Dhrupad is the most ancient style of Hindustani (North Indian) classical music that has survived until today in its original form. The Dhrupad tradition is a major tradition of Indian culture.
The nature of Dhrupad music is spiritual, seeking not to entertain but to induce feelings of peace and contemplation in the listener. It is a form of devotional music that traces back to the ancient text of Sam Veda.
Dhrupad is a heritage, which was transmitted since pre-Indian times in the so called Gurushishya Parampara system, in which the student lives with the teacher in close proximity. The student gives his life to the teacher and receives in turn, the blessings of this rich music.
Dhrupad however, has enormous relevance to today’s generation. It is a meditation, focusing people to that which is essential in life, the moment, here and now. Dhrupad music is pure energy which vitalises, harmonises and leads to bliss, joy and peace.
Each Raaga represents a different physical state of nature. Evening ragas have a different tonal system to morning Ragas, creating different atmosphere and evoking different feelings. The musician and the well-trained listener can merge with nature through the tool of music.
One significant characteristic of Dhrupad is the emphasis on maintaining the purity of the Raga (tonal systems) and the Swara (notes). It is always sung accompanied by the Tanpura, a drone instrument which provides tonal reference and creates a carpet of sound rich in microtones. The second accompanying instrument is the Pakhavaj, a sonorous cross drum.
Traditionally Dhrupad was sung only by men and often as a Jugalbandi (duet). The first woman who performed on a public stage was Asgari Bai, active in the second half of the 20th century. Dhrupad music almost died out after the royal courts lost their function due to independence in 1947. Since the 1990s Dhrupad has experienced a revival and is taught widely again, also to women. Nowadays Dhrupad is performed by around 30 women, including Indians and non-Indians.
Dhrupad is sung in syllables (te ta ra na ri num na) which are derived from a Mantra. These so called Nomtom syllables have no direct meaning. Dhrupad music is universal and focusses only on the sound. There are also typical sonorous Dhrupad instruments like the Veena or Surbahar.
At the beginning of a concert the Raag is presented slowly and meditatively (Alap). Soon after rhythm is introduced (Jhor) which in turn doubles and then speeds up even more (Jhala). The elaborate improvisations in this music provide much entertainment. Finally, a song or composition emerges. During the faster, more rhythmical sections, the vocalist will be accompanied by the pakhavaj.
Dhrupad is an exquisite listening and singing experience providing entertainment of the highest level!