Dhrupad – Archives

Audio and Video Recordings and Articles on Dhrupad and the Dagar Tradition All articles © Ashish Sankrityayan

Manuscripts of Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar

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Ustad Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar had a considerable collection of hand written manuscripts of his ancestors – mostly of his grandfather Allabande Khan, his uncle Nasiruddin Khan and his father Rahimuddin Khan Dagar. After the untimely death of Nasiruddin Khan Dagar in 1936 the possession of these manuscripts had caused frictions in the family.

During my long apprenticeship as his disciple I would often see him leafing through them. I would try to use every such occasion to let my video camera range over pages that he opened and have in the process managed to record some fragments of the writings. For example rummaging through his papers one day he came across these loose sheets pinned together which he could not identify at first. A close examination revealed that they were prastara exercises for the Veena written by his uncle Nasiruddin Khan in 1912 in Alwar Rajasthan.

Dhrupad Prastara Exercises Nasiruddin Khan Dagar

Dhrupad Prastara Exercises Nasiruddin Khan Dagar Dhrupad Prastara Exercises Nasiruddin Khan Dagar Dhrupad Prastara Exercises Nasiruddin Khan Dagar




The video grabs above give us the title page with the author’s name and the first page. It should be possible to understand the logic or the algorithm if there is one from such fragments.

Here is a little video of him reading aloud the text of a Dhrupad composition from such a manuscript written by his grandfather Allabande Khan in 1908.

The second video shows the first page of the same manuscript and has him chiding me for wanting to know in a minute what supposedly take years to understand. If the names of the famous Dhrupad singers he reads aloud are of the authors of the compositions whose texts are written in the manuscript then it would be a very interesting one indeed.

For a long time the knowledge of the grammar and conceptual framework of Dhrupad was kept as privileged knowledge to be revealed only to a few chosen bearers of the tradition. Fahimuddin Dagar was enormously protective about his manuscripts, his enormous knowledge and insight. A part of his guardedness was of  course due to the concern that the knowledge should be given through the right process to someone who would be able to carry the tradition forward

I would often bring him texts of Dhrupad compositions I found in rare books in the hope that he might remember some and spontaneously sing them. Here is his singing of the first part of a composition in Deosakh when he found a variant of its text in the Urdu version of Nad Vinod Granth (which is why I cannot read it). I try to coax him to sing the second part – he reads the text aloud but is unwilling to sing it or cannot remember the melody immediately.

Here is the same composition text from the Hindi version of Nad Vinod. Some kind of a reconstruction of the 2nd part – the antara based on the structure of the 1st part sung by him in this video would be possible for a singer who knows the Raga well. However it would not be as straightforward as reconstructing the 3rd and 4th parts – the sanchari and abhog from the 1st and 2nd as outlined in a previous post.

Text of Dhrupad Composition in Deosakh Nad Vinod Granth Pannalal Goswami 1896

Text of Dhrupad Composition in Deosakh Nad Vinod Granth Pannalal Goswami 1896

Perhaps the most interesting manuscript in his possession was what appeared to be an entire book on music written by his grandfather Allabande Khan in 1890. I saw a few pages of it – it has diagrams and tables and is probably on concepts of music. He can be seen reading from it in the beginning of my documentary film on Dhrupad.

I don’t know if all the manuscripts in the possession of Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar would ever become publicly accessible to be used by students and researchers of Dhrupad. The same sad story has been repeated often enough – of manuscripts in the zealously guarded possession of families in the end getting lost or destroyed – like the manuscript of Budhprakash of Seni compositions or the one of Radheshyamji of Tikamgarh. I hope this won’t happen with the manuscripts of the Dagar tradition that Fahimuddin Dagar had.
All articles on this blog © Ashish Sankrityayan. No part may be used except with written permission and explicit acknowledgement.

The Martial Feats of Emperor Aurangzeb – Adana Dhrupad Composition

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Many Dhrupad compositions which still survive fragmentarily in the living repertoire of singers or in old recordings can be found in their entirety in old manuscripts, books and journals.

Nasir Aminuddin Dagar

Nasir Aminuddin Dagar

Here is a composition in Sooltal in Raga Adana by Ustad Nasir Aminuddin Dagar from a concert in Delhi in the 1980’s. Pakhawaj player not known. The beginning is missing which is why he seems to start abruptly with the antara and comes back to sing the sthayi again. The composition curiously refers to the martial feats of fanatical Mughal emperor Aurangzeb who had banned music from his kingdom.

The composition obviously dates before 1668-69 when Aurangzeb imposed the ban. While this recording has only the first two parts of the composition, I found all the four parts in a manuscript of about 400 dhrupad compositions written by Sanatan Sil, a dhrupad singer who studied both instrumental and vocal dhrupad from several prominent musicians of the Seni, Vishnupur and Betiah traditions – like Birendrakishor Roychowdhury, Shibkumar Mitra and Bamacharan Sil – a student of the well known Dhrupad singer Danibabu of the Betiah tradition.

Satish Chandra Dutta aka Danibabu Dhrupad Singer Betiah Tradition (1877-1958)

Danibabu Dhrupad Singer Betiah Tradition (1877-1958)

Like many fine dhrupad singers in the last century, he never took it up as a profession despite reaching a high standard of excellence, but worked in a bank while keeping up a regular routine of  practice,  teaching and occasional performances. The notations in Sil’s manuscript are so clear and well written that it could be straightaway published as a book.

Dhrupad Singer and Rudra Veena Player Sanatan Sil

Sanatan Sil

Sil’s manuscript lists it as a Khandarbani composition which agrees well with what my teacher Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar told me about such fast paced compositions in the veer rasa or valourous sentiment. Sources which list Ragas or compositions on the basis of the Banis of Dhrupad are quite rare. Examples of such classification are the Sarod Rasa Chandrika of Nirendrakrishna Mitra 1938 as also the recordings of Bharatji Vyas in the SNA archives.

Notation of Dhrupad in Adana in Praise of Aurangzeb - Sanatan Sil

Dhrupad on Aurangzeb

Nalin Behari Ghosh Dhrupad Singer and Bank Executive

Nalin Behari Ghosh Dhrupad Singer and Grindlays Bank Executive (1890? – 1960?)

Another dhrupad singer of the 1st half of the 20th century associated with the Vishnupur and Betiah traditions who never took it up as a profession was Nalinbehari Ghosh. Like Sanatan Sil he also worked in a bank. His manuscript of notations of dhrupads seems to have been more for his personal reference rather than publication. Here is his notation of a Dhamar composition in Kumari and a chowtal dhrupad in Kamod Nat. Nalin Behari Ghosh was an associate of Aghorbabu and Amarbabu two well known dhrupad singers of the 1st half of the 20th century.  A lot of valuable material of Dhrupad especially compositions has been preserved by singers like Sanatan Sil and Nalinbehari Ghosh who pursued it as a private passion while supporting themselves from other professions.  It was difficult in those times to make a living from Dhrupad. Even a well known singer like Danibabu had a job in the Railways. After independence survival as a professional Dhrupad singer became even more difficult with the disappearance of aristocratic patrons.

Radhika Prasad Goswami

Radhika Prasad Goswami

Till a few decades ago Bengal had many Dhrupad singers who were associated with the traditions of Vishnupur and Bettiah. Many of these singers published compositions in books and journals. The best known of them being the brothers Ramprasanna and Gopeshwar Bandopadhyaya who published the Sangeet Manjari and the Sangeet Chandrika. Another renowned Dhrupad singer of Bengal was Radhika Prasad Goswami whose obituary appears in the January 1925 issue of the journal Sangeet Vigyan Praveshika to which he often contributed.

Dhrupad Raga Hem Khem

Dhrupad Raga Hem Khem

Here is a Dhrupad composition notated by him in the uncommon Raga Hem Khem that appeared posthumously in  the July 1925 issue of the magazine. The  article accompanying his obituary also mentions that shortly before his death he was awarded the second prize in the All India Music Conference at Lucknow, the first prize being given to Allabande Khan.  It is even now possible to find in Bengal, old students of students of  singers like Danibabu, Radhika Prasad Goswami and Ramprasanna and Gopeshwar Bandopadhyaya, many of whom  never took up music as a profession but possess a wealth of knowledge and sometimes also old notes and manuscripts of their teachers.

Dhamar in Kumari from Notes of Nalin Behari Ghosh

Dhamar in Kumari from Notes of Nalin Behari Ghosh

Dhrupad in Kamod Nat - Notes of Nalin Behari Ghosh

Dhrupad in Kamod Nat – Notes of Nalin Behari Ghosh

Dhrupad in Adana in Praise of Aurangzeb Sanatan Sil

Dhrupad in Adana in Praise of Aurangzeb notes of Sanatan Sil

Several compositions whose first two parts exist in recordings by Aminuddin Dagar or his brothers can be found in their entirety with all the four parts in manuscripts or old books and journals.

Dhrupad of  Sujan Khan

Dhrupad of Sujan Khan

Here is an example from the notes of Sanatan Sil of a Dhrupad of Sujan Khan in Jhaptal in Raga Megh whose first two parts are often sung in the Dagar tradition in  Raga Surdasi Malhar in the same Tala and another in Raga Darbari Kanada in Tala Chautal from the  November 1925 issue of the Sangeet Vigyan Praveshika.

Dhrupad Darbari Kanada Shadaja Rishabha

Dhrupad Darbari Kanada Shadaja Rishabha

Recording from the personal archives of Ashish Sankrityayan

All articles on this blog © Ashish Sankrityayan. No part may be used except with written permission and explicit acknowledgement.


—  Miya Ki Malhar Abhogi and LalitYaman and Malkauns

Elder Dagar Brothers – Ahmadjan Thirakwan Tabla – Bihag

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A rare recording of the Elder Dagar brothers  Nasir Moinuddin and Aminuddin Dagar singing Bihag with Ahmadjan Thirakwan on Tabla. Recorded from a All India Radio Broadcast of a live concert early 1960s by Maharawal Mahipalsinghji of Dungarpur.

Reconstruction of Dhrupad Compositions with Four Parts

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Ramprasanna BannerjeeThe compulsion of giving short performances in the kind of festivals that are organized nowadays with three or four artists sharing the stage and the audience not staying on till late  and also the emphasis on improvisation is probably why often only one or at the most two parts of Dhrupad compositions are heard nowadays. Gradually the last two parts of many compositions have been forgotten since they are not often sung.  However since the last two parts are essentially variations of the first two, it should be possible to reconstruct them if the entire text of the composition is available.

In books like the Dhrupad Swaralipi of Shri Harinarayan Mukhopadhyay published(1929) and available on the link, or the Geet Vadya Saar Sangraha of Charucharan Mukhopadhyaya (1905) or the Nad Vinod Granth of Pannalal Goswami 1896 can be found the complete texts of many such compositions.

For example though there is no recording of all the four parts of the composition Bansidhara Pinakadhara sung in the Dagar Tradition in Multani, we can find the song text in the Dhrupad Swaralipi and reconstruct the entire composition since the third part is essentially a close variation of the sthayi and always begins with a characteristic hudak ornament spanning a large part of the octave from the lower to the middle. The fourth part is essentially like the second with slight variations. The words of the last two parts of this composition as given in the book (in Raga Shree) are -chandanadhara bhasmadhara maalaadhara sheshadhara gopivara parameshwara gopishwara ishwara. kahe miya taansen dou swaroopa ek tuma garudasana vrishavahana teenaloka kara uddhara. The Raga Vigyan of Vinayakrao Patwardhan gives the following lyrics for the last two parts – nandidhara garudadhara kailasdhara vaikunthadhara kahe baiju baware sunahu gunijana nisadina harihara dhyana uradhara.

A well trained Dhrupad singer should be able to reconstruct compositions in this way. Which again brings us to the important task of collecting all recorded and written material on Dhrupad and going about reconstructing whatever is possible.

Another frequently heard composition whose 3rd and 4th parts can be found in the Geet Vadya Saar Sangraha and the Sangit Manjari of Ramprasanna Bannerjee of Vishnupur (1935)  is – niranjana nirakara parabrahma parameshwara.  ek hi anek hoye vyapyo vishambhara. alakha jyoti avinashi jyoti rupa jagatarana. jagannatha jagatapati jagajivana jagadhara. baahi mein sab jiva jantu suranara muni guni gyani. nabhi kamal te brahma pragatayo shataroopa manvantara. kahe baiju vahi brahma vahi virata roopa vahi. aap avataar bhaye chaubis vapudhara.  The same composition can often be found in different Ragas in different traditions. The first book gives it in Raga Bhairava while the second lists it in Bhairavi.

Here is a  recording of the Elder Dagar Brothers singing alap in Sudhdha Rishabh Chandrakauns followed by this composition in a Radio broadcast from the 1960s.

A later recording of the Younger Dagar Brothers has both the sthayi and antara

Here are two more compositions commonly heard in the Dagar tradition with the first two parts along with the texts of all the four parts from the Nad Vinod Granth which could again be reconstructed by singers who are well trained in the tradition.

First two parts of Chowtal Composition in Bhimpalasi sung by the Elder Dagar Brothers

Text of all four parts from Nad Vinod Granth. There is a variant of the same in the Dhrupad Swarlipi mentioned above.Kunjana me rachyo raas chowtal dhrupad composition in Bhimpalasi Nad Vinod Granth of Pannalal Goswami 1896

The first two parts of a Dhrupad composition in Raga Bhupali in Chowtal sung by the Elder Dagar Brothers

Text of all four parts from Nad Vinod Granth. Dhrupad Composition in Chowtal Tan Talwar from Nad Vinod Granth Pannalal Goswami 1896

The Nad Vinod Granth is a valuable book with the texts of many dhrupad compositions and notations of instrumental gats and interesting prastara exercises in various Ragas. The notations of Ragas given in the book show how they have changed over more than a  century. However the book would have been infinitely more valuable had the author also included notations of the Dhrupad compositions instead of notations of only the gats and the prastara exercises.

The photos in this post show Ramprasanna Bannerjee  playing the Rudra Veena and his younger brother Gopeshwar Bannerjee of the Vishnupur Dhrupad Tradition. The world of Dhrupad will be eternally grateful to them for being farsighted enough to publish their two gemGopeshwar Bannerjee Dhrupad Singer and author Vishnupurs with Dhrupad compositions – The Sangit Manjari and the Sangit Chandrika.
All articles on this blog © Ashish Sankrityayan. No part may be used except with written permission and explicit acknowledgement.

Dhamar In Khamaj – Ashish Sankrityayan, Dalchand Sharma

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Short Alap and Dhamar in Khamaj – Ashish Sankrityayan, Dalchand Sharma.

Dhrupad Compositions With Four Parts – Rahimuddin, Hussainuddin, Aminuddin, Zahiruddin and Faiyazuddin Dagar

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One often hears it being said that singers of the Dagar Tradition do not sing all the four parts of a Dhrupad composition. The reason could be that the style lays much greater emphasis on improvisation and because of this, the last two parts being not sung often are gradually forgotten. Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar used to tell me that in a Dhrupad composition the first two parts the Sthayi and Antara were the most important – encompassing all the angs of the raga that the composition tries to demonstrate. The last two parts are essentially variations of the first two. Often due to the vagaries of the oral system of transmission and the peculiarities of the family relations and learning histories, some members of the Dagar family remembered all the four parts of certain compositions while others didn’t.

Another quirk of theirs is in the nomenclature of the four parts. The Dagars would insist that the last two parts of a Dhrupad composition are called Abhog and Sanchari and not the other way round. Fahimuddin Dagar  told me that the third part always starts with a special ornament  spanning a large part of the octave – the hudak and the fourth is more or less the same as the second – the Antara. He said the fourth part should be called the Sanchari or Samachari because it summarized the content of all the four parts and brought the composition to an end.  He also added that it doesn’t really matter anyway if it is Abhog, Sanchari or the other way round.

When it came to remembering compositions the Late Nasir Aminuddin Dagar had probably the largest repertoire of them all. He also remembered many compositions of his maternal grandfather Inayat Khan. When I first met him in Calcutta, he spontaneously sang without tanpura accompaniment, several that I had never heard before. It is a real pity that he did not methodically  record all that he remembered.

Here are two compositions by him with all the four parts.

Pujana Chali Mahadeva – Raga Malkauns – Chowtal,  Composition of Tansen. Notice the tanpura tuning in Pancham. Something he insists on in the beginning before the alap as being required to preserve the tonal relations within the Raga.

Manus Hu To Vahi Ras Khan – Raga Kambhoji – Chowtal – text by Ras Khan – poet and Krishna devotee  (16th – 17th century).

Another gem of a composition with four parts attributed to Tansen is Muraliya Kaise Baaje sung here by Nasir Zahiruddin and Nasir Faiyazuddin Dagar the younger sons of Nasiruddin Khan Dagar

Aminuddin Sab sings another composition with four parts in Raga Adbhut Kalyan  which I recorded from a radio broadcast around 1990. He probably missed out a part of it somewhere since he has to repeat a phrase in the end to come to the first beat.  He told me that the Raga was originally called Khem Kalyan. The composition is of Kalidas – the Pandit from whom his ancestor Baba Behram Khan had learnt in Varanasi.

This composition in Todi sung by Hussainuddin Dagar (Tansen Pandey) mentions the names of Nayak Gopal and Nayak Baiju.  The pakhawaj accompaniment is probably by Rajiv Lochan Dey.

This composition  in Lalit sung by Aminuddin Dagar mentions the name of Dhondi in the last part. The pakhawaj accompaniment is by S. V. Patwardhan. Recorded by Maharawal Mahipalsinghji of Dungarpur in 1966 from a radio broadcast.

Two more compositions with four parts are these in Miya Ki Malhar and Komal Rishabh Asavari by Rahimuddin Khan Dagar which are also there in his EP records released by HMV.

Raga Miya Ki Malhar

Raga Komal Rishabh Asavari

Dhrupad in Asavari  Text and Notation Master Krishnarao

Dhrupad in Asavari Text and Notation Master Krishnarao

It is often difficult to understand the text from such recordings. The text of this Asavari composition can be found in vol 3 of Raga Sangraha of Master Krishnarao along with a notation that is more or less along the lines of the rendition of Rahimuddin Dagar. Popular compositions like this one  remained in wide circulation in the oral tradition and the amazing thing is that usually the different versions agree in the overall structure and design despite coming from vastly different lineages of singers in widely separated parts of the country.

dagar family 1936 zahiruddin fahimuddin aminuddin rahimuddin dagar

Young Aminuddin and Zahiruddin Dagar appear in this photo taken in 1936 in Indore – appearing solemn and downcast – understandable since their father Nasiruddin Khan had passed away a few months ago and their mother and elder brother Moinuddin had left for Jaipur. The little child in the lap of their uncle Rahimuddin Khan Dagar could be Faiyazuddin Dagar or one of their sisters – I am not sure. Standing between Zahiruddin and Aminuddin is young Fahimuddin Dagar.

The importance of Dhrupad compositions is that each is a model of the various angs or aspects of a raga – composed by a master Dhrupad singer and passed on from generation to generation as an example of the raga. Compositions document history, folklore, mythology, philosophical and musical concepts. Special compositions were created as pedagogical tools to illustrate certain concepts or methods of treatment. One huge task before us is to locate and digitize and make accessible to the public all existing material on Dhrupad.

The  task would have been much easier 40 or 50 years ago when recording technology had become widely and easily available and there were many knowledgeable musicians still  around. Right now the task is daunting if not overwhelming. Its a bit like embarking on an archaeological excavation without even knowing where to start digging.

– Ashish Sankrityayan

Dhrupad Kendra Bhopal


Govindrao Burhanpurkar and other Pakhawaj Maestros of Yesteryears

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Elder Dagar Brothers with Pt. Govindrao Burhanpurkar on Pakhawaj

The grand old man with the elegant bordered cap on the pakhawaj in this photo is none other than great pakhawaj maestro of yesteryears Govindrao Burhanpurkar.

My Guru Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar once identified him to me in this very photograph which I had got printed then from the Sangeet Natak Akademi archives in connection with my work on the Mewar CDs. He reminisced about his magnificient playing with his father Rahimuddin Dagar and said that pakhawaj players like Govindrao Burhanpurkar and his contemporary  Ayodhya Prasad used to play the ‘Angs‘ of singing on the pakhawaj and because they could anticipate these ‘Angs‘,  it was possible to do very long and gradually unfolding developments of compositions with their accompaniment.

Another contemporary pakhawaj player of Govindrao Burhanpurkar  he mentioned and also showed me a photo of,  wearing a similar cap was S. V. Patwardhan, who played brilliantly with the Elder Dagar brothers in their great Darbari Kanada L.P. Unfortunately I never managed to make a copy of that photo. Wish I had since that might be the only picture around of this great pakhawaj player who also passed away in the 1960’s soon after the untimely death of Ustad Nasir Moinuddin Dagar. That brilliant accompaniment in the Darbari/Adana L.P. and a few recordings of his sangat in A.I.R broadcasts with the Elder Dagar Brothers assures him a place in the pakhawaj roll of honour.

Unfortunately this is a poor reproduction from the L.P and does not bring out S.V. Patwardhan’s beautiful resonant bell like sound that I had heard with very good L.P. players and reproducing equipment. I hope H.M.V does a good remastering and releases it again.

What I loved about his sangat was the grand way he gave theka in the beginning and restrained his tremendous virtuosity and speed – only gradually bringing in the fireworks, and all the time  following the ‘Angs‘ of the singing with incredible closeness and anticipation.

I found a picture of this L.P. on this unbelievably named  blog “Anthems for the Nation of Luobania” – which gives photos of the vinyl disc too and also discusses the merits of different pressings…which ones have low surface noise etc. !!! Real Dhrupadiyas among L.P. collectors I must say, to pay such attention to nuances 🙂 . The blog is a must see for all vinyl L.P. lovers!!

Elder Dagar Brothers - Darbari L.P. with S.V. Patwardhan on Pakhawaj

Incredibly enough I googled and found a youtube video with Burhanpurkar Ji’s solo playing taken from an old 78 rpm record. The playing is very virtuosic,  but of course with the tinny sound of a 78 rpm shellac recording, we can only get a distant glimpse of what it would have sounded like in real life- a rare example of pakhawaj solo on shellac. That HMV released it showed the stature that Govindrao Burhanpurkar had among his contemporaries. Hats off to Warren Senders for uploading this and other  78 rpm gems.

Another rare recording of pakhawaj sangat or accompaniment that I have is of  Ambadas Pant Agle  – grandfather of pakhawaj players Sanjay and Chitrangana Agle accompanying Rudra Veena player Abid Hussain Khan of Janjira – a relative and elder of renowned Veena player Late Asad Ali Khan.  Abid Hussain was also a Dhrupad singer and one of the many important tasks of Dhrupad archivists would be to locate his recordings and find students of his who might remember things taught by him.
– Raga Desh, Abid Hussain Khan, Ambadas Pant Agle.  All India Radio Broadcast on 19th September 1963. Recorded by Maharawal Mahipalsinghji of Dungarpur.

Govindrao Burhanpurkar, S. V. Patwardhan, Ambadas Pant Agle – all belonged to the Nana Panse school of pakhawaj,  which emphasized a kind of soft,  sensuous and poetic style of playing as opposed to the  more manly and forceful Kudao Singh style . The Nana Panse style was more prevalent in Maharashtra and Central India while the Kudao Singh style of which Ramashish Pathak and Ayodhya Prasad  are fine  examples  is found in the North and in Bihar.

A Tribute to Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar

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Interview of Ustad Z. F. Dagar by Deepak Raja

A Tribute to Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar

Came across this old interview of Ustad Z. F. Dagar where he talks about his creation – The Dhrupad Kendra, Bhopal. It is truly wonderful how reasoned, trenchant and lively Ustad’s observations are in all his public pronouncements.

Directorship of the Dhrupad Kendra was an opportunity and a challenge, and it was this man’s utter unorthodoxy and willingness to break rules in an intelligent manner that allowed him to overcome adversity and very trying circumstances and do what none of his Gharana members would probably have done…. which is to develop new innovative and unorthodox ways of teaching under new circumstances, to spread the knowledge outside the confines of the Gharana and still keep as true to the tradition as possible.

The traditional method of training in the Dagar family was of course developed keeping in view that it started very early – at an age of 5 or 6 years.  The training focused on techniques which were grounded using exercises that had to be repeated for hours using a chain of beads (tezbi) to keep count. The exercises trained the child not only in the techniques but embodied the entire grammar of the music that was to be taught later.  After many years of this grounding came Alap and compositions and then the whole conceptual framework, the grammar – the shastra – behind the whole music.

With his mandate to produce performers within four years Ustad Z. F. Dagar developed a system where the initial long grounding with exercises was shortened to a few months after which the training quickly went on to Alap, compositions and improvisation. He encouraged his students to improvise and sing on their own, which is why most of his students became very confident and successful performers.

Zia Fariduddin Dagar

Zia Fariduddin Dagar (around 1970)

Everything has its pros and cons and today I raise a toast to the genius of Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar and what he achieved in his life. Like all geniuses Chote Ustad and indeed all his brothers of the Dagar Gharana are complex, charismatic and truly lovable personalities. Despite their fierce and often bitter mutual rivalries, the difficult circumstances after Indian independence and the erosion and fragmentation of knowledge due to their  internecine family warfare, the descendants of Zakiruddin and Allabande Khan  – The Dagar Brothers – managed to keep the essence of their knowledge and art alive ,  often making great personal sacrifices and  stoically enduring the disdain and neglect of a society  that did not value a contemplative  form that  did not strive to entertain or please. Their story is the story of all the triumphs and failings of the Gharana system in North Indian music which evolved under feudal patronage, whereby a style or a whole genre becomes the hereditary profession of a family.

Meeting them was like coming across a slice of history, of suddenly walking into another age. Hearing myself speak today I realize that I have subconsiciouly imbibed after all these years of sitting in front of them trying to catch every word they utter – their rich Hindi Urdu Sanskrit blend – in the words of Ustad Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar “mili jhuli ganga jamni zabaan”. I consider myself truly fortunate to have been able to know and observe my Gurus from fairly close. Looking back at all the ups and downs of my complex relations with them, I can only be filled with great awe, love and respect. How could I have been chosen to come into contact with something so old and so deep. Just my destiny or random chance I guess.

After my recent appointment as director of the Dhrupad Kendra Bhopal, the position held by Ustad for many years during which he single handedly reworked the future of the tradition, my

Rahim Fahmimuddin Dagar cleaning Tezbi of Allabande Khan

Rahim Fahmimuddin Dagar cleaning Tezbi of Allabande Khan (click for video)

job over the next few years would be to strengthen the institution he founded and use it to further the interests of the Dhrupad tradition with fairness, objectivity, impartiality and above all with kindness and humility.

Having benefited from Ustad Z. F. Dagar’s innovative teaching which instilled great confidence and the ability to improvise on ones own and also the more orthodox and traditional teaching of his elder cousin Ustad Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar which emphasized long grounding in techniques and concepts using repetitive exercises – I combined the two systems in my own teaching in the Dhrupad Kendra with good results. I have written a long article in the Hindi literary magazine Samaas on the teaching methods of the Dagar tradition and contemporary questions of Dhrupad. Samaas Dhrupad Article

There is a little video clip of Fahimuddin Dagar cleaning the Tezbi – the chain of beads used to keep count while repeating an exercise – of his grandfather Allabande Khan while teaching. Exercises like this have many subtleties and complexities that may not be immediately obvious to the uninitiated. It is possible to teach the entire technique, grammar and conceptual framwork of Dhrupad through such exercises.

(Students of Dhrupad Kendra Bhopal sing at the Tansen Festival at the end of their first year of training in December 2012)

The rate of attrition of knowledge in Dhrupad in recent times has been exponential. Only 20 or 30 years ago a huge repertoire of compositions still remained with some known and many obscure Dhrupad singers, most of whom were struggling to keep singing and at the same time earn a livelihood. I recently tried to locate disciples or recordings of Dhrupad singer Bharatji Vyas (1923-1983) who lived in Baroda, and I came up on a blank wall. Nothing remains except a few recordings of rare compositions in rare ragas with the Sangeet Natak Academy.

Although I am a singer of the style of Dhrupad practised by Ustad and his brothers, I consider it my duty to also work for the preservation of all traditions of Dhrupad and hope that this job will help me in addressing this task as well. Much of the composed repertoire of Dhrupad was common to all the traditions. One hears different versions of the same composition being sung by singers of vastly different traditions.

There are many more names I need to look into: T. L. Rana, Gajanana Thakur, Hari Shankar Mishra, Radheshyam Dagur of Tikamgarh…. to see if they left behind a few recordings or taught a few students or notated at least some of the compositions in some handwritten manuscript gathering dust and mould or being devoured by termites somewhere.

Some handwritten manuscripts I have located are being zealously guarded by family members of departed musicians who expect to be paid considerable sums of money to part with them. Yet seeing the colossal amounts being mentioned in connection with corruption scandals I cannot blame them. What they expect in comparison for true gems of our heritage is absolute peanuts!

Most of that composed repertoire of Dhrupad – little fixed models of Ragas created by master Dhrupad singers of the past to encapsulate the various concepts of classical music and pass them on from generation to generation has now gone to the grave, because the state system failed to reach out to these people and support them and record for posterity the precious bits of knowledge they carried. The recently enlivened debate on corruption and the abuse of power and misuse of public institutions has yet to permeate into the realm of art, culture and heritage management but is sorely needed there. It will also come. Everyone is waiting for someone to stand up and bell the cat.

All said and done a lot of knowledge has been lost in the last few decades and yet a lot still remains thanks to the efforts of individual Gurus like Ustad Z. F. Dagar and others who dared to take the initiative and do what they believed should be done in the vastly changed circumstances after independence when the entire class of highly cultivated and musically sophisticated royal patrons literally disappeared overnight. To quote one of my gurus (Ustad Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar) – “yeh sab to bas jhaadan hai. khazane to sab chale gaye. lekin yeh bhi kafi hai.” – These are all just leftovers … the real treasures are all gone.. but still this is enough.

In many systems redundancy makes it at least theoretically possible to reconstruct the whole from fragments. Lets hope that the same would be possible for Dhrupad.

ref – Dhrupada – Indurama Shrivastava 1980 Motilal Banarasidass

– Ashish Sankrityayan

Ustad Nasir Aminuddin Dagar – Jaijaiwanti Kanada

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Nasir Aminuddin DagarI have two recordings of Ustad Nasir Aminuddin Dagar singing this chowtal composition in  Raga Jaijaiwanti Kanada – This one shows the melodic lines of the composition without tala or  pakhawaj accompaniment and is  from 1990 in Bhopal. The Raga being a blend of two Ragas has a complicated structure.  A version of this composition can also be found in the book Marifunnagamat, attributed by the author and compiler Muhammad Nawab Ali Khan to the Dhrupad singer Abban Khan of Saharanpur – a relative and disciple of Baba Behram Khan.

The second performace from a concert in Delhi in the 1980’s

CDs and DVDs  of Dhrupad on Cdbaby –  Miya Ki Malhar Abhogi and LalitYaman and Malkauns

Recording from the personal archives of Ashish Sankrityayan

Written by dhrupad1234

April 7, 2010 at 5:22 am

Posted in Aminuddin Dagar

Pandit Ramashish Pathak – Pakhawaj Solo

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Pandit Ramashish Pathak of Amta ( Near Darbhanga Bihar) Plays pakhawaj solo in Adi Tala ( 16 beats) acccompanied by his students. Ramashish Pathak one of the most reputed pakhawaj players of India plays in the Kudau Singh style.

CDS AND DVDS OF DHRUPAD ON CDBABY– Miya Ki Malhar Abhogi and LalitYaman and Malkauns

Written by dhrupad1234

September 27, 2009 at 10:19 am