My first proper exposure to Dhrupad. I’ve heard so much about how the khayal nearly pushed this ancient style of gaayiki into extinction, and how fascinating a genuine recital can be. The Gundecha brothers from Bhopal are among a fistful of singers who still maintain the purity of the form and are leading a revival.
They started yesterday with Shuddh Kalyan, and for the first half hour or so, reminded me persistently of elephants. Prolonged notes, often near infrasonic rumbles, sustained vibrations. The raga was being picked out strand by strand, with such long pure notes as to make it seem like you had to move far back to see the pattern. Dhrupad’s priority, I felt, lay with sound, not necessarily melody. That came too, but the point was austere, primeval sound, set in a sophisticated classical pattern of three speeds.
They followed that up with a Shiva stuthi in Raga Adhana – dramatic, rousing: Shiva, Shiva, Shiva, Shankara, Aadi deva, Yogi, Mahadeva…
Then, at Pandit Jasraj’s request, Kabir in Raga Charukeshi with Jheeni jheeni keeni chadariya. I was extremely moved, but as I struggled to translate all that sensation into some form of communication, Durga Jasraj came up and quoted Javed Akhtar: “Hamare yahan badon ki taareef karna bhi badtameezi maani jaati hai.” Which said enough.
If the audience sat solemn through these two hours as individual islands of feeling, it all became communal with the violinist brothers Kumaresh-Ganesh, who were remarkably polished and very enjoyable.