Gundecha brothers hold a masterclass in Dhrupad

Duo says oldest form of Indian classical music has regained popularity among enthusiasts

May 13, 2019 12:41 am | Updated 12:41 am IST - Mumbai

Gundecha Brothers performing a Vocal concert as part of  Dhrupad Music Festival, at Museum Theatre, Egmore, in Chennai, on February 17, 2006.
Photo: S. Thanthoni

Gundecha Brothers performing a Vocal concert as part of Dhrupad Music Festival, at Museum Theatre, Egmore, in Chennai, on February 17, 2006. Photo: S. Thanthoni

A growing interest in Dhrupad along with the National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA) propagating the art, has led to a special collaboration where renowned vocalists Umakant and Ramakant Gundecha held training sessions in the oldest surviving classical form of Indian music.

Speaking about the training sessions, the Gundecha brothers said, “The newly growing interest in Dhrupad and our personal vision to propagate the knowledge and its culture are in line with the goals of the NCPA. We feel that the training workshops will make Dhrupad learning, as well as the knowledge of the existence and quality of this music, available to a larger audience.”

The two sessions on Saturday were attended by a total 50 music enthusiasts and students.

Dhrupad is the oldest form of Indian classical music and the Gundechas believe that in the last few years, Dhrupad has re-emerged among music lovers. “We are performing in almost all major events in India and abroad. Dhrupad provides grammar to our classical music, so people are more interested in understanding its roots. The meditative aspect of this music, which is based on the essential elements of purity of swara, and use of syllables for expansion of alaap , attracts a universal audience, as these aspects just require understanding and absorbing of sound and not any specific language,” Umakant said.

The duo believe that the future of Dhrupad is very bright as many youngsters are entering the field of learning and performing. “At our gurukul, the Dhrupad Sansthan, Bhopal, we are training many Dhrupad vocalists, instrumentalists and pakhawaj players under traditional guru-shishyaparampara. We are very hopeful about the future of Dhrupad and we are excited to bring Dhrupad training to a lot of people in bigger metropolitan cities, who cannot make time to come to Bhopal,” Ramakant said.

The Gundecha brothers travel to many parts of India and abroad to give workshops and lecture demonstrations in Dhrupad, which now many of their senior disciples too have followed to do. Constructive use of social media and online tools has also helped in bringing Dhrupad to a more diverse audience and student base. “We have been very active in live online concerts and lessons as well,” Ramakant said.

Recalling their early days at Madhav Music College, Ujjain in early 1970s, the duo said, “From the college, we came to Dhrupad Kendra, Bhopal, in 1982 to learn under the expert tutelage of vocalist Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar and Rudra Veena maestro Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar, on encouragement of our parents.”

They recalled the unforgettable time they spent with their gurus. “It was very hard training every day, a lot of practice and learning. There were only two to three students in the gurukul at that time, so we had a lot of opportunities to learn with both chhote ustaad and bade ustaad in close proximity and scrutiny. The expectations were high, and it was a lot of hard work. It was their faith in us and their unsurpassed devotion to teaching that kept us going.”

The Gundecha brothers have sung great Hindi poetries by Tulsidas, Kabir, Padmakar, Nirala in Dhrupad style. They belong to the traditional Dagar Gharana of Dhrupad, which has been alive for 19 generations. In this tradition, there is a lot of emphasis on the purity of the note and the raga.

The Gundechas believe that the voice culture of the Dagar vani style of music is especially delicate.

“There is a 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 ( ananta shruti ). The correct use of these microtones takes many years of training for the musical ears. Also, we don’t take any accompaniment like harmonium or sarangi, which makes a lot of difference to keep the purity and precision of swara in the raga,” they said.

Sunta Hai Guru Gyani, a book written by the Gundechas, comprises candid conversations of the duo with some of the icons of Indian classical music. “We talked to some of the greatest musicians of our times like late Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, Pt. Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Pt. Shivkumar Sharma and Vidushi Kishori Amonkar about their musical creativity and their lives. The book is distinct in a way that it’s a candid musician-to-musician dialogue. We are working on another book on Dhrupad pedagogy, which will be in the market by 2020,” Umakant said.

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.