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Soul brothers
Anjali Jhangiani | Friday, 10 February 2017 AT 08:07 PM IST
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The Gundecha Brothers, Ramakant and Umakant, talk about keeping dhrupad alive, their musical philosophy and their book prior to their performance in the city at the 7th Naada Bindu Festival.

Dhrupad, one of the oldest forms of Indian classical music, was coined by combining the words ‘dhruva’, meaning permanent, and ‘pad’, which stands for verse. But according to the Gundecha Brothers, it simply is the music of the soul.

“Music is everywhere, the world is full of it. But dhrupad is more than just music. It brings about an awakening of the human spirit,” says Ramakant Gundecha, as his brother Umakant adds, “Dhrupad is to the soul what oxygen is to the human body.”
The brothers will be performing in the city as part of the 7th Naada Bindu Festival (NBF), a three-day residential arts retreat to be held at Chinmaya Naada Bindu Gurukula, Kolwan, Pune, from February 10 to 12.

Singing in sync

Hailing from Madhya Pradesh, the Gundecha Brothers were awarded the Padmashree in 2012 for their contribution towards Indian classical music. Born into a joint Jain family, Ramakant and Umakant spent much time together. They even went to the same music college to learn the art that they have mastered as a duo.

“Though singing solo is easier (which you can do it at your own pace and don’t need to match anyone else’s calibre), to synchronise notes with another great vocalist and correspond with him during a live performance is an altogether different experience,” says Ramakant, admitting that singing together is difficult but he wouldn’t have it any other way either. Umakant recalls that they started singing duets even before they started learning dhrupad.

“We used to do jugalbandi in the beginning. Apart from the coordination we show on stage, we are very in-sync in real life too. It is a lifestyle for us, and not something that is difficult or easy,” says Umakant.

Tradition and convention
The duo recently performed in Chennai, at a programme to commemorate renowned dancer Chandralekha Prabhudas Patel’s 10th death anniversary. The brothers had collaborated with her for her last choreography titled Sharira in 2000.
“Chandralekha was an avant-garde artist. She had an objective perspective about her subjects, just like us. She shared our philosophy of tradition,”says Ramakant, further explaining that in the West, there is a concept of convention and in India, there is tradition.

Explaining the philosophical difference, Umakant says, “In the West, compositions by Mozart have been kept intact for four centuries. This is convention. But art in Indian tradition is very personal and susceptible to modification with the times. Tradition is like a river where the water is constantly flowing, it can reduce or overflow at different times.”

Keeping dhrupad alive
There was a time when this art was dying. But thankfully, due to the efforts of a few passionate artists, like the Gundecha brothers, dhrupad is  thriving again. “Presently, there are 50 students from all walks of life — doctors, engineers, filmmakers and some also from finance background — studying the art. We also have 25 graduates in the subject. The future seems bright,” says Ramakant.

Handbook for artists
When you’re starting off as an artist, there are so many questions that cross your mind and often you don’t know who to go to for advice. Keeping this in mind, the brothers have penned Sunta Hai Guru Gyani, which is a Hindi handbook for all artists.
“The book records Indian musical history. It is, as far as we know, the only book in which musicians have spoken to other musicians on various subjects related to music. We have spoken to gurus like Ustad Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar, Pt Debu Chaudhary, Pt Shivkumar Sharma, Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pt Bhimsen Joshi, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and Vidushi Kishori Amonkar to seek their advice on queries like whether one should copy their guru, and to what extent? What is ‘swar’? What is ‘tanpura’? What is ‘raag’? These things have been discussed in depth,” says Ramakant.

The duo took about 4-5 years to compile the information and put it a book. They share that the English translation is likely to release around June-July. 

The author can be followed on Twitter @purplesaga

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