The Structure of Dhrupad Performance
full performance of Dhrupadwhether in vocal or instrumental
musicis in two portions: the alap, an extended melodic
improvisation exploring the mood of the raga being performed;
and the dhrupad or dhamara composition set
to a distinct poetic text with pakhawaj accompaniment.
The alap itself
goes through three stages known as alap, dugun,
and chaugun in vocal music, or alap, jor,
and jhala in instrumental music. The simple alap explores
the distinctive melodic features of the raga without recourse
to rhythm. The alap begins with the tonic, Saof the middle
octaveas its center. The artist generally begins by moving
downward, note by note, exploring the lower octave, sometimes
finally reaching a distinctly dramatic point by touching the deep
tonic of that octave.
the lower octave, the artist moves up into the middle octave in
improvisations which set new, progressively higher watermarks,
ultimately reaching another dramatic stage by ascending to the
tonicSaof the highest octave. The gradual, progressive
ascent is what is most dramatic about the Dhrupad alap, and the
longer the artist can sustain creativity in keeping the listeners
engaged, the more liberating is the resolution in reaching the
the dugun (literally, double) alap, in vocal musicthe jor in
instrumental (and so called in some vocal traditions as well)in
which there is the introduction of a slow, regular pulse. Here
the artist traversesnow with a rhythmic componentsomewhat the
same melodic range covered earlier. The notes come more frequently
now, and to the drama of ascent is added the power of a gradually
accelerating rhythmic effect.
At some point
in the dugun alap/jor, the double pulse bursts into a quadruple
pattern, and the chaugun (literally, four-fold) alap begins in
vocal music and the jhala in instrumental music (again, also so
identified in some vocal traditions). At this point the rhythmic
element comes to dominate over the melody, with increasingly complex
phrases, ornamentation and rhythmic patterns standing in distinct
contrast to the elegant calm and simplicity of the beginning alap.
In some traditions the dugun/chaugun/jor/jhala sections are called
nom-tom, from two of the syllables used to articulate the
rhythm in this section.
of the raga concludes with the bandish, or song composition,
set with pakhawaj (barrel drum) accompaniment to one of
the distinctive Dhrupad talas. A bandish composition in
a seven, ten, or twelve-beat tala is called a dhrupad, while a
song in the fourteen-beat dhamar tala is known eponymously as
a dhamar. The performance of the song consists of a straightforward
statement of the fixed composition, which is traditional and may
sometimes be extremely old, dating, as noted above, back to the
time of Tansen. The song itself consists of two to four parts
based on verses of the poetic texts: the four parts are known
as the asthai, antara, sanchari, and abhog.
Once two or more of these parts have been stated in their fixed
form, the singers engage in a dramatic improvisatory process known
as bol-bant (word-division), in which the words are used
in increasingly complex and richly syncopated rhythmic patterns
(which play against the powerful cross-rhythms of the pakhawaj)
to conclude the performance of the raga.
should be noted that the performances on the site pages of this
Web site are greatly abbreviated for ease of access. A full Dhrupad
performance of a raga is usually at least a half hour in length
and may last up to two or more hours, in a gradual unfolding of
improvisational creativity. Longer performances may be heard on
the recordings listed in the discography.
Brian Q. Silver