Dhrupad Biography

payton singing dhrupad

Dr. Payton MacDonald sings Dhrupad, the ancient music of India.  Dhrupad is a form of naad, the yoga of sound.  He has traveled to India many times and was awarded a Senior Fulbright-Nehru Fellowship to spend nine months in India for vocal studies with the Gundecha Brothers, learning at the acclaimed Dhrupad Sansthan. He also received a grant from the American Institute of Indian studies. Payton made his official debut as a Dhrupad singer at Bharat Bhavan in Bhopal, M.P., India. His performance was covered by many major news outlets, including The Hitaveda, who wrote  “Dr. Payton MacDonald with his melodious voice spread the beauty of Dhrupad, its subtle finer points and the way he sang seemed to be spiritualistic. His solo Dhrupad performance was encouraging and not less than any young Indian Dhrupad singer.”  The Times of India reported that “. . . lovers of Indian classical music from city had a gala time listening to Payton MacDonald’s recital at Antarang hall of Bharat Bhavan.”

Payton first discovered Hindustani music at the Idaho Falls, Idaho Public Library when he was 11 years old through LPs and CDs of all the great masters. After daily listening and study for several years on his own he was finally able to formally quench his thirst for Hindustani music and he became a disciple of the great tabla guru Pandit Sharda Sahai.  He studied tabla intensely for 10 years under the masterful guidance of Sharda-ji. Upon Sharda Sahai’s passing in 2011 Payton redirected his energy to singing Dhrupad and began learning from Indian Dhrupad master singers Gundecha Brothers. He has also taken taalim from Pelva Naik. He also studied Western music formally at the University of Michigan (B.F.A.) and the Eastman School of Music (M.M. and D.M.A.), and he enjoys a parallel career as a Western percussionist and composer. Payton is a Full Professor in the Music Department at William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey, USA.

Payton has sung Dhrupad on the Dhrupad Mela in Varanasi, Dhrupad Utsavs in Chennai and Kolkata, and the Kussom Mahotsav Festival, Ragas Live Festival, and the Brooklyn Raga Massive, as well as the Dhrupad Days of Seattle, Wayne, and Montreal.  He has also sung at the River to River festival in New York City, the Musikgebouw in Holland, and the Cork Opera House in Cork, Ireland, as well as at countless yoga centers, universities, ashrams, and clubs. He has performed with pakhawaj and jori drummers Pandit Akhilesh Gundecha, Apurba Lal Manna, Roman Das, Dibyarka Chatterjee, Peter Fagiola, Dnyaneshvara Deshmukh, Todd Hammes, Shawn Mativetsky, Tejas Tope, Ritvik Yaparpalvi, and mridangam drummer Rohan Krishnamurthy. He has done jugalbandi concerts with C.S. Balasubramanium, Branan Silvius, and Ina Filip.

Payton has made six Dhrupad recordings, with Pandit Akhilesh Gundecha and Peter Fagiola accompanying him on pakhawaj. The recordings are available widely on all streaming platforms.