Ustad H. Sayeeduddin Dagar gets eloquent about Dhrupad's history and the form today.
Ustad H. Sayeeduddin Dagar, master Dhrupad exponent, stays in Pune but lives emotionally in Banaras. Known to his admirers as Saeed Bhai, he visits this musical city every year to attend the Dhrupad festival and enjoys life in this death-celebrating city. At this stage of his life, he has a lot to say about the ancient Dhrupad, the present, his rigorous days of riyaaz, his Dhrupad schools in Canada and France, childhood, laughter and loneliness.
“Dhrupad style of music is eternal. This is my eternal love. I don't say it has now become a dying art but current position is not healthy. I mean, this devotional singing is now not in the hands of its devotees,” says the ustad from the devoted Dagar family.
The Dagar family tree is now the only surviving gharana where this ancient music form is still preserved gracefully. Almost all its members are dedicated to Dhrupad. Among the four prominent Dhrupad baani-s — Dagur, Nauhar, Khandar and Gauhar — the Dagur baani exists because of this great family alone.
“The seed has now become a huge tree. There are several stories about our family. There are many interpolations of the stories. We were Hindus and converted to Islam during the Moghul period, that everybody knows, but how this special style has been preserved after the Moghuls is a fascinating but intricate piece of information,” he says.
Dhrupad or Dhruva Pada-s was in practice from ancient times, say from the 1st Century B.C., but we have found these sacred verses from the 15th Century A.D., when King Man Singh tried to preserve most of these verses. Explains Dagar, “These Hindu musical verses were in use in the temples mostly in South India during the reign of Hindu kings, yet they could not be preserved after the invasion of Muslims. That was from the 9th Century A.D. Today, we have lost many of them, a few we present before our listeners. It is good to hear that Abhinavagupta Academy in Varanasi has taken the initiative to collect the semi-distorted and unpublished materials with the old, unused verses, Dhrupads and preserve them in its archive. This kind of attempt is the only possibility (to preserve the heritage).”
Dhrupad, the world over
After Bade Ustad — Ustad Zia Moiuddeen Dagar, the great veena maestro — Saeed Bhai established the dignity of Dhrupad all over the world in the last four decades, along with his contemporaries like Fariduddin Dagar and Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar. But in the next generation, talented young classical vocalists have not taken interest in the discipline.
“The reason is very simple,” he analyses,. “The students are interested only in fame, money and going abroad. After a long stage-experience, they could not create any effect with this style of singing over these last two decades. Therefore listeners turned away from Dhrupad in India. Only a few from the young generation, such as the Gundecha Brothers and Uday Bhawalkar, are known among the Dhrupad lovers.”
In an era when speed is in vogue, he feels, “Young and established artistes have a duty to render Dhrupad in an improvised manner in tune with the current generation, so as to attract more students in India, rather than in foreign countries — otherwise we will lament when Dhrupad has no more listeners.”