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
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.
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.
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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