In the fifth episode of our series on the Dadra taal, we continue listening to this rhythmic cycle with the vocal subgenre dadra that falls within the larger thumri-dadra category. Last week, we heard an uptempo dadra sung by thumri exponent Mahadev Prasad Mishra of Banaras. That may have appeared frenetic to many due to the tempo and the limited melodic variations. But the popular dadra compositions performed by exponents of the Purab style of thumri singing that we will listen to today use Dadra only at a slow speed.
The first track today features the maestro singing a slow dadra employing the Dadra taal. The extent of melodic elaboration is self-evident as he embarks on frequent excursions away from the main raag Gara only to return in different ways to the sthayi or first line of the composition. Listeners will note the maestro’s near-recitative and dramatic manner of elaboration, while maintaining a constant focus on the six-matra or time-unit framework of the taal. The laggi section that follows the antara or the second part of the composition is played in the eight-matra Kaharwa.
The track description mentions that the melodic accompaniment has been provided by sarangi virtuoso Sultan Khan, and the tabla has been played by well-known performer and Mishra’s disciple Anand Gopal Bandopadhyaya.
The inimitable Siddheshwari Devi sings the next dadra based on the raag Khamaj. Here too, the tempo is slow, allowing a more leisurely elaboration. But Siddheshwari Devi, while introducing myriad melodic variations, does not for a moment lose sight of the rhythmic canvas. She even sings short and swift taans alternating them with sweeping glides or long notes termed as pukaar for their ability to highlight a sense of yearning that is so integral to the thumri-dadra genres.
The last track features yet another popular dadra presented by the renowned vocalist Rasoolan Bai. This is one more example of how thumri and dadra compositions are not treated as frivolous musical material by specialists trained in the tradition. This is quite unlike those who have learnt such material only from recordings without internalising the material or understanding the cultural ethos. Rasoolan Bai engages the audience with melodic journeys that takeoff from the main melodic line based on the raag Gara. Listeners will once again note the manner in which the artiste maintains a watchful eye on the rhythmic waves of Dadra, never wandering too far from its shoreline.