Sonic Saturdays

Rhythmic interplay marks Nasir Aminuddin Dagar and Nasir Moinuddin Dagar's rendition of raag Kafi

This is the second episode of our series on the raag.

Hindustani musicians often profess the oneness of all music, whether from India or elsewhere, but their responses to the immediate musical reality around them leave much to be desired in this context. They are bogged down by loyalties to particular musical forms, gharanas and individual gurus.

Thus, many dhrupadiyas or dhrupad singers consider themselves to be the conscience-keepers of what they consider a pure and authentic tradition, in contrast to khayal and thumri singers, who they believe have deviated from this tradition. The khayaliyas or khayal singers on their part do not think much of the thumri singers.

Notably, prejudices such as these existed in previous centuries too. For instance, vocal music was regarded as the highest strata of music-making with instrumental music and dance following at the second and third tiers. Similarly, accompanists to vocalists, instrumentalists and dancers, were relegated to the lowest rung.

Many of the older prejudices have disappeared or are not noticeable. But there is no doubt that the openness that is otherwise touted, needs to be seen on the ground as well. Sadly, die-hard Hindustani music lovers also seem to harbour such biases.

Fortunately, every generation has seen some musicians go beyond these imaginary walls to draw inspiration from a variety of sources. The reasons for doing so may have been many, ranging from a possible passion to the desire to enhance their creativity to the more mundane purpose of garnering support from patrons who perhaps desired a change.

Coming together

Horis are songs specific to the celebration of the Holi festival and contain imagery related to the festival. Dhrupad vocalists usually sing horis that are set to Dhamaar, a cycle of 14 matras or time units played on the pakhawaj, and the song-form is also called dhamaar. These renditions are replete with layakari or rhythmic interplay that is one of the hallmarks of dhrupad-dhamaar gayaki or vocal style.

We begin the second episode of our series on the raag Kafi (you can read the first piece here) with a recital by maestros Nasir Aminuddin Dagar and Nasir Moinuddin Dagar that bears evidence of these crossovers.


This track featuring the Dagars, known as chief representatives of the Dagar gharana of dhrupad singing, contains a hori sung by them in the thumri style set to Deepchandi, a 14-matra taal. The ease with which the maestros present this hori reveals the manner in which they have internalised thumri gayaki too.

They employ devices that are integral to thumri singing, such as bol banaav or free melodic elaboration using the words of the song-text over the rhythmic canvas, pukaar or the stretching out of the voice to create a feeling of yearning, ornamental devices like khatka and murki, and short taans. As per the conventions of thumri recitals, they change from Deepchandi to the eight-matra Kaherva after singing the antara. Listeners will note the laggi patterns played on the tabla during this phase.

They conclude their recital with a bandish ki thumri, composed by Wajid Ali Shah, the last Nawab of Awadh known for his patronage to music and dance. Set to the sixteen-matra Teentaal, this composition is also in Kafi describing scenes associated with Holi and the escapades of the god Krishna.

Unfortunately, there is no mention of the tabla player on this track, but several rhythmic responses from the tabla lace this recital.

As mentioned last week, many performers choose to deviate from the formal structure of Kafi to include the shuddha Gandhara and shuddha Nishad, the natural third and seventh notes. The Dagars also incorporate these in this recital.

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Virat Kohli and Ola come together to improve Delhi's air quality

The onus of curbing air-pollution is on citizens as well

A recent study by The Lancet Journal revealed that outdoor pollution was responsible for 6% of the total disease burden in India in 2016. As a thick smog hangs low over Delhi, leaving its residents gasping for air, the pressure is on the government to implement SOS measures to curb the issue as well as introduce long-term measures to improve the air quality of the state. Other major cities like Mumbai, Pune and Kolkata should also acknowledge the gravitas of the situation.

The urgency of the air-pollution crisis in the country’s capital is being reflected on social media as well. A recent tweet by Virat Kohli, Captain of the Indian Cricket Team, urged his fans to do their bit in helping the city fight pollution. Along with the tweet, Kohli shared a video in which he emphasized that curbing pollution is everyone’s responsibility. Apart from advocating collective effort, Virat Kohli’s tweet also urged people to use buses, metros and Ola share to help reduce the number of vehicles on the road.

In the spirit of sharing the responsibility, ride sharing app Ola responded with the following tweet.

To demonstrate its commitment to fight the problem of vehicular pollution and congestion, Ola is launching #ShareWednesdays : For every ​new user who switches to #OlaShare in Delhi, their ride will be free. The offer by Ola that encourages people to share resources serves as an example of mobility solutions that can reduce the damage done by vehicular pollution. This is the fourth leg of Ola’s year-long campaign, #FarakPadtaHai, to raise awareness for congestion and pollution issues and encourage the uptake of shared mobility.

In 2016, WHO disclosed 10 Indian cities that made it on the list of worlds’ most polluted. The situation necessitates us to draw from experiences and best practices around the world to keep a check on air-pollution. For instance, a system of congestion fees which drivers have to pay when entering central urban areas was introduced in Singapore, Oslo and London and has been effective in reducing vehicular-pollution. The concept of “high occupancy vehicle” or car-pool lane, implemented extensively across the US, functions on the principle of moving more people in fewer cars, thereby reducing congestion. The use of public transport to reduce air-pollution is another widely accepted solution resulting in fewer vehicles on the road. Many communities across the world are embracing a culture of sustainable transportation by investing in bike lanes and maintenance of public transport. Even large corporations are doing their bit to reduce vehicular pollution. For instance, as a participant of the Voluntary Traffic Demand Management project in Beijing, Lenovo encourages its employees to adopt green commuting like biking, carpooling or even working from home. 18 companies in Sao Paulo executed a pilot program aimed at reducing congestion by helping people explore options such as staggering their hours, telecommuting or carpooling. After the pilot, drive-alone rates dropped from 45-51% to 27-35%.

It’s the government’s responsibility to ensure that the growth of a country doesn’t compromise the natural environment that sustains it, however, a substantial amount of responsibility also lies on each citizen to lead an environment-friendly lifestyle. Simple lifestyle changes such as being cautious about usage of electricity, using public transport, or choosing locally sourced food can help reduce your carbon footprint, the collective impact of which is great for the environment.

Ola is committed to reducing the impact of vehicular pollution on the environment by enabling and encouraging shared rides and greener mobility. They have also created flat fare zones across Delhi-NCR on Ola Share to make more environment friendly shared rides also more pocket-friendly. To ensure a larger impact, the company also took up initiatives with City Traffic Police departments, colleges, corporate parks and metro rail stations.

Join the fight against air-pollution by using the hashtag #FarakPadtaHai and download Ola to share your next ride.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Ola and not by the Scroll editorial team.