Over the past three weeks, we have listened to this taal used in folk music traditions of various regions across the Indian subcontinent. Thumri singers include a form called dadra in their concert repertoire. This is not to be confused with the taal or rhythmic cycle sharing the same name, although many dadra compositions may be set to the Dadra taal. Today’s episode will focus on the manner in which this six-matra taal is used in dadra compositions presented by two Banaras gharana exponents.
Traditionally, the melodic elaboration in the dadra form is quite different from that presented in thumri. While the latter lends itself to more free-flowing elaboration, the dadra is treated as a tighter form with shorter melodic excursions followed by a return to the refrain. This keeps the rhythmic canvas very much in focus and respects the gait of the melodic composition and the song-text that is often more dense than it is in thumris.
We begin with a dadra based on the raag Pilu sung by the respected Banaras gharana vocalist Mahadev Prasad Mishra. He is accompanied by Ishwar Lal Mishra on the tabla and Baccha Lal Mishra on the sarangi. Being an uptempo dadra, the melodic composition and the song-text does not lend itself to elaborate elaboration. The Dadra theka or string of mnemonic syllables played on the tabla is more akin to what would be considered Khemta taal by some musicians.
The rendition on the next track is in stark contrast to the first, due to tempo of the composition and the consequent melodic possibilities that it affords. This is a dadra in the raag Gara sung by Siddheshwari Devi, one of the foremost representatives of the Banaras gharana. True to the Purab style of thumri-dadra rendition and bringing to the performance her unique interpretation, Siddheshwari Devi weaves a tapestry of melodic ideas making full use of certain words from the song-text to introduce different kinds of rhythmic syncopation.