Dhrupad as a Progression in Multiple Dimensions by Arijit Mahalanabis

This event is in collaboration with UBC Green College, Asta Alliance, and the Indian Classical Music Society of Vancouver (ICMSV).


Most scholars of Indian music consider dhrupad, and its cognate form dhamār, to be the oldest extant subgenres of Hindustānī music. The practice and performance of this art has grown in popularity in recent times, though a wider understanding of the art remains elusive. Practitioners, scholars, and hereditary keepers of the tradition often choose to exude an air of esotericism, rather than offering a practical and logical explanation for the objectives, structure, function, and performance of the art. In this talk, we touch on each of these aspects, particularly delving into a model of dhrupad that defines it as a musical entity in multiple dimensions. Specifically, we consider dhrupad from the perspective of alāp syllables, the tonal complex of the rāga, time and rhythm, tonal dynamics, and textual content. In each of these dimensions, we introduce a logical calculus that governs the progression of content. Taken in totality, these calculi, when followed, uniquely define a well-formed dhrupad performance. We hope that this talk will allow the attendee to more critically listen to and understand a dhrupad performance. 


Arijit Mahalanabis began his studies in music under vocalist Smt. Shahana Banerjee of Delhi, shortly before his family moved from India to the United States. Faced with few options for formal study, Arijit undertook an intense period of self-directed study, encouraged and supported by his mother, Smt. Sukla Mahalanobis.  Starting in 1989, he began a long association with Penn State University’s Raaga. During this time, he received much encouragement, mentoring and informal guidance from the members of this group, in particular in the joys of Carnatic music. In 1999 he moved to Seattle, a seminal moment in his musical life. There, he began a diligent period of discipleship under Smt. Shantha Benegal, a vocalist and musicologist versed in Dagar Bani Dhrupad, Khayal, and Thumri. Arijit learned much about each of these forms from his primary Guru. He was also deeply influenced in his studies by time spent with various visiting musicians. After serving in adjunct positions at the Evergreen State College and the University of Washington, in 2008, Arijit found his true calling as a teacher of music, when he established the Seattle Indian Music Academy (SIMA). In 2014, after 15 years in Seattle, he relocated to State College, and is presently helping to establish a new SIMA (the Society for Indian Music and Arts) in his old hometown.

Kishan Patel is emerging as an all-rounder with potential as a singer, harmonium accompanist, esraj player, tabaliya and pakhawaji under the tutelage of his guru, Arijit Mahalanabis. Previously, Kishan studied vocal music with Dr. Nisha Joshi in Portland, Oregon, and mridangam under Vidwan Poovalur Srinivasan in Texas.  He was also a percussionist in his high school band. However he has found his niche in north Indian classical music. Having moved to State College, PA, Kishan continues his college education through Bellevue College, simultaneously studying music with Arijit. Aside from solo performances, Kishan has had the opportunity to accompany some of India’s finest musicians including Vidushi Aditi Kaikini Upadhya, Mitali Bhawmik, Sandipan Samajpati, Kumud Diwan, Satish Vyas, and Arnab Chakrabarty.