Live Volume 001: Dhrupad Vocal & Pakhawaj

The Society for Historic and Rare Instruments of India is pleased to present our first “Live” release available at

SHRII, Vol. 001: Dhrupad Vocal & Pakhawaj
by Pandit Nirmalya Dey, Pandit Mohan Shyam Sharma & Bobek Djeyfroudi

  1. Bhopali (Alap)
  2. Bhopali (Dhrupad Composition: Tān talvār tār ki sifar liyē) [Set to Chautal 12 beats]
  3. Khammaj (Alap & Dhrupad Sadra: Sudh Bisar Gayi) [Set to Jhaptal 10 beats]
  4. Adana (Alap & Dhrupad Composition: Shiva Shiva Shiva) [Set to Sultal 10 beats]

All music performed by
Pandit Nirmalya Dey – Vocal
Pandit Mohan Shyam Sharma – Pakhawaj
Bobek Djeyfroudi – Tanpura

Produced by Brian “Wyetta” Bontempo
Copyright © 2017 Society for Historic & Rare Instruments of India (SHRII)

*The musicians are kind enough to donate a percentage of all sales to the restoration of over 200 historic and rare instruments currently located in Kolkata, IN*

Album Notes
As the sun set in the west on a beautifully warm Sunday evening in the heart of spring, a small crowd gathered at a large yoga studio to ingest the mellifluous sounds of Dhrupad. This was Pandit Nirmalya Dey and Pandit Mohan Shyam Sharma’s first performance in Portland, Oregon.

Nirmalyaji’s performance included an extended alap of Bhopali, over 52 minutes in length. Given its length, it is a fine sample of the extent to which each note of the raga can be developed through the alap. The compositions are fine examples of the beauty that can be created when embellishing on a structured melody. Although Pandit Nirmalya Dey’s technical virtuosity is evident throughout the performance, the soulful, sweet sound of his voice stands out.

This event was the first performance sponsored by and the Society for Historic and Rare Instruments of India (SHRII). Given that the first instrument likely to have been played by humans on the subcontinent was a drum, it is befitting that the pakhawaj was the first instrument featured at a SHRII performance.

The pakhawaj is an ancient double-sided barrel drum capable of rendering lower pitches than the tabla. It evolved out of the mridang in the 14th century. In order to play the pakhawaj, a wet dough, typically made of water and wheat, is applied to the bass head each time the instrument is played. The pakhawaj is the standard percussion instrument used in Dhrupad performances.

Pandit Mohan Shyam Sharma’s performance showcases this beautiful drum by evoking a peaceful feeling in the Bhopali composition, a majestic calling in the Khammaj Sadra, and sheer power during the Adana composition. Several of the attendees commented on how well the pakhawaj supported the beautiful voice of Pandit Nirmalya Dey.

We hope that you enjoy the recordings and look forward to offering more of these performances in the future.

Notes by Brian “Wyetta” Bontempo

Yoga Shala North
Portland, Oregon USA
May 21, 2017

1. Bhopali (Alap)
“Good evening ladies and gentleman. I am very much thankful to Brian and Yoga Shala for having this evening for you and to extend the opportunity to me to present dhrupad music. As far as the discipline of dhrupad is concerned, I can tell you that this is not just a performance. I’m not going to perform anything. I am just going to experience. And that experience is about dealing with the tone, embellishing the tone, and eventually, with that embellishment, I’ll try to establish the mood of a certain raga. I won’t say that it is a melody. Raga and melody are completely different. Melody is always fixed, but raga keeps on changing. Although it has a certain mode, every time we able to experience it (raga) in a different way depending on the atmosphere, the living and non-living objects around because it is just an exchange of energy. We take the energy from the surroundings, from the people in front sitting around, from non-living objects, everything. We take this energy. We transform it into the sound energy that you hear as a form of music. So, nothing is preconceived right now for me. I don’t know what I was going to sing. But now, I decided that I’ll sing raag Bhoop or popularly known Bhopali. It is a pentatonic scale. As per the tradition of my school, I’ll make an exposition of this raag, what we call alap. Alap is the exposition of the raag. This exposition will be in three different phases. Firstly, I’ll start with a slow movement, then there will be a medium paced movement. After that, it will be the fast movement. All three phases are known as alap in different phase.” – Pandit Nirmalya Dey

2. Bhopali (Dhrupad Composition: Tān talvār tār ki sifar liyē (Set to Chautal 12 beats]
Tān talvār tār ki sifar liyē is a dhrupad composition set to 12 beats which was composed during the latter part of the 15th century in Gwalior in the court of Maharaja Man Singh Tomar (reigned: 1486-1516). The raja was known for his patronage of the arts and assembled a court of many talented musicians.

The text for this composition is credited to Nayak Bhakshu although the entire composition is likely to have been his creation. Nayak Bhakshu contributed a great deal to the development of North Indian Classical music, in particular, to dhrupad. The ragas Nayak ki Kanra and Nayak ki Kalyan were his creations. He also wrote many compositions, enough that years after his death, Shah Jehan commissioned a project to compile his songs which resulted in the massive compendium called the Sahasras (A Thousand Delights) or Hazar Dhrupad. See Martinez, J. (1997) “Semiosis in Hindustani Music” for more information.

3. Khammaj (Alap & Dhrupad Sadra: Sudh Bisar Gayi [Set to Jhaptal 10 beats]
A sadra is a composition generally related to Sufism or dedicated to a Sufi saint. Sadras are always set to jhaptal, a traditional ten beat rhythmic pattern. The text for this sadra was composed by Wajid Ali Shah (1822-1887), the tenth Nawab (ruler) of Awadh. In addition to being royalty, and a patron of dance, music, drama, and poetry, the Nawab wrote many compositions under the penname Qaisar and a pseudonym Akhtarpiya.

4. Adana (Alap & Dhrupad Composition: Shiva Shiva Shiva [Set to Sultal 10 beats]
Also commonly known as Shiva-stuti, this composition is an expression of devotion to Lord Shiva. It is a traditional composition that is associated with Dagarvani Dhrupad.