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 continuing his 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’s first discovered Hindustani music at the Idaho Falls, Idaho public library when he was 11 years old. After daily listening and study for several years he was finally able to 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 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 has sung Dhrupad and Dhrupad fusion music 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 appeared on 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 performed with pakhawaj and jori drummers Pandit Akhilesh Gundecha, Roman Das, Dibyarka Chatterjee, Peter Fagiola, Dnyaneshvara Deshmukh, Shawn Mativetsky, Tejas Tope, Ritvik Yaparpalvi, and mridangam drummer Rohan Krishnamurthy.