Dhrupad and the adjective, ‘ancient’ are joined together so regularly and frequently that that is about all the casual listener knows about this form of Indian (in the pre-1947 Partition sense) of classical musical art. And I must confess that that knowledge of its hoary origins and long tradition does add a certain pleasure to the listening.
Yet, when I listen to the rudra veena being played in this style what strikes me is how thoroughly contemporary, modern and fresh the music sounds. In this time of instant accessibility to the most far away places, click-gratification and ever more sparky pop music (including the sounds coming out of Indian cinema studios) designed to make you twerk your booty, when pop music is delivered fast and faster, the drawn out cadences, shivering gaps and unhurried single notes of the dhrupad veena are an unexpected source of relief.
Dhrupad singing (the original vehicle of this style) is intended to expand our human consciousness as well as to entertain. It relies on vibrations, deep and mortal, to shake loose the excess of thought and transport the soul to another plane. Long and fat slides, whether of the vocal chords or the strings, produces an upsurge in energy. The Buddhist saying, “go slow to go fast’ is evidenced in the long alaps of the dhrupad.
Listen to the recording in the spotlight tonight. In the sparse deliberate plucking and the resounding vibrating that ensues, you will experience a completely modern and minimalist sound. Setting the scene (alap) is the show stopper and focus of dhrupad. And in this way you could argue (in opposition to my opening claim) that dhrupad is anti-modern. It eschews pace and it does not want you to shake your booty or any other part of your body. It does not care about being snappy. Like consciousness, dhrupad simply is.
This recording by Shamsuddin Faridi Desai is a gorgeous delight. Music of the deepest kind and yet so friendly. Desai was born in 1936 in the Indian state of Gujarat. His family was one of traditional courtly musicians who had honed their art over centuries. Shamsuddin was immersed in music from his birth but did confess that he had his eye set on a stage career, hoping to hook up with the great Indian actor Prithviraj Kapoor. But then the veena the long gourded string instrument he has mastered, took over his being and music became his life.
“An important part of our music is the link between our spiritual beliefs and pursuit of music. We belong to the Qadri sect of Sufism, which regards music as the path to the realization of God. The fountainhead of our gharana, Ustad Bande Ali Khan, is reported to have offered penance at the shrine of the Sufi saint, Khwaja Garibnawaz in Ajmer, and obtained a boon that he and his heirs would have the power to make people laugh or cry at will. It is that boon that inspires our music.” (http://swaratala.blogspot.com.au/2007/05/shamsuddin-faridi-desai-qadri-sufis.html)
01 Yaman- Alap
04 Komal Rishabh Asavari – Alap
05 Komal Rishabh Asavari – Jor & Jhala