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Moghubai died recently, and Gangubai Hangal paid her a very moving tribute. She recalled, without regret or rancour, the poverty the two friends, from similar rural backgrounds, had to endure to keep their music alive




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The fall and rise of aradhana music:
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Nom-tom on the
bamboo reed

Divine Dhrupad is a pioneering effort by Hariprasad Chaurasia to play dhrupad on the flute. The ancient form is almost always sung, or played on the vina
Divine Dhrupad
T Series
Rs 30


Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia belongs very firmly in the Maihar tradition. He learnt from Annapurna Devi, the reclusive genius and daughter of Ustad Allauddin Khan. Baba, as the ustad was called, trained and gave to the world two other greats -- his son Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, and Pandit Ravi Shankar.

Allauddin Khan was a master of the sarod, and could play several other instruments as well. His Maihar band, which played his compositions, was among the earliest in India to try orchestral essays of traditional ragas. 

The Maihar school is predominantly sarod and sitar playing, and Hariprasad Chaurasia's mentor, Annapurna Devi, is considered one of the finest ever sitarists. She does not perform in public, and is known to have a fiery temper.

Hariprasad Chaurasia's first guru was Pandit Bholanath. He went to Annapurna Devi only later, where he must have learnt the instrumental compositions of her gharana. The sleeve notes on Divine Dhrupad do not tell us where he learnt dhrupad music. The dhrupad is an ancient form, almost always sung or played on the rudra vina. This is the only flute recording of dhrupad that I have come across.

On Side A, Hariprasad Chaurasia plays a longish alap in raga Jait and then moves on to a composition in ek taal. To ears accustomed to the deeper and more sombre tones of the vina and the voice, the flute seems a somewhat light medium for dhrupad expression, but of course that shouldn't be an argument against the playing of dhrupad on any instrument other than the vina. This is a pioneering experiment.
Ek taal is one of the simpler beats, both in the khayal and dhrupad traditions, and Hariprasad Chaurasia plays around with it easily, without giving in to any kind of gimmickry.

Side B presents the evening raga Behag, which Hariprasad Chaurasia plays in dhamar taal. The alap here is more relaxed and meditative, and the nom-tom alap a little more elaborate than on Side A. Thanks to its use in films and its popularity on the concert stage, Behag is a more familar raga than Jait.

Pandit Ramakanth Mhapsekar, who has accompanied on the tabla famous names like Moghubai Kurdekar and her daughter Kishori Amonkar, plays the pakhawaj here. (Incidentally, Moghubai died recently, and Gangubai Hangal paid her a very moving tribute. She recalled, without regret or rancour, the poverty the two friends, from similar rural backgrounds, had to endure to keep their music alive. "We often laughed about how names like ours -- which only seem to belong to maidservants these days -- have endured in today's times," she told a Rediff interviewer).

I can't really tell if Divine Dhrupad will meet hardcore dhrupad expectations in the area of rhythmic calculation, buy the album does seem to me a serious attempt by a well-known flautist to explore the dhrupad idiom.

This is a T Series tape made in 1997, which I happened to notice in a small, unlikely shop only recently, in mid-2001. I hardly find new classical music releases from this label, which at one time tried to contend with other classical music producers with low-priced and decently brought-out albums.

S R Ramakrishna

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