Dagar Brothers of Udaipur
Late Khan Sahib Ustad Nasir Moinuddin Dagar
Khan Sahib Ustad Nasir Aminuddin Dagar
The most extraordinary artistes… First , it is only a deep low sound, which seems to come from the earth, a slow pattern in very long sustained notes. This immobile song, sweet and fervent, calmly arises…the hands also awake , accompanying the hymn with admirable gestures of prayer, of offering and thanksgiving. Jacques Longchamps, Le Monde-Paris, 17-1164
…it became clear however that the singers formed their melodies from deep emotional submersion… they offered sounding meditations, that effected strangely and deeply even those listeners who are not familiar with this kind of music. Telegraf-Berlin, 23-9-64
…of all forms only the noblest, the highest and the purest can cross cultural barriers. This tour of Europe, in the framework of biggest festivals and concert halls, was a total triumph. Alain Danielou on their 1964 tour to Europe
Raag : Miya Ki Malhar
• Alap and Dhrupad in Choutaal
• Aayi Hai Ghata UmadGhumad
A Dhrupad performance starts with the alap, which in its initial stage, is a slow and elaborate delineation of the raga using free flowing melodic patterns. Usually starting with the sa of the middle octave, the alap patterns gradually descend to the lower octave, and then returning to the middle octave, they rise to the higher register in a gradual succession of melodic patterns. A final return to the middle octave sa concludes the first part of the alap. In uttaranga pradhan raga.s like Bahar or Adana, the alap is done mainly in the higher register.' The alap is sometimes preceded by the singing of a Sanskrit shloka, which is set to rhe same kind of free flowing melodic patterns. This shloka serves as a prelude to the alap.
In this methodical note by note elaboration, the melodic patterns at any stage seem to be focused on some individual note or resting point of the raga. The patterns take up the different facets of the raga one by one, and their gradual succession creates an impression of the raga slowly unfolding itself. In some raga.s with a vakra roop like Shankara or Hem Kalyan, this kind of a note by note elaboration cannot be done. The alap employs variations of traditional melodic patterns that the musician has to assimilate through years of training and practice. It is essentially exploratory and improvisational, and through it the musician explores the relationships between the notes, their mutual consonances, and all the melodic variations that are possible within rhe framework of the raga.
Dhrupad alap is syllabic, because it employs the syallables aa, ra, na, naa, ra, naa, noom, na, te, ta, ra, na, na ... which are abstrations of the mantric phrase Om antaran rvam, taran taaran rvam, ananta Hari Narayan Om, the words having been broken down to their syllables to facilitate melodic improvisation. The syllabic nature of the music actually adds ro the melodic possibilities, because the character of any melodic phrase can be altered by shifting or changing the syllables. As the use of the syllables of Hari Narayan Om suggests, Dhrupad singing is in its essence a spiritual pursuit. It can be seen to be a form of meditation in which nada is used to attain liberation or the realization of Brarnha. Dhrupad alap, with its succession of free flowing patterns, produces a deeply meditative atmosphere, and although the rasas karuna, shringar, adbhut and, at a later stage, even veer rasa make an appearance, the overriding predominance is of bhakti. The great masters of the Dagar tradition Ustads Zakiruddin Khan, Allabande Khan and Nasiruddin Khan were especially renowned for their serene and meditative alap singing.
Once the elaboration of the raga through free flowing patterns is completed, the alap enters a phase in which the patterns are set to a rhythmic pulse, with a moderate tempo in the beginning, which is increased in stages later. In this portion, the presence of a rhythmic pulse combines with the syllabic character of the music, and alters the nature of the melodic patterns. This enables a melodic elaboration different from the one achieved with free flowing patterns. The patterns in the later part of this stage are embellished with gharnaks'
The alap is followed by a composition sung to pakhawaj accompaniment. The talas that commonly occur here are choutaal, jhapraal, sultaal and dhamar taal. Although the word Dhrupad refers to the composition (Dhrupad means a composition that is immutable), there is a commonality between the alap and the composition since they both employ the same kind of melodic patterns.The techniques meend, ghamak, lahak, kampit, andolit etc that occur in the alap, appear in the same way in the patterns of the composition. The composition can in fact be seen to be an encapsulation of the alap patterns, and Dhrupad musicians of the Dagar tradition actually use the composition patterns as models for alap patterns. The composition with its four parts srhayi, antara, abhog and san chari summarizes everything that preceded it and brings the exposition of the raga to an end'
Dhrupad singing requires me practice of nada yoga, which is a form of laya yoga. The sadhana of nada yoga produces a resonant voice that comes from deep within, and seems to permeate me very being of the singer. This voice is different from me throaty voice that is ideal for Khayal and Thumri singing. It is a voice that is very rich in overtones. The author of this article can say from his personal experience of training under various Ustads of the Dagar tradition, mat this sadhana involves shifting me source of sound gradually to the base of the throat (kanth mool), and further down to the heart (hriday) and me navel (nabhi) till a stage is reached with the entire region from navel to head (murdhanya) vibrates as one. There is a shloka in the Sangir-ramakar of Sarangdev, which describes this method of producing nada (chapter 3 shloka no.4). In the voice of a Dhrupad singer who has achieved siddhi in nada yoga, the intonation of sa produces very prominent overtones of pa and ga. A similar prominence of overtones is seen in the rudra veena and me sursingar, which are regarded as the ideal instruments for Dhrupad alap, and also in the instrument of percussion accompaniment the pakhawaj. This prominence of overtones enforces a consonance or samvad between the notes, and the pace of Dhrupad alap must necessarily be slow, because consonance cannot be experienced without lingering on me notes. The prominence of overtones mat is achieved through the nada sadhana of Dhrupad also creates a consonance between me voice and me ranpura, and it is this consonance that produces a dense and rnedirative atmosphere mat is so characterisric of me singing of me Dagars. Ustad Nasiruddin Khan was especially renowned for his accomplishment in nada yoga, and it is said mat me prominence of overtones in his voice was such, that the voice sounded like the tanpura and appeared to blend with it. This quality can also be seen in the voice of his younger brother Usrad Rahimuddin Khan Dagar, in some of his old recordings.
Consonance or samvad is especially important in Dhrupad because a raga in Dhrupad is identified by its swarup or characteristic ambience, and is not seen to be merely a certain sequence of notes. The concept of the swarup of a raga comes from me fact mat me sa is itself a variable andundergoes microtonal shifts from one raga to another. The two center strings of me tanpuraestablish me sa, and me sa of me raga varies in relation to this. Each raga employs a distinct shade of sa, which uniquely characterizes its swarup, and all other notes employed are merely overtones of rhis sa. The sa of Miya Malhar differs from that of Megh, and the same applies to re or pa because they arise as overtones of sa. The re of Megh has a lower pitch than the re of Miya Malhar, and that is a consequence of the sa of the twO ragas being different.
The swarup concept in the Dagar tradition, enables the tanpura or the veena to be tuned differently for different ragas, so that the instrument itself, by its very tuning, can establish the swarup of the raga to be performed'. The raga in Khayal is essentially a certain sequence of notes, and the ambience of the raga in Khayal is maintained by frequently repeating its characteristicphrases. In the Dagar tradition of Dhrupad, the swarup concept enables a treatment of ragas in which a characteristic nore sequence need not be constantly repeated. The correct shade of sa (or of re or of any other note of the raga) is sufficient to establish the swarup of the raga. It is therefore possible to-linger on the notes, and explore the relationships between just a few notes at a time without losing the characteristic ambience of the raga. This can be experienced in the rocording of Megh released by the Mewar Foundation, in which with the very first low and subtly modulated re, Usrad Nasir Moinuddin Dagar establishes the swarup of Megh. The fact that the tuning of the tanpura and the very first sa can establish the swarup of the raga, can be experienced in the recordings of Darbari Kanada and Asavari of the Elder Dagar Brothers that were released in the 1960s.
It is often heard that Dhrupad employs just plain notes, and all ornamentation is avoided to produce a very austere and rigid kind of music. There is actually a whole world of ornamentation in Dhrupad , but the ornamentation is essentially microtonal, employing the notes in their subtle microtonal shades. To give an example, an accomplished Dhrupad singer can sing raga Jaijaiwanti without employing komal ga, but can create an illusion or aabhas of kornal ga by making a minute micro tonal inflection on reo The author has heard several demonstrations of this treatment of komal ga in Jaijaiwanti from Ustad Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar, Usrad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar and Usrad Zia Fariduddin Dagar. This subtle and microtonal or namenration of Dhrupad seems ro be lost on listeners who are used to ornamentation ar a grosser level that occurs in other forms. In the recording of Miya ki Malhar by the Elder Dagar Brothers released by the Mewar Foundation this concept of microronal ornamentation can be seen in the interplay of the two nishads and dhaivata, with the patterns showing rhe subtle microtonal gradations of the notes. The meends seem to actually progress through the various microtonal shades, and the transitions from ni to sa seem to occur in stages through subtle gradations.The stays on the nishads seem to touch several shades of these notes.
The Dagar Dhrupad tradition sees the notes as fluid entities with endless shades that seem to flow and merge into each other. They somehow seem to elude a definite grasp. Birendrakishore Roychoudhary has mentioned this in his book on the musical heritage of Tansen. He has written about the arnosphere of mysrery and strangeness that is creared when the notes are nor touched or grasped as definite points, (Hindustani sangeet mein Tansen ka sthan by Birendrakishore Roychaudhary, translared by Madanlal Vyas, published by Vani Prakashan, New Delhi, page 59). Indian classical music has today reached a stage, where the very mention of a variable sa or pa would be greeted with derision. Yet there still survives a musical tradition which recognizes that a whole world of musical possibilities opens up when the notes cease to be mere points. But this is a world that cannot be accessed easily.
The Elder Dagar Brothers Usrad Nasir Moinuddin Dagar (I 919-1966) and Ustad Nasir Aminuddin Dagar (I 923-) were recognized as the foremost singers of the Dagar tradition of their generation. They were trained in the musical tradition of their family by their father Ustad Nasiruddin Khan (I 889-1936), and their uncles Usrad Ziauddin Khan (I886-1946) and Ustad Riyazuddin Khan (1885-1947). In their jugalbandi (duet) singing, they complemented each other with their slightly contrasting styles and differing voice qualities, and shared a rapport that is possible only between musicians who have undergone their entire process of musical development together. Their singing was characterized by serene and dignified alap, a richness of subtle microtonal ornamentation, and the beauty and imaginativeness of their melodic elaboration. The elder brother Ustad Nasir Moinuddin Dagar, who usually dominated the proceedings, was particularly known for his mastery over the deeper and subtler aspects of the Dagar tradition. His singing had all the characteristics of the nada sadhana of the Dagar gharana, and his music contained stylistic influences of his father Usrad Nasiruddin Khan and his uncle Ustad Ziauddin Khan. In many of his performances he would actually demonstrate the stylistic peculiarities of his great predecessors. There was a dynamism, a certain element of surprise in the sudden turns that his melodic improvisation could take. The younger brother Usrad Nasir Aminuddin Dagar with his slightly restrained style, a deep resonant voice and flowing patterns full of devotional feeling formed the perfect jugalbandi (duet) partner for his elder brother. After the death of Ustad Nasir Moinuddin Dagar, his younger brothers Usrad Nasir Zahiruddin Dagar and Ustad Nasir Faiyazuddin Dagar continued the tradition of Dhrupad jugalbandi singing.
A musical tradition, which depends on a very small number of musicians for its survival, with just one or rwo of them having a grasp of the tradition in its totality, always runs the risk of suffering a decline due to the loss of a crucial member. The untimely deaths of outstanding musicians like Ustad Nasiruddin Khan, Usrad Ziauddin Khan, Usrad Hussainuddin Dagar (Tansen Pandey), Ustad Nasir Moinuddin Dagar and others has deprived the Dagar tradition of such crucial torch bearers.
Yet a core body of knowledge still survives, and it is to be hoped that this knowledge will be built upon and the tradition will rejuvenate itself.
The perfermance ends with the composition aayi hai ghata umad umad ghumad ghumad in choutaal attributed to. the legendary Dhrupad singer Tansen. Only the sthayi of this cornposition has been performed. (A recording released by HMV of Ustad Rahimuddin Dagar singing raag Miya kiMalhar, contains the entire composition with all the four parts.) Especially noteworthy in this part. is the deep and resonant sound that Pandit Purshettamdasji of the Nathdwara schoo! produces from the pakhawaj.
The Maharana Kumbha Sangeet Kala Ttust acknowledges with grateful thanks Ashish Sankritayan for his scholastic article, appearing with this CD. We along with Ashish Sankrityayan are indebted to Ustad Rhim Fahimuddin Dagar for his guidance and his comments on various point and photographs of the musicians of the Degar family. We also like to thank Ustad Zia Faridudding Dagar and Ustad Hussain Sayeedudin Dagar for their invaluable guidance.