The Hindustani Classical genre of Dhrupad (means dhruva or fixed and pada or words) is considered to be one of the most ancient musical traditions. It refers to the verse form of poetry and style in which it is sung.
One of its foremost proponents was Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar (fondly referred to as Bade Ustad Saheb), who brought the Rudraveena back from oblivion. The Dagar family has been preserving this form for centuries and 20 generations have trained in the unbroken chain of the Guru-Shishya tradition.
The Barsi Music Festival began 21 years ago after his demise, as a tribute to the legend and to bring together Dhrupad practitioners before the audience. The upcoming event will feature veteran musicians and upcoming talent including Pelva Naik from Ahmadabad (vocal), Arnab Chatterjee from New Delhi (vocal), Mohi Bahauddin Dagar from Mumbai (Rudraveena), Pandit Uday Bhawalkar from Pune (vocal) and Jyothi Hegde from Dharwad (Rudraveena).
Speaking about the event, Ustad Bahauddin Dagar, son of the late Ustad, said, “In the 1980s, Ustadsaheb set up his Gurukul ‘Dhrupad’ at Palaspe near Panvel. In his lifetime, he never changed his work style to suit the audiences. He was a purist till the end. Perhaps the greatest contribution was the reinvention of the Rudraveena instrument, he made magnanimous changes in the sound quality of the Rudraveena. This revolutionised the way of Dhrupad playing on the Veena and especially the way of singing. It added another dimension to the existing Dagarvani School of music. His efforts stabilised the form and ensured Rudaveena was heard again.”
He adds that the highlight of this event will be the younger talent: “Several youngsters will be performing at this Barsi including Ashish Lalit and Arnab Chatterjee. They are young, talented and promising artists. They hold the future of Dhrupad.” A few prominent musicians who have trained at the Dhrupad Gurukul are the Gundecha brothers, Shree Uday Bhawalkar, Dr Ritwik Sanyal (head of music department at Banaras Hindu University) and Nancy Kulkarni.
Born in Udaipur, Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar trained in Rudraveena and Dhrupad under his father Ustad Ziauddin Dagar’s guidance, who was the foremost musician at the Udaipur Darbar. After his father’s demise, Ustadsaheb moved to Mumbai in the mid 50s. He began giving music tuitions and playing in the film industry. In the ’70s, he was invited to teach in the US, which he continued for nine years. On his return he continued to teach. From 1982, he taught at the Rotterdam Conservatory.