Monday, June 13, 2011

A Musical Anthology of the Orient - India III: Dhrupad

Moinuddin and Aminuddin Dagar

A Musical Anthology of the Orient 
- Unesco Collection 18 - India III: Dhrupad 
recorded by Alain Daniélou
Bärenreiter - Musicaphon - BM 30 L 2028 - P.1961?

Side A

A1 Asavari 24'44

Side B

B1 Bhairavi 21'33
B2 Damar Tala, Pakhawaj solo 4'56

The Dhrupad received its present form at the court of Rājā Mana Simba, the ruler of Gwalior from 1486 to 1525. This style was perfected by such famous musicians of the sixteenth century as Haridāsa Swami and his disciple Tansen at the court of the emperor Akbar (1542-1605).

Moinuddin and Aminuddin Dagar are the descendants of a very old family of musicians. The particular style of Dhrupad of which they preserve the tradition dates back to Vrija Chanda, a contemporary and rival of Tānsen. Vrija Chanda was called Dāguri, because he was born in the village of Dagar near Delhi. Gopal Dāsa Dagar, who was one of the heirs of this tradition, is a direct ancestor of the Dagar brothers. Their grandfather Alla Bande Khan and their father Nasiruddin Khan Dagar, court musicians of Indore, are renowned for their performances and creations within the traditional music of India.

Today, Moinuddin and Aminuddin Dagar are recognized as the best singers of the classical Dhrupad

Raja Chhatrapati Singh, born in 1919, belongs to the ruling family of Bijna State in Central India. Chhatrapati Singh learned to play the drum, called pakhävaj, with the famous drummer Ramdāsji. For several years he was a teacher of this instrument at the Music College of Benares Hindu University.


Dhrupad is the noblest style of Indian classical music. Dhrupad-s consist of two parts: a long prelude which establishes the mode, the rāga, which is today called ālāpa or “conversation” but was formerly termed Dhruva, and a poem or pada which is sung.

The Dhrupad is a sober and severe style of singing. The musicians must improvise strictly within the limits of the mode and avoid any elaborate vocalising or ornaments. The ālāpa which forms the first part of any classical improvisation is in a slow tempo and has no definite rhythmic form. It has only a metrical form, i. e. long or short notevalues, but these are not organized into a rhythmic pattern. The improvisation is free and descriptive. The ālāpa is essential in creating the mood or atmosphere of the mode. Time has to be taken before the minute variations on each note of the modal scale can reveal their expressive values and the significance of each note can be established and assimilated by the audience. Only then can the musician begin faster, more brilliant and lighter variations, and also omit some of the elements of the scale without affecting the raga. The mood of the mode has to be firmly established with all its deeper significance before the musician can feel free to display virtuosity in vocal arabesques, which take on their real meaning only within the emotional background of a particular raga The ālāpa is the most difficult part of the improvisation. It is here that the personality of the great exponent is immediately felt. In the poem which is sung after the ālāpa, the drum intervenes with complex rhythms. The poem itself is very short and its verses are repeated many times. It is sometimes divided into two parts, sthāyi and antarā, which are sung in forms that differ slightly from each other.

The Dhrupad is a much neglected art in India today, where the public demand is for lighter and easier musical forms, such as the bel canto virtuosity of the Khyāl, rather than the contained emotion and sober musical structure of the Dhrupad. There are very few Dhrupad  singers today.

Moinuddin and Aminuddin Dagar are almost alone among the great singers who still practise this form of singing; the most noble, beautiful, and severe form of Indian musical art.

Most of the Dhrupad-s which are sung today were composed by poets and musicians of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

From the original accompanying notes to the series by Alain Daniélou

Moinuddin Dagar, Aminuddin Dagar, Suraiya Dagar 

Here is a quote from a review by Walter Kaufmann in 
Ethnomusicology 1970 Vol. 14 No. 01 , page 184.

This is an interesting and, in general, valuable collection of Indian recordings. A few unusual comments and a certain unevenness in type and quality of a few pieces can be overlooked by a tolerant reader and listener when he considers the compelling beauty of the majority of the pieces presented. The four discs cover a wide field: Vedic Recitation and Chant; Music of the Dance and Theater of the South; Dhrupads; and Karnatic Music.

Disc Three

Presenting two dhrupads, this disc is as interesting as the recording of the Vedic chant. The commentator is correct when he describes dhrupad singing as a “much neglected art in India.” We could add that now this art is practically forgotten. It is very difficult indeed to hear a dhrupad performance at the present time. During my fourteen-year residence in India I had only one opportunity to hear a dhrupad performance. A single dhrupad takes a surprisingly long time to perform, usually several hours. This fact makes us wonder how it is possible to present not one but two dhrupads on one disc and with room to spare for a drum solo performance! If Indian musicians argue about the correct interpretation of a certain raga, they will never consult the old Sanskrit works but will invariably refer to the only undisputed authority: the dhrupad. Even the most heated argument will come to an end if it is stated that in the pure and unadorned dhrupad singing this or that manner of performance practice is employed. The dhrupad, the heavy forerunner of the khyal, consists of an alap, the asthayi, and the antara. It is always accompanied on a mrdanga (or pakha\vaj), never on the tablas. There is a saying in India that only a man who has the strength of several buffaloes should attempt to sing dhrupad. This style is devoid of all subtle ornamentations that may appear in the khyal. Although the description of intervals, as expressed in the commentary by fractions and mathematical calculations such as 25/24, 256/243, and so forth, is theoretically of interest, it is necessary to say that no Indian performing musician, neither now nor of the past, would ever refer to or apply mathematical concepts in his performance. My position as Director of Music at All India Radio, Bombay, enabled me to check repeatedly several aspects of microtonal alterations. Most of the older artists refused to accept their remunerations in the form of cheques. They insisted upon receiving bare coin. 

It was interesting to note that some of these great and wonderful musicians would bring along with them a young boy, a son or a nephew, who was able to count the rupee coins reliably. The old artist and his young helper would settle on the floor outside the studio and carefully count the money received which had come in a little cloth bag. It seems to be rather erroneous to assume that these celebrated artists dealt with the microtonal alterations in their performances from a rigid mathematical point of view. As a matter of fact I was able to measure some of these remarkable alterations electronically and found that the "same" intervals in a certain raga received differing alterations by the same artist at different broadcasts and, of course, other performers would deviate slightly from the former. It appears that the main point is the use of alteration, but the how high or how low, of course within the margin of an interval less than a semitone, was left to the prevailing mood produced by the raga itself and by the performing artist. Some interesting studies have been made in this respect by N. A. Jairazbhoy and A. W. Stone (1963). It is of interest to note that not one single Indian theorist before the end of the last century employed complex mathematical terms, and that none of the Indian notational systems possesses symbols that indicate microtonal alterations. Of course the alterations do exist in practice, but they are traditional, bound to the characteristic rasa, and their execution is left to the discretion of the performer.

The dhrupad excerpts given on the disc are based upon the northern ragas Asavari and Bhairavi. They are followed by a pakhawaj solo in Dhamar tal (5,2,3,4). Asavari, originally designated as a ragini, is often depicted as a beautiful woman. There are two types of this raga: the first-the scale of which is now used as the eighth thata-with RE shuddha (D natural); and the second with RE komal (D flat). The tone material shown in the commentary represents the second type. The vadi is DHA komal (A flat), and its somewhat weaker counterpart, the samvadi, is GA komal (E flat). Both notes when used in the descending line are generally performed with a slight vibrato which is characteristic of Asavari. The commentary informs us correctly about the omission of the notes GA komal (E flat) and NI komal (B flat) in ascent, and their use in descent. There are some instances when musicians combine both types of Asavari by using RE shuddha (D) in ascent and RE komal (D flat) in descent. Bhairavi is the next raga presented, its scale now being the ninth thata of the North Indian music system. As indicated in the commentary, the major second (RE shuddha, D natural) may appear, but only as an ornament.
As a matter of fact, various liberties may be taken in the performance of this noble raga because with the exception of the basic tone material and the vadis (MA, F, and SA, C) there are no strictly prescribed performance rules. The performing artists are Moinuddin and Aminuddin Dagar, Raja Chatrapati Singh, and Surayi Dagar.

Walter Kaufmann 
Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana

ill. 1 Raga Asavari - painting 17th century

ill. 2 Raga Bhairavi - painting 17th century

Dagar Brothers during recording

Moinuddin, Aminuddin, Suraiya Dagar in Bombay

Moinuddin Dagar (1919-1966)

The eldest son of Nasiruddin Khan and a charismatic performer who together with his younger brother Ustad Nasir Aminuddin Dagar attained fame in the 1950's and 60's as the Senior Dagar Brothers. His  singing came the closest to that of Nasiruddin Khan, according to many who had heard Nasiruddin Khan. He trained under his father till his death in 1936, and subsequently learnt from his uncles Riyazuddin Khan and Ziauddin Khan. His style was characterised by a certain flamboyance, and there were always surprises in the sudden unexpected turns that his melodic improvisation could take. His concert tour of Europe with his younger brother in the 1960's earned great critical acclaim. He had amazing mastery over the use of the three different kinds of head resonance — nasika, anunasika and nirrannasika, which he used with much flair and artistry on the higher notes like ni and sa. His use of rapid ghamak patterns in the faster part of the alap created some controversy, because this led to the accusation that he had adopted some elements of khayal in his singing. But he defended its use by saying that the patterns, though very rapid, were syllabic and different from the aakar taans of khayal. Like his father Nasiruddin Khan he died in the prime of his career in 1966, probably from the same hereditary ailments that caused his fathers early demise — the progression of his illness no doubt accelerated by his fondness for the rich non-vegetarian cuisine of the Dagar family. Recently some recordings of his singing have been released from the private archives of the Royal family of Udaipur.

Aminuddin Dagar (1923-2000)

The second son of Ustad Nasiruddin Khan who, together with his elder brother Ustad Nasir Moinuddin Dagar, attained fame as the Senior Dagar Brothers. Blessed with a deep resonant voice, and a slightly restrained devotional style, he was the ideal duet partner for his flamboyant elder brother Moinuddin. He had his initial training from his father Ustad Nasiruddin Khan, and later learnt mainly from Ustads Hussainuddin Khan (Tansen Pandey), Ustad Ziauddin Khan and Ustad Riyazuddin Khan. He however regarded his elder brother Moinuddin Dagar as his main guru. He was famous in his family for his prodigious memory and remembered many compositions, perhaps more than anyone else of his generation in the Dagar family. He did teach some of them to his students, but most are now lost.

Raja Chhatrapati Singh (1919-1998)

Chatrapati (also spelled Chhatrapati) Singh Ju Deo was born in the Royal family of Bijna State in Uttar Pradesh, bordering Madhya Pradesh, India. His grandfather Raja Mukund Singh and father Raja Himmat Singh were partrons of music. He showed a great deal of interest in music from a very early age and started learning Pakhavaj from a number of masters including Shri Kudau Singh Ji and Swami Ramdās Ji. He became the foremost exponent of Pakhavaj of his era. He accompanied all the great Dhrupad vocalists including the Dagar Brothers and Pt. Ram Chatur Malik. For several years he was a teacher of this instrument at the Music College of Benares Hindu University.

Music ▼ R


arvind said...

Excellent record! Thank you very much for the ongoing treat, bo!

Жужу said...

Прекрасная пластинка и, наконец-то, отличная оцифровка!

Anonymous said...

Sir, can you pl post vol 4 containing carnatic music, if you have. Many thanks for sharing great music

bolingo69 said...

Too busy right now but all the Bärenreiters will be posted here as soon as I find time. Including the vol. 4 and all other volumes. I have them all ripped but editing takes time and that I do not have at the moment! Do not worry, it will happen!

Anonymous said...

I really really love this one record ! it has the psychological depth of a good Brahms/Schumann chamber music, but it flows more naturally

This blog is really one of a kind, and one of the best


Cryptic Chaos (LordNecro) said...

hey man, thanks a lot for the collection, can you please post an alternative link, the rapidshare site seems to be down since a few days. Thanks again. Big Fan of the site

Anonymous said...

Sir, this Link is not working, these are certainly masterpieces, please keep all these alive.
Thianking you,
Rajib Deb (India)