Known widely for her inimitable ghazal renditions, Begum Akhtar’s expositions of dadras were equally enticing. The seventh episode of our series on the Dadra taal highlights Begum Akhtar’s performance perspective on this taal as she sings dadras set to this rhythmic cycle of six matras or time-units.
We begin with a dadra immortalised by the singer. She sings it in a medium-tempo Dadra that is interspersed sparingly by the tabla player with rhythmic variations.
The second composition is once again set to Dadra, but this time the tempo is slightly faster than the previous one.
Interestingly, Begum Akhtar has also sung the same lyrics elsewhere with a different melodic structure set to Kaherva. This only goes to show how the same song-text can be composed differently not just by different composers but also by the same vocalist on another occasion. Listeners will note that the Kaherva has been played in a manner that almost appears like Dadra.
The next track recorded at a live concert has yet another gem that has been associated only with Begum Akhtar. She sings the composition in a slow-paced Dadra. As is the case with dadra renditions, here too the tabla player launches into laggis or swift and short rhythmic permutations and combinations that create designs similar to the footwork expected from a Kathak dancer presenting a thumri or dadra through dance.
The composition that follows is set to a six-matra cycle, but one that could be better described as Khemta than Dadra, not only due to the pace but also because of the theka or the thread of mnemonic syllables that represent the taal. Of course, some musicians do not necessarily make the distinction between the two. The tabla player introduces short laggi sections during the performance.