Dhrupad – Vocal Music

The dhrupad in its current form is over five hundred years old, and it is as close to Vedic music as we can get today. Unlike a khayal performance, where the initial expansion of the Raga through alaap is short and only aims at setting the atmosphere of the Raga, the alaap in a dhrupad performance is itself a major segment of the show. The bols (words) chosen for the alaap are the names of God (Om Narayana) or language-independent syllables (nom-tom). In the alaap of a dhrupad, the perfect usage of notes of a Raga in terms of intonation and ornamentation through alankars is incomparable. Though this section is not looped in a rhythmic cycle, the tempo gradually increases with time.

In the second part of the presentation comes the composition, which is set to a rhythmic cycle. Its lyrics are generally devotional. Because the pakhawaj accompanies a dhrupad, the rhythmic cycles usually include Tewra, Sooltaal, or Chautaal. A major feature of the dhrupad presentation is its layakari, which involves repeating the song at different speeds relative to the initially selected base tempo. These “retellings” can get quite complex, especially when the relative tempo is not a whole number multiple of the base speed. The high-speed swara improvisations, called taans, are avoided to retain the profundity of a dhrupad.

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