of dhrupad traditional indian chant,present an exceptional performance live in
this recording, Amelia Cuni presents two ragas, both of which, according to the
time-theory of Indian music, are prescribed for early morning performance, and
are associated with a devotional mood. They form a part of Amelia's single most
brilliant concert appearance in India, which catapulted her into celebrity
performance was recorded live at the Dadar Matunga Cultural Centre in Bombay (January
26,1995). This institution invites performances with utmost discernment, makes
the most stringent demands on their musicianship, evaluates concerts astutely,
and rewards the worthy with recognition like none other.
Cuni is recognised today as the finest non-Indian exponent of vocal music in the
mideaval Dhrupad style, and probably the only significant Dhrupad vocalist
amongst women anywhere.
term Dhrupad (Dhruva = immutable/ fixed + Pada = Hymn/ verse) refers to a style
of presenting Raga based music which dominated Hindustani (North Indian)
classical music between the 15th and the 18th centuries. Dhrupad has its origins
in an unbroken musical tradition going back to the pre-Christian era. The
tradition has, over the millenia, shaped two distinct streams: the original
devotional form, "Haveli Sangeet" (the Dhrupad of the temples) and its
later manifestation, Darbari Dhrupad (The
from the 18th century, Dhrupad receded from the mainstream, attracting
progressively fewer listeners, and even fewer talented musicians. Since the
mid-1960's Dhrupad is going through some kind of revival. Spearheading the
revival are two distinguished families of hereditary Dhrupad musicians -- the
Dagars from Rajasthan (North-western India), and the Maliks from Darbhanga (Eastern
India) -- both of whom have preserved the art-form for almost 400 years, and
trained a sizeable number of Indian, European and American students and scholars.
Because of its devotional character, Dhrupad is predominantly a vocal tradition.
However, instrumental music, mainly the Rudra Veena, dance (Brihaspati,1989),
and even theatrical performances, including Rasalila (ballet with religious
themes) have been associated with the Dhrupad tradition. In comparison with the
modern Khayal style of vocal music, Dhrupad is austere, sparing in its use of
melodic embellishments, subtle in the demonstration of virtuosity, meticulous in
its respect for its literary content, and firmly anchored in the orthodox
principles of melodic organisation. What Dhrupad denies to its audiences in
terms of sensuous and cerebral excitement, it more than compensates by imparting
a distinctively elevating experience.
Western classical music, Indian art music combines the role of the composer and
performer in the person of the performer. However, since every performer cannot
possibly have the makings of a great composer, the musical system provides him
with esthetically coherent melodic frame-works within which to exercise his
improvisational creativity. These melodic frame-works, called ragas, have
evolved over the millennia as virtual archetypes with clearly defined, and
widely shared, emotional, visual, and sometimes, even seasonal, mythological and
historical associations. The task before the composer-performer is to utilise
the "grammar" of these archetypal structures, and to create "literature"
which unlock their subterranian meaning. The "grammar" of each raga is
specific enough to establish its unique identity amongst ragas, while being open
enough to trigger an infinite variety of aural experiences, from musician to
musician, and even for the same musician, from concert to concert. The Raga
system thus provides the basis, simultaneously, for continuity and familiarity
on the one hand,
the Ragas on this recording are presented in the two-part orthodox Dhrupad
full-fledged Dhrupad Alap is rendered in three paces/tempi: Vilambit (slow paced),
Madhya Laya (medium-paced) and Drut (fast-paced).
Alap : The slow-paced Alap is recognisable by its free-flowing melodic
structuring, devoid of any perceptible rhythm. But, there is, indeed, a subtle
rhythm in it. A majority of phrases have an ascent and descent, not necessarily
in that order and, one of the two will be ever so slightly quicker than the
other. In its contemporary form, the slow-tempo alap follows a step-by-step
melodic development through two phases: (a) Sthayi (b) Antara. The Sthayi
developes the raga form in the lower octave and lower tetrachord, while the
Antara develops the raga form in the upper tetrachord and the higher octave.
Laya Alap: The medium-tempo alap is the first Alap movement explicitly
structured to a rhythm. It is a simple two-beat rhythm, paced at about two beats
per second. Like the slow-tempo alap, the medium-tempo alap also follows a
step-by-step melodic progression. However, the melodic span of each phrases
tends to be wider, and the phrases are often interconnected, and normally in
Alap: The fast-tempo alap does away with the step-by-step melodic progressions
of earlier sections and moves in broad melodic sweeps across the three ocvtaves.
This movement generally conforms to a 4-beat pattern, and the performer
frequently plays with odd-numbered (3/5/7) beat patterns within the four-beat
framework. The tempo of rendition in the drut alap can go upto about four beats
"Pada": The rendition begins with the recitation of the
poetic-melodic-rhythmic form, as composed, followed by improvisations around it.
The "Pada" (composition) itself normally has two rhyming stanzas,
which together constitute an accurate delineation of the complete melodic
structure of the Raga.
compositions are set to Chautal, a 12-beat rhythmic cycle, with most
compositions beginning on the first accentuated beat of the cycle. The basic
form of improvisation consists of the rendition of the Pada itself at
one-and-quarter times, one-and-half times, twice, thrice, four times, and
occasionally, six times the pace of the rhythmic cycle. Such stepped-up
renditions are followed by Tihais (a melodic phrase or set of phrases rendered
thrice ending, in most cases, at the Sam, the accentuated first beat of the
rhythmic cycle), and Chakradhars (a Tihai rendered thrice). Other improvisation
consists of Layakari (rhythmic variations) within the metric cycle based on
either the division of the tempo (Laya-banta) or division of the words of the
poetic form (Bol-banta). No other type of improvisation is allowed in the
orthodox Dhrupad style.
Shuddha Todi is also known as Miyan-Ki-Todi, in memory of the legendary musician
Miya Tansen, who adorned the court of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, and is believed
to have composed the Raga.
MATERIAL: S r g m P d N
the Western scale of C, this corresponds approximately to: C, D flat, E flat, F
sharp,G, A flat B
normal melodic development of the Raga form is straight-forward and hexatonic,
omitting the fifth (Pa tone or G on the western scale). The fifth is used very
selectively, more often in the descent than the ascent, in order to provide a
resting point of peace and tranquility in an otherwise anxiety-laden melodic
Bhairav, a popular raga, comes into being by blending raga Nat of the Bilaval
parent scale with raga Bhairav representing the Bhairav parent scale.
MATERIAL: S R G M P d N S'
the Western scale of C, this corresponds approximately to: C, D, E, F, G, A flat,
R R G G M From Nat
G M d d P Bhairav + Re tone of Nat
P d N S' From Bhairav
S' N d P From Bhairav
P d N d P From Bhairav
P d M P G M R Bhairav + Re tone of Nat
R G M G M R S From Nat.
dominant tones, or melodic centres, in this raga are Ma, and base-Sa. In its
rendition, Re and Pa are used as additional resting points. The Re and Pa tones
are treated firm as in raga Nat, while the Dh tone is oscillated to communicate
the Bhairav facet of this raga. According to the time-theory of Hindustani
music, the Raga is prescribed for performance in the early morning, between 8.00
am and 10.00 am. It
Deepak Raja. WORDAGE 2213 (written May,1998)
Raja is an established Sitar and Surbahar player, belonging to the Vilayat Khan
stylistic tradition, and a financial consultant by profession. He is a
contributing musicologist to India Archive Music Ltd., New York, and a member of
the Editorial Board of the Journal of the Indian Musicological Society.