For the Love of Dhrupad

Padma Shri awardees Umakant and Ramakant Gundecha, popularly known as the Gundecha Brothers, tell Shubh Yatra about how their beloved genre is finding a place in world music

Music, like every other discipline in the world, requires focus and dedication. Only then can you excel in it and take it to the world. When we received our first Dhrupad lesson in 1981, we embarked on a journey that has led us through years of learning and diligence to our ultimate calling – taking forward the legacy of our gurus. We trained in the Dagar gharana of Dhrupad under the watchful eyes of Zia Mohiuddin Dagar and Zia Fariduddin Dagar, the foremost masters of the genre. Being called their disciples makes us proud, and we want to pass on what we imbibed from them. This is why we set up the Dhrupad Sansthan in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, a dreamland of Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar, to introduce the genre to the next generation. The students at the institute receive their taleem in the way we were taught – with emphasis on pace, practising the correct voice modulation and a complete understanding of the swaras and ragas.

The Dhrupad Sansthan is the only one of its kind in the world, dedicated to the genre and strictly adhering to the ancient guru-shishya parampara. It is a residential school where we have students from over 35 countries. While some join us for a month, there are many who are permanent residents. We believe that maturity and experience come with time and so, at the institute, we target a training period of four years for those who desire in-depth knowledge of the genre. We believe that is the minimum duration of training required to gain confidence for a solo show.

Dhrupad is sadhna for us – a calm yet constant force that keeps us motivated to do better every time we perform. If you immerse yourself in the depths of this genre, you will see how diverse it can be. We learnt of the possibilities and the powers of this genre during our training and continue to do so during our riaaz, and even as we teach our students. It is a continuous process. The number of Dhrupad enthusiasts is increasing by the day and the genre has transcended national boundaries. At present, more than 15 foreign students – from Belgium, Tunisia, Russia, Spain and France – are learning to play the rudra veena, the vichitra veena and training in vocals at the institute. There are also several others who have graduated and are now earning a livelihood through Dhrupad, and that is a matter of pride for us. In fact, the growing interest in the genre has prompted us to open more training centres – in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, New Delhi, Kolkata and in We always like and appreciate travelling with Air India. The staff and crew work with a sense of responsibility Umakant and Ramakant Gundecha Mumbai – in collaboration with NCPA . Despite our touring schedule, we try to visit each centre from time to time and teach there ourselves.

We have been involved with Indian music for many years now, and it is really heartening to see it being so warmly accepted the world over. All through the year, we are invited for performances in India and abroad. Such is the demand that now we spend almost three to four months performing abroad, though there is nothing like being part of a performance in India. We recently performed at the Sacred Pushkar festival (organised by Teamworks), alongside renowned and popular music groups from India and abroad.

Dhrupad has truly come a long way and we feel honoured to have been able to contribute to the popularity of this genre.

– As told to Shrabasti Mallik

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