Umakant Gundecha and Ramakant Gundecha popularly known as Gundecha brothers are leading dhrupad singers who have ignited a new spark in the dying legacy of Dhrupad.
Born in a Jain family in Ujjain, both the brothers studied music at the local Madhav Music College. Umakant is a post-graduate in music and economics whereas Ramakant is a post-graduate in music and commerce. They were awarded Padamshree in 2012 for their contributions in the field of Indian Classical music.
In an interview with Public Telegraph, Gundecha brothers talks about their musical journey …
When did you start learning Dhrupad?
The power of Dhrupad attracted us right from the childhood when we were learning music in general. Then in 1981, when we got an opportunity to learn in Dhrupad Kendra, Bhopal, we gave up our jobs and started learning Dhrupad in Guru Shishya Parampara.
What motivated you to join the Dhrupad Kendra in Bhopal?
The approach of Sur in Alap was the main attraction for us to take Dhrupad as our way of life. When we heard our teachers, we found that so called labeling of Dhrupad in that era was incorrect and it had so much depth and variety of expression.
The support from the family counts a lot in this matter. Our parents were quite keen to see us as professional Dhrupad singers. After hearing our Ustads, we decided that Dhrupad is as beautiful and creative an art form as other genres.
Tell us something about your Ustads?
Both our Ustads Zia Mohiuddin Dagar and Zia Fariduddin Dagar were phenomenal musicians of the last century in the field of Dhrupad. Their vision was so forward and deep. Whatever Dhrupad groomed scenario you see today is only because of them.
Tell us something more about the musical genre ‘Dhrupad’?
From centuries, Dhrupad has been a base for our Raga Music Culture. Dhrupad provides the grammar to all other genres of music. For centuries, Dhrupad has been considered a medium of worship and meditation.
There are lesser number of woman Dhrupad singers than men, so do you feel is there any particular reason for that ?
In the Dagar family, there has been the tradition not to teach the women. It was one of the reasons. And also, Dhrupad has been labelled more as a masculine music, which is a wrong notion. We especially in our Gurukul are making it a point to teach female students to see its unseen dimension. We have been successful to teach 4 female Dhrupad singers who are performing well namely Aliya Rasheed, Amita Sinha, Astha Tripathi and Roopali Pandey. Many more female students are still under training and we are doing our best to promote this music through female artists.
You have sung the works of contemporary and earlier poets in Dhrupad style. Would you consider this as growing the frontiers of the genre?
We tried to enhance the repertoire of Dhrupad singing and to add great poetry from our great poets so that Dhrupad can be represented by equally good literary value. In these efforts, we have sung Tulsidas, Kabir, Padmakar, Keshav, Nirala, Mahadevi etc… We are also trying to revive the Shabad singing which was originally meant to be sung as Dhrupad.
There was a time when Dhrupad was considered as a vanishing tradition , but as now many Dhrupad Sammelans are being organized and it has definitely helped in promoting Dhrupad , so what other initiatives are being taken to promote it ?
One of the important initiatives is to train a complete Dhrupad singer, which we are doing through our Gurukul in Bhopal. On the other hand, government, private organizers and corporate sector must take the responsibility of organizing more and more concerts of Dhrupad. At the same time, media should also support to make awareness about this art form.
Dhrupad is now being re-integrated into the mainstream. The issues of making a decent living that should have troubled the artists of yesteryears is no more a hurdle, so any suggestions for Dhrupad aspirants ?
Since there are not many accomplished Dhrupad performers available today compared to Khayal singers or other artists, so still we see a great potential in this field as a profession. Dhrupad can not only give you a comfortable livelihood, but also will give you a great amount of inner peace which is finally most essential in life.
You have contributed a lot in the revival of Dhrupad, and the Dhrupad movement has also gained momentum, so how do you feel now? How would you assess your gurus’ and your own contribution in popularizing Dhrupad?
Whatever Gundecha brothers are known today, is due to our teachers and our parents. So we attribute all our success to them. It is our great fortune that Dhrupad got a wide access to audiences throughout the world through our recordings and concerts. We are still learning and trying to understand this music more deeply and promoting the same attitude amongst our students.
We feel always grateful to the audience that they love our music and acknowledge our efforts to bring the awareness about this music.
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