Relive the Dhrupad tradition

Carrying on the legacy of Dhrupad, Bahauddin Dagar's tribute to his father Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar, along with disciple and surbahar exponent Pandit Pushparaj Koshti this evening will take this Hindustani Classical dialogue to another level

Today marks the 21st death anniversary of Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar. This peerless rudra veena maestro can be regarded as one of the greatest Hindustani instrumentalists of all time. Along with his vocalist brother Ustad Zia Fariddudin Dagar, he had played a crucial role in reviving dhrupad after independence -- a time when the surge of several forms of vocal music, especially khayal, had cast a shadow of uncertainty on the ancient form.

Pandit Pushpraj Koshti and Ustad Bahauddin Dagar

But the Dagar family has been custodians of dhrupad for nineteen generations -- the Dagar brothers were steadfast in their resolve to revive this form. 

What's in store
Today, a dhrupad recital is part of every major Hindustani music festival; contrary to certain naysayers, an increasing number of young listeners are taking interest in this cerebral form -- dhrupad is hale and hearty. Fittingly, the tribute concert that begins today will feature a duet between Ustad Zia Mohiuddin's disciple Pandit Pushparaj Koshti on the surbahar and his son (and disciple) Ustad Bahauddin Dagar on the rudra veena. 

The majority of dhrupad exponents today are vocalists: the duet will be an opportunity for listeners to hear the nuances of the form on two rare instruments. Musicians of the Imdadkhani and the Maihar gharanas also play the surbahar, but the rudra veena carries an intrinsic stamp of the great Dagar tradition. As Bahauddin Dagar said, "If the voice is the king, the veena is what measures it."

Tradition bound
Dagar's skills in articulation extend with equal ease to his instrument. At 41, he is one of the youngest maestros in the country; his is the first name that comes up at the mention of the rudra veena. He had started performing at the age of 20, but reluctantly. "When my father passed away (in 1990), I had to start performing because I needed to earn a living. I was at a raw stage and in an ideal situation I would have waited much longer before performing in public," he said.

His modesty has not been a hindrance to his journey: over the last two decades he has built a fierce reputation, both as a performer and as a teacher. His recitals are inevitably cerebral, uncompromising in their sincerity to the grammar and the methodical expansion of a raga. Yet, uninitiated listeners across the globe are drawn to his music.

"We were always taught to pursue beauty and not excellence. As soon as you start pursuing excellence, things become technical," said Bahauddin. Every musician strives to use technical mastery as a means to achieve an aesthetic end -- while his modesty will never allow him to admit it (his common refrain: "Maybe I will become a good musician in another ten-fifteen years"), Bahauddin's listeners have been long convinced that he has achieved this goal.

Bring alive the Dhrupad
The emphasis in his recitals is on the alap-jod section (initial section of a recital, not set to a rhythm cycle). Like his father, he does not use a mezrab (plectrum) to strike the strings; the use of his bare fingers produces a resonant and organic sound (as opposed to the more metallic sound produced by the mezrab) that is perfectly suited to his sombre expositions.

Not using a mezrab does mean that he has to cut down on faster improvisations that are dependent on the stroking patterns, but speed has always played a minor role in his aesthetic scheme. His upcoming duet will be perfectly balanced as Koshti too aligns his music along similar aesthetics. 

 He is one of the more senior disciples of Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar and, over the years, has succeeded in bringing out aspects of the late master's baaj on the surbahar. As Bahauddin said, "He is an outstanding musician and it is always a pleasure to play with him." Connoisseurs can look forward to a riveting, seamless musical dialogue over the next two days.
On Today, 6.30 pm onwards, Chintan Upadhyay (vocals), Bahauddin Dagar with Pushparaj Koshti (jugalbandi -- veena, surbahar); Thursday, 6.30 pm onwards, Kaberi Kaul (vocals) and Ustad Fariduddin Dagar (vocals)
At YB Chavan Auditorium, near Mantralaya, Churchgate.

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