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Dhrupad & Beyond

The notes of a raga flow soft and reposeful, yet very precise. Niloy Ahsan’s voice is sure and supple and seems to rise from a deep and inexhaustible well. He is singing a raga in the Dhrupad tradition, in the Dagar Vani Parampara. Niloy has been learning the art from Ustad Faiyaz Wasifuddin Dagar and the Gundecha brothers, who are among the foremost proponents of the art form. Dhrupad can be traced back to the Sama Veda.  In ancient times, practicing it meant a greater chance of salvation. Although a  classical art, Dhrupad is primarily a form of worship. Offerings to the divine are made through the medium of music or nada. Dhrupad is also called Nada-yoga. Dhrupad can be seen at different levels as a meditation, a mantric recitation.

Niloy believes, like the ancient Rishis and Sufi mystics, that music can be a potent way of exploring the divine. The exploration of sound can also be considered a form of yoga: music is thus the exploration of sound, and the play of prana, at subtle levels, that makes it an act of healing. Niloy’s approach to singing is thus holistic, as is the Dhrupad music itself. It is deeply embedded in a philosophy of self-awareness, of how we sit, speak, and by extension, sing. It is not surprising, therefore, that the raga unfolds slowly and with a sense of measure.

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The forte of the form is Alap. The process unfolds,  and because a rigorous sadhana or spiritual effort is at the root of this, the singer and listener move to a realm that is beyond sound. Thus, though the dhrupad’s forte is in alap, every aspect of a piece is viewed as equally important.

Niloy is a 21st generation practitioner of the Dagarvani Dhrupad lineage. He believes that the form preserves many of the most ancient principles of music, which might have been lost in the development of other classical forms of music. Such preservation has been possible due to the meticulousness of the Dhrupad guru-shishya tradition, which hands over the tradition directly from teacher to student. Various dhatus and kriyas, explore the principles in the most elaborate and detailed manner and are taught in the most rigorous fashion. But the form is also one with a heart: Niloy brings about the raga’s particular traits, as well as a flowering of bhava. A lot of energy gets accumulated, in this practice, and it can transform the human body and mind to higher dimensions. This is nothing other than a yogic and spiritual process.


Niloy’s background in music is not only in the Dhrupad tradition. He has trained extensively, and since an early age, in the khayal tradition, as well as in Rabindra sangeet and Nazrul Geeti. His vision is to explore the depth of Dhrupad in its fullest manner keeping the very root that is the spiritual and yogic principles, well established. This is without losing his openness; rather, being total to fresh new ideas and diverse musical aspects. 


Niloy has performed extensively in many parts of the country and the world, in prestigious venues such as Moscow, St. Petersburg, Dhaka, Chennai and other cities. He has also performed with other artists, such as the Russian Maestro Vyaschaelev Guyvoronsky and the legendary rock artist, Boris Grebenshikov. He has performed at various major international festivals, such as the International music festival in St. Petersburg, Russia, and the annual classical music festival in Shilpakala, Dhaka, apart from giving concerts all over the world. His albums include ‘Around Silence’ released in 2013 in London, as well as ‘Dodecameron’ released in St. Petersberg in 2012.

He has received many prestigious awards, among them the Fellowship from Jaipur Gems Charitable Trust, Mumbai, awarded by Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Ustaad Ghulam Mustafa Khan, Vidhushi Dr N Rajam, Pandit and Arvind Parikh, the Tata Trust Scholarship and Notun Kurhi National award that was awarded to him by the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.

Written by

Deepa Onkar

Principal Correspondent and Cheif Sub-Editor

The Hindu

Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

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