One of the many forms that are included in the pantheon of Hindustani musical forms is a poetic structure called ashtapadi, a poem with eight stanzas. Typically, they refer to the poems included in the Geet Govinda, a work penned by the twelfth-century poet Jayadeva. They describe the relationship between Krishna and Radha and other gopis. These ashtapadis have been composed and sung in various systems of music and have even been employed in different dance forms.
In the context of Hindustani music, the ashtapadis have primarily been a part of the repertoire presented by vocalists of the Gwalior gharana. However, they are often akin to the structure of madhya (medium) or drut (fast) tempo khayal compositions and may be elaborated musically in a similar manner. They do not necessarily include the entire poetic text and instead follow the sthayi-antara structure of khayal compositions. Today’s episode includes a few such ashtapadi compositions.
We begin with Gwalior gharana maestro Sharadchandra Arolkar’s rendition of an ashtapadi in the raag Hameer. It is set to the 16-matra Teentaal. He approaches it like a madhya laya khayal composition as is evident from the sthayi-antara structure and the rhythmic and melodic elaboration.
The first composition on the next track presented by Arolkar’s disciple Sharad Sathe is an ashtapadi composed in the raag Bhairavi set to the 16-matra Punjabi taal. The elaboration evidently includes sequences that one would normally find in tappa renditions.
Unlike the previous track, the next one featuring renowned vocalist Jitendra Abhisheki, includes eight stanzas. This ashtapadi is composed in the raag Bhupali and is set to the 16-matra Sitarkhani or Addha taal.
We end with a tightly structure ashtapadi rendition composed by eminent scholar-musician Dr Ashok Da. Ranade and performed by his students can be found on the next track.
One of India’s leading tabla players, Aneesh Pradhan is a widely recognised performer, teacher, composer and scholar of Hindustani music. Visit his website here.