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Carrying the mantle

Ranee Kumar
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Profile Ustad Wasifuddin Dagar astounds you as much with his knowledge as with his musical rendition. Ranee Kumar

Music with soulN. Wasifuddin Dagar.Photo: K.Ananthan.
Music with soulN. Wasifuddin Dagar.Photo: K.Ananthan.

The world of classical Hindustani music opens its flood gates as you enter into a conversation with the Padma Shri awardee Ustad Wasifuddin Dagar. He astounds you with his remarkable diction and devotion as he hails lord Shiva or eulogises Ganesha; his tonal texture and reach are awesome; he has the math of tala on his finger tips while the swar (musical notes) showers snowflakes on you. His knowledge is astounding as he hails from the Dagar family which is just one among the two families adept in the Drupad style of singing.

Is Drupad a rigid style, you tend to ask as you know it is definitely not as popular in the concert circuit as khyal, a more flashy and creative style of rendition. “No,” is the instant answer. “Drupad has its origin in Saam Ved. It is a large treasure house of music from where you can draw your sustenance in whichever form you need. Sangeet, the ancients have established, is food for the soul. Every living being reacts to sound; and various sounds put together makes for sangeet or music. The air, wind, leaves, cloud, everything has a sound. There are certain unheard sounds too which underlie the sounds that are being heard. In our music we have the freedom to select our pitch unlike in the Western system which runs on the majors,” he elucidates.

Unheard sounds? How can we discern them?  “The seven notes from Shadhj to Nishaadh are the seen or heard sounds. To these and within these are another seven unheard notes which are responsible for creating an intoxicating note which can be gleaned between the pauses that we give as we scale the swar. This is sound in silence. A musician is taught to realise this and enhance his sense and sensitivity. Once the mind becomes alive to these unheard melodies, it can very easily create a flood of music within the given raag and this is called improvisation. Music can tame even a restless beast,” he says with conviction.

A little more into Drupad and he explains that the word ‘Drupad’ is the Hindi term of the original Sanskrit ‘Druvapada’, a combination of ‘Dhruva’ (structured) and ‘Pada’ (word/term). This was the earliest classical genre in Hindustani music, deeply spiritual and meditative, hence sung in temples.  It had a format like the alaap which gets elaborated with mantra phraseology ( Om antaran twam, taran taaran twam, Anantha Hari Narayan om ).

In the Dagar tradition, the notes are fluid entities with infinite microtones (anu swar). It is defined by 52 musical concepts (arkaans/basic alankars 12) and includes SamaVedic concepts like Udaatta, Anudaatta, Svarita and so on.  The emphasis is on purity of raga, elegance of swara, austerity in presentation with precise adherence to taal. 

“This being the case, there is no room to tamper,” he says and adds, “Our ancestors have perfected this music and handed over the legacy to us. A word of advice to the younger, tech-savvy generation — you can only rework on the old formulae. After all, you carry the genes from your parents; you are not an absolutely individual entity. Please acknowledge your legacy. Sangeet vidya doesn’t come with the click of the mouse. You can get stuck somewhere. A raag is like a rose; it needs to be appreciated in full not in parts. So too, unless you communicate with the raag, how can you claim to learn anything even close to music?” he asks and leaves you to understand the unseen for yourself.


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