In 2015, I had written about a track featuring a rendition of a dadra by the Agra gharana maestro Faiyaz Khan. This was based on a melodic structure that showed a blend of the raags Tilak Kamod and Manjh Khamaj. It is set to the Dadra taal, a cycle of six matras or time-units that has been the subject of our discussion over the past five weeks. The reason I have chosen to incorporate the same track and others in this week’s episode is to highlight the maestro’s inimitable style of negotiating this taal as he brings his quintessential delivery to the Dadra form.
Unlike the conventional method of singing the composition adhering to its original rhythmic structure, Faiyaz Khan begins by floating over the rhythmic cycle maintained by the tabla in a seemingly free-flowing manner. But he peeps into the rhythmic canvas now and again or brushes past it fleetingly, introducing it in an overt manner only later into the track.
The next composition is a Dadra in the raag Khamaj, which is also sung by some as a bol banaav thumri. As usual, the maestro’s delivery is dramatic and dynamic. He colours his elaboration with short tappa-style taans. The main composition is interspersed with couplets. The responsive and interactive tabla player introduces short laggi sections that involve double or quadruple tempo rhythmic patterns.
Listeners will note a light-hearted moment in the performance at 3.53” into the track. The maestro holds a sustained Pancham or fifth and urges his supporting vocalists to maintain the note similarly by directing them with the words “lagaao Pancham” (hit the Pancham) that are actually sung in the same note.
The following dadra in the raag Bhairavi is a classic representation of Faiyaz Khan’s rendition of this form and his particular approach to the Dadra taal. Singing it in a medium tempo, he plays with the rhythm canvas by ducking the sam/sum or the first matra of the cycle or by repeating a phrase to turn it into a refrain for further rhythmic elaboration. But he also suddenly lets go off the cycle and brings in a sustained note. The composition is interspersed with couplets, a tradition that found favour in thumri renditions by past masters, but is rarely heard in contemporary renditions of thumri-dadra.
We conclude with a longer rendition of a dadra in Bhairavi. The composition has a similar melodic structure to the previous one. This performance includes a great deal of bol baant elaboration that involves using extracts of the song-text to create rhythmic patterns. Phrases are repeated as a device to resolve melodic or rhythmic ideas. This dadra also includes couplets. Later, the main rhythmic canvas changes from Dadra to kaherva.