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Chords and Notes

The Royal Collection of Mewar by Dagar brothers of Udaipur

Virgin Records, Rs. 75

THE ROYAL Family of Mewar has taken on the unusual task of bringing out rare recordings from their archives. As part of this endeavour, Maharaja Arvind Singh Mewar, who believes in the preservation and development of the legacy of the ancestral family, has digitally restored a recital by the legendary dhrupad singers, the Dagar bandhu. In an interview, the Maharaja has said that the Mewar Palace has over 200 hours of live recording of various genres of music. This rare recording has been released by Virgin Records.

The association of the Dagar dhrupad tradition in the Mewar court started in 1859. The family members have been court musicians ever since.

Even after the merger of Mewar with the Union of India, the royal family continued its patronage to Nasir Moinuddin Dagar and Aminuddin Dagar. What we have in this three album set is a '50s recording.

Dhrupad is considered as the oldest existing form of the Indian classical music. And the Dagar family has become synonymous with dhrupad.

The elder Dagar brothers (Moinuddin and Aminuddin Dagar), as Dr. Richard Widdess says in his essay, Dhrupad and Dagar Tradition, unlike their predecessors, for whom it was a family heirloom, ensured the survival of dhrupad by teaching it to disciples from outside the family as well.

This remarkable collection has the late brothers singing ragas Miya Ki Malhar, Bageshree, and Puriya. There is a Pilu thumri as well. In the rendition of Bageshree, Ustad Zahiruddin Dagar joins them as well.

Raga Puriya, a Moinuddin Dagar solo, is a masterpiece marked by religious austerity. In this absolutely involved, passionate rendition the notes unfurl slowly. Incidentally, the dhrupad sees each note as a lotus flower that can be opened or closed to varying degrees. In his systematic development of the alap, Khansahib ponders over each note, throwing before the listener its melodic nuances. In the nom-tom alap, a characteristic feature of this genre, he demonstrates to the audience various sounds like that of a ringing bell, a blowing conch that can be produced by the manner in which the notes are uttered.

This unique demonstration of the microtones is present only in the Dagar tradition, because, as Ashish Sankrityayan puts it in his sleeve notes of the albums, they believed in the mastery of Nada Yoga. As he progresses to Madhyalay, there is extensive use of gamaks and murkhis. His perfect execution of these phrases makes one marvel at the astonishing fluidity of his otherwise unconventional voice. Khansahib's exploration of the higher octave ni-sa combination is lovely, in the sense that it doesn't stress on either of these notes, yet explores them in so many different ways. The thumri in Pilu is so unlike the Dagarbani. Khansahib entices the way he unravels the various melodic strains. He evokes so many moods — imploration, shrignar, and devotion — leading the listener to wonder if all this is possible with the raga.

Khansahib's perfect timing and execution is proof of his mastery over the form. This is an exceptional rendition because he bursts into Urdu poetry along the way and improvises on it.

Chords and Notes

Bageshree is not as impressive as Puriya. The taanpura is too loud and overshadows the vocal rendition.

Aminuddin Dagar Saab opens with a sloka, again something very unlike the Dagarbani, attributed to Shankaracharya. It is then followed by Jayadeva ashtapadis, which makes the pace, approach, everything, different. It appears that they are demonstrative pieces, and therefore one doesn't get the fulfilling dhrupad experience.

However, when Moinuddin Dagar Saab takes over with a tarana, it's masterly. Surprisingly, there is a harmonium accompaniment in this concert, which is rather unusual for a dhrupad recital.

Miyan ki Malhar, a raga that is attributed to Tansen, is a Kafi That raga. This shadava raga is associated with the rainy season. The Dagar brothers bring in the stylistic elements of the rudraveena into their singing.

The microtonal variations of the nishad throw before the listener a gamut of shades of the note. The Dagar brothers believe that the treatment of shadja varies from raga to raga, and not a prakruti swara, as musicologists say.

This, according to them, is because of the influence of the various swaras of that particular raga. The listener can actually experience it in the Dagars' treatment of Miyan Ki Malhar.

The contemplative alap that makes for a predominant part of the rendition moves slowly, with every small movement elaborated for several minutes.

Chords and Notes

The emphasis on single notes and the slow, smooth glides between them, as opposed to the smoothly rapid progression in the khayal form, becomes evident. Khansahib even demonstrates the difference in dhrupad and khayal gayaki.

As the alap moves on to the nom-tom alap, it becomes more forceful and acquires a rhythm.

The Dagar brothers sing only the sthayee of the bandish "Umad Ghumad" in this tape. If one doesn't mention Pandit Purshottamdasji for his superb pakhawaj saath, it would be unfair.

These tapes are surely a collectors' choice with brilliant sleeve notes.

However, one wishes the recording was better. Surely some digital remastering would have added to the listeners' pleasure.

DEEPA GANESH

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