Timeout - Dhrupad Baithak, March 15, 2008
These poetic ramblings came to life for me on one Saturday evening (March 15), while sitting in a small room in the heart of Delhi’s downtown ‘hang out’ zone! As winter bids a tentative farewell and gives way to a short spell of balmy weather before the onset of the dreaded Delhi summer, I found myself in the company of a very different Saturday night crowd. Huddled together in the cozy environs of The Attic at Rajiv Chowk (Connaught Place or CP to old timers) was a diverse group of people, all waiting expectantly for one man to weave his magic. The event was a Dhrupad Baithak organized by Nadchakra, a Delhi based organization dedicated towards enabling rare Indian classical arts. It featured Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar, a living legend in the Dhrupad tradition and one of the foremost living exponents of Dagar Vani. He is the recipient of the prestigious Tansen Award and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. He teaches at Dhrupad gurucul, founded by his late brother, in Bombay and the Dhrupad Institute in Bhopal. His nephew Baha-ud-din Dagar and a few of his students accompanied him on stage. The two-hour performance featured Raag Abhori and Raag Tilak Kaamod.
The hypnotic power of the ragas was enhanced by the intimate setting and receptive audience, two unique features which set such ‘baithaks’(literally-sittings) apart from other performances. Even a classical music novice like me could feel the beauty and the balance of the compositions. There was a spiritual warmth in the notes. Later some of my musically literate friends confirmed my feelings. The nature of Dhrupad music is indeed spiritual. It seeks not to entertain, but to induce feelings of peace and contemplation in the listener. The word Dhrupad is derived from Dhruva, the steadfast evening star that moves through our galaxy and Pada, meaning poetry. It is a form of devotional music that traces its origin to the ancient text of Sam Veda.
I was also fascinated by the beautiful solitude of the performer himself. It was a beauty born out of devotion. As he sat there lost in his own joy, I felt a tinge of jealousy at his contentment. Halfway through the performance, I had the distinct feeling that he was no longer singing for the audience. He never was. Gesticulating expressively with his hands and exchanging knowing smiles with the accompanying musicians, he was lost in his own world. An old man in a small room in the middle of a market, meditating. A young man (yours truly) in the same room, suddenly, absurdly happy.
“The Dagarvani's forte is the alap. The dagarvani alap brings into play each and every note in the raga in all three registers. The voice culture is especially delicate. There is fluidity in its expository style and a feeling of expansiveness. This is done, in addition to the tone shades, by dividing each tone into several microtones. The correct use of these microtones takes many years of training for the musical ears,” a knowledgeable friend pitched in with these helpful words at the end of the evening. By that time I was already a convert. Emerging from the musical cocoon into the bustling market outside, everything seemed fresh! Life had a new fragrant hue. I slowly walked towards the Metro station. Happy.
Subject: Very personal and beautiful expression. - 23 March 2008
For a moment felt I was actually there.
Subject: Dhrupad Baithak - 19 March 2008
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