Vocalist Sumeet Anand Pandey’s debut Dhrupad album is a morning mood booster
Sumeet Anand Pandey began to pursue Dhrupad full time after leaving a cushy corporate job in the marketing team of a Fortune 500 company that he had landed after his MBA.
Music is divine, the more so if it’s Dhrupad. Aficionados of this centuries-old genre of Hindustani classical music are treated to ace Dhrupad vocalist Sumeet Anand Pandey’s mellifluous voice as he comes out with Morning Meditation, his debut Dhrupad album.
The album’s main track is the morning raga Ahir Bhairav. An extended Dhrupad alap followed by a composition set to choutal, ‘Shyam Sundar ko Pratah Samay’, takes listeners into a meditative and spiritual state. There is an additional track—an uplifting ‘Sargam ki bandish’ in raga Bhairav—set to sooltal. “Given the meditative and spiritual mood of the Dhrupad and both ragas being morning melodies, it was natural for me to come up with the album’s title,” says Pandey, a tenth generation singer of the Darbhanga Dhrupad tradition.
In the summer of 2019, Pandey was on his maiden Europe music tour. At his first concert in Berlin, the A&R Manager of Naxos World (now part of ARC Music) happened to be present in the audience. She invited Pandey for a meeting the next day and offered him the album. Later, he met her during her visit to India to formalise the contract. He recorded and produced it in Delhi. The final mastering was done in the UK.
The Darbhanga tradition is one of the major traditions of the Dhrupad in India. Its founders were two brothers—Radha Krishna and Karta Ram—who learnt from Ustad Bhupat Khan ‘Maharang’ in the court of the Nawab of Awadh Shuja-ud-Daula during the 17th century. Later, the exponents of the nearly three-century-old Darbhanga tradition were appointed as musicians in the royal court of the king of Darbhanga in north Bihar.
Pandey began to pursue Dhrupad full time after leaving a cushy corporate job in the marketing team of a Fortune 500 company that he had landed after his MBA. Putting his management experience to work, he co-founded the Pandit Siyaram Tiwari Memorial Sangeet Trust seven years ago. The Trust has organised a number of music festivals across the country featuring not only Dhrupad artists, but also other forms such as khayal, thumri, kathak, sitar, sarod and violin.
One of its regular events is the Geetam Vadyam Nrityam, which brings three young talented artists belonging to the vocal, instrumental and dance genres in a single evening format. “My goal is to make the Geetam Vadyam Nrityam a musical platform where listeners can expect high-quality audio-visual content from young maestros of Indian classical music for a reasonable subscription fee which goes towards paying artist honorariums,” explains Pandey.
Besides his ancestors and gurus, some of Pandey’s timeless inspirations include Ustad Amir Khan and Pandit DV Paluskar from Indian classical vocal music, Vidushi Siddeshwari Devi’s thumri, Ustad Mehndi Hasan’s ghazals, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s Sufi/qawwali and Shankar Ehsan Loy’s film music.
Apart from being a musician, Pandey is also a festival curator and organiser, speaker, writer, researcher, thinker and trainer. He enjoys reading ancient texts about the Dhrupad’s journey over the centuries for which he was awarded a two-year fellowship by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India. In Covid times too, he has continued to teach dedicated learners from India and abroad online. Currently, Pandey is also involved in two collaborations with European musicians, which will be ready in 2021.
Know the Maestro
* Tenth generation singer of the Darbhanga Dhrupad tradition
* Great-grandson of musical maestro Bihar Ratna Pandit Ram Prasad Pandey
* Trained under his grandfather Birendra Mohan Pandey with occasional guidance from his maternal grandfather Pandit Siyaram Tiwari
* Formally trained under the Guru-Shishya Parampara from the senior-most artist of the Darbhanga tradition, Pandit Abhay Narayan Mallick
* Broadcasts from All India Radio, Delhi, and regularly presents Dhrupad recitals in music festivals across India
* An empanelled artist of the Indian Council of Cultural Relations, he has presented Dhrupad recitals in Berlin, Hague, London, Prague, Budapest and Paris