I recently got back from a transformative month in India, studying Dhrupad vocal with the renowned Gundecha Brothers (Ramakant, Umakant, and Akhilesh). I worked with Ramakantji via Skype since last June, but this was my first time at their “Gurukul” where I received daily lessons.
For those of you who know me as a percussionists/composer you may find it strange that I’m taking vocal lessons, but I’ve been singing off and on for about 10 years, mostly Hindustani style. Dhrupad has always been my passion and finally things opened up in my life last year in such a way that I could devote more time to really improving as a singer. I have no delusions about becoming some great Dhrupad singer, but I’m making rapid progress and I’m already starting to use my voice with my Super Marimba project, Alarm Will Sound, and other projects. Ramakantji has been very encouraging and thinks I’ll be able to start performing in another couple years. I’m looking forward to that and I’m hoping there will be ample performance opportunities with all the yoga centers, Hindu temples, and universities here in the NYC area.
The Gurukul is a wonderful place and I very much enjoyed getting to know all the other students. As with any community of people there are disagreements and bickering from time to time, but in general I found the students to be exceptionally gracious and kind. Everyone seemed to be walking on clouds most of the time, due to the experience of singing Dhrupad and studying with the master Gundecha Brothers. It’s a very nourishing music that gives one energy and hope and the feeling of being very grounded. I didn’t encounter any of the cynicism and negativity that so badly pollutes the classical music community in America, especially with orchestras. I can’t wait to go back there. It really felt like home.