, and the all-pervading atmosphere of ignorance regarding the dhrupada genre persists.
However, there is no justification for a pessimistic attitude as to the future of dhrupada. Thanks to the efforts for the revival of the genre over the past thirty years, dhrupada has been saved from extinction and further decline. Yet one has to be aware of the fact that dhrupada is still far away from being 'awarded the proper place it deserves within the tradition of Indian classical music, and it appears that the musical taste of the audiences has not significantly changed since the time - three of four centuries ago - when dhrupada started declining. As dhrupada maestro Pandit Vidur Mallik formulates it: "Today's people prefer those narrow things - the cinema where everything is cut into small pieces. Dhrupada is a very ancient singing style, so it is more appealing to older people". Most of the efforts to revitalize this ancient art have been undertaken by responsible individuals - dhrupada musicians, scholars and patrons deeply interested in the preservation of the cultural heritage of the Indian sub-continent. The activities for the revival of dhrupada include concert performances by dhrupada musicians in India and abroad, publication of dhrupada recordings (the earliest recordings date from the sixties), organization of dhrupada festivals in various places in India such as Banaras, Vrindaban and Delhi, musicological publications on dhrupada by both Indian and Western scholars, as well as seminars and lecture- demonstrations held by dhrupada musicians a n d musicologists in India and abroad. These activities helped to make the genre more widely known to the public and to create new platforms for dhrupada musicians to present their art. The latter, creating new platforms, was of particular significance in the light of the fact that the traditional system of patronage by the royal courts had been abolished after independence, hence many dhrupada musicians lost the existential basis for their profession. Some musicians were subsequently employed by the radio; among them, there are nowadays quite a number of dhrupada musicians (although many of the junior artists are given employment only as tanpura players). From time to time, dhrupada items are transmitted on broadcast, but the amount of these is li'tle compared with other genres, and complete dhrupada performances which would last from thirty minutes to one hour or more cannot be transmitted because of time limitations. Thus, dhrupada presentations on the radio limit themselves to a short item - a short dhrupada composition with few improvisations and no alapa - lasting for about ten minutes. The availability of commercial dhrupada recordings is another problematic issue. In India, the interested listener can consider himself lucky if he has the choice of two or three dhrupada recordings in the major cassette shops of Delhi or another big city, whereas in the West, dhrupada recordings do not find their way to the shelves of the music shops and have to be ordered on the basis of catalogs. Nevertheless, good recordings of dhrupada are available in increasing number, and performances by the major artists of the Dagar and Mallik traditions have been recorded on CD.
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