Wasifuddin Dagar’s concert provided an enriching experience.

He just took two raags and floored the handful of Hindustani aficionados who adorned the ‘baithak’ at Saptaparni. Padma Shri awardee Wasifuddin Dagar of the illustrious Dagar family of ‘Drupad’ musicians opened with an alaap in Yaman. In the characteristic style of this genre, he gained control of the mood of the raag in three phases of the speed cycle: first the slow (vilambit) where he steadily spanned the lower octave syllabic notes (swar) exploring them at the base, reaching its lowest denomination in deep tones. From here, he paved his way up to the madhyalaya (middle) through improvisations touching upon the highest note in this scale. This ascent was so structured and patterned with the melody intact that it vibrated across the environs.

The pulsating alaap entered the fast track (druth) with a powerful rhythmic force that swept us off our feet. Unlike Carnatic musicians, the Ustad did not keep us guessing as to what was going on in the name of melody and rhythm since Drupad is a difficult and slightly rigid classical genre very much akin to the structure of Carnatic kriti or varnam rendition wherein you cannot tamper with the set frame. He elucidated on the arithmetic of the tala (beat) by spelling out the numerals before he replicated them with musical syllabic utterances (swar). The composition is equally important in the Drupad.

And so he expounds the lyric in its variations (similar to Carnatic sangathis) with a sprinkling of swar taan (swarakalpana). This went strictly on the basis of the beat and his virtuosity was tremendous as he weaved swar patterns in quick succession before we could bat our eyelids. The pakhawaz lost no time in keeping the rhythm. The mild variance from south Indian music was felt here, where the vocalist takes the cue from the percussionist and not vice-versa.

He then launched into the enchanting Malkauns raag with an elucidating it in detail through the alaap. Unlike the khyal rendition, the drupad alap escalates into a refined gamak (oscillation). The pace at which Wasifuddin Dagar delivered the gamak was mindboggling; the racy alaap with gamak had all the syllabic notes clear and in their correct positions. The composition Sri Ganesha Shankara sutha lambodara.. fell into a refrain with stresses shifting places, enriching the lines with each utterance. This time, the swar taan was optimum, maintaining the cycles of speed. He wrapped up the chamber concert with a Vedic chant that went to subterranean levels in flawless wonder. The short duration recital by Hindustani standards was a trip into the exotic world of music making for an enriching experience.

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