Rudraveena exponent Ustad Mohiuddin Bahauddin Dagar, torchbearer of the Dagar legacy of Dhrupad, says that there are no short cuts to assimilating the exacting grammar of this genre of Hindustani music.

The word ‘Dhrupad’ immediately triggers in our memories the names of the Dagar brothers, Zia Mohiuddin Dagar and Fariduddin Dagar. A musical tradition which has a grammar that is not too easy to be assimilated by the impatient learner, Dhrupad remains the domain of practitioners who are unfazed by the demands of the market to generate popularity by packaging. “There are no short cuts,” was the discernible refrain in the words of Ustad Mohiuddin Bahauddin Dagar, who was in Thiruvananthapuram with his offering ‘The Sound of Siva’ in Dhrupad on the Rudraveena. An A-Grade artist at All India Radio, Mumbai, Bahauddin is the recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for 2012-2013. In an interview Bahauddin speaks about his legacy and the way forward for Dhrupad as a musical tradition. Excerpts…

Do you feel the responsibility of being the torchbearer of the Dagar vani demanding? In changing times how does the meditative element reach the new learner?

The Dagar vani follows the ‘Sadharani geethi’. To maintain the tradition lies with each one of the practitioners. There are many who follow this style. Anyone who has three preceding generations following a particular style can become a proponent of the vani. Of course, each person brings his own quality to the music, some take the variations too far, some adopt measures to popularise it. In the end, those who strike a balance between what has been handed down over generations and adapt without corrupting, will become the pillars of the tradition.

Dhrupad has receded from popular spaces with the advances made by Khayal. Will it be possible to reclaim the lost ground?

The bad times were during the post-Independence period. Then came the festivals within the country and abroad and efforts by SPIC MACAY to protect and preserve the arts. As far as Dhrupad is concerned, there is a certain level of maturity required, and that is a pre-requisite to training and attaining perfection. Only then will the learner develop the stamina for the long haul. It takes close to 15 years to master three or four ragas. The ‘alaap’ has no poetry to it. Khayal on the other hand has a bandish or poetry and appears more concrete to the learner.

Often, people take to Khayal initially, and, after decades of exposure, come to Dhrupad. This by itself is indicative of a maturity that is necessary to assimilate the essence of Dhrupad. Few relate to the nuances. In South India, probably due to the strong Carnatic music tradition, audiences relate better to Dhrupad.

How much have the efforts of organisations such as SPIC MACAY helped in garnering interest and bringing in new learners?

In an audience of 5,000 there will at best be five persons who will come up and talk to me about the recital, the finer points of handling a particular raga and so on. In such a situation organisations like these play a significant role by creating a platform and in nurturing young talent. However, the approach has to shift now. Rather than get 100 or 200 young learners, they should bring in parents who would form half the strength of such sessions. Since two generations have the shared experience, music will have earned its space at home. This is an aspect I appreciate in South India where music is ingrained into the lifestyle.

Traditionally training started with the ‘been’ and now in its absence the sequence is the sitar, the surbahar and the rudraveena, which is further reinforced with training in vocal. In present times is it possible to take this extended rigour to learn Dhrupad?

Teaching was minimal when I started learning under my father, Zia Mohiuddin Dagar. It was just practice on a singular raga for four or five years. Unless he was satisfied it was practice only. In that practice, there was an exploration of the raga taking place for me.

I have gone back to the gurukul system of training after my uncle Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar passed away. The students start riyaaz by 2.30 in the morning. One masters not just the music, it is a way of life that is being shaped. What to wear, how to present and perform, all of this, one absorbs watching the guru. I therefore insist that my learners who are abroad must spend time with me in India. To the students who are serious, I demand three to four hours daily for about eight years. Vocal training is essential to understand the counterpart. The yantra complements the voice, chisels your phrases, beautifies the voice, gifts exactness and lends perfection to the total delivery. Art forms are most alive - instils tolerance and resilience in a culture, an openness to accept the old and yet renew the form.