One of the finest performers of Dhrupad — the oldest form of Hindustani music — and the heir of an illustrious lineage of classical performers, Faiyaz Wasifuddin Dagar is nothing short of a magician.
It is not uncommon among his listeners to lose track of time or be transported to another world during his performances. “Classical music entertains you in a different way. But for that, you have to let it enter into you. You have to listen, not just hear. Open your senses and mind to it. You have come out of your pre-assessments,” says the classical maestro.
It seems only natural that Wasifuddin is a master of his craft, for he belongs to a line of celebrated musicians that can be traced back to Swami Haridas in the 16th century, famed singer Tansen’s guru, with whom the lineage of Dagars began.
However, Wasifuddin, 46, says his mastery over his craft also has a lot to do with his love for it. “It is as much a result of my worship of sound, notes and raags,” he says.
A room of one’s own
Usually dressed in pastel kurta-pyjamas, the Padma Shri awardee is most at ease in the practice room of his house in Delhi’s Asiad Village. Other than when he has concerts across the country and the world, he is most likely to be found in this room, singing, meditating and experimenting with his style.
In one corner of the room are six tanpuras, including the one that was gifted to him by Rudra Veena player (and his uncle) Zia Mohiuddin Dagar after his first performance in 1989. The rest of the room is filled with idols of Saraswati (the goddess of music), books ranging from ancient music and Vivekananda’s philosophy to Sufism, his calligraphy note books in which he writes in Arabic and Urdu, and several framed photographs of his ancestors, his mother, and his spiritual guru, Baba Mastan.
Classical singer Faiyaz Wasifuddin Dagar performs at an event in New Delhi on February 7, 2016. (Gurinder Osan/ Hindustan Times)
Relevance of classical music
Wasifuddin believes classical music is especially relevant these days given the rate at which our attention span is shrinking. “Everything is getting compressed, even music. We are boiling inside, evaporating our time, reducing it to nothing. We really need to calm down,” he says.
“Your brain, heart and soul need to be in tandem with each other to perform classical music. You need to relax. It has become so important to do this these days. This is what we teach. And this is why we stick to our traditions,” he adds.
Legend has it that the Dagars come from a line of Pandey Brahmins who were ostracised by their community after Gopal Das Pandey accepted a paan offered by Muhammad Shah Rangile, the then Mughal ruler in Delhi, for his excellent rendition of Dhrupad.
Since then, the Dagars follow Islam. However, their music encompasses both Hinduism and Islam. Dhrupad themes usually feature Hindu deities Shiva, Krishna, Vishnu and Saraswati, as well as several Sufi saints. “Swaras does not have any religion,” says Wasifuddin.
Wasifuddin confesses that he feels the pressure to be able to continue the rich musical legacy of his family. Still a bachelor, he has dedicated his life to Dhrupad. He has been training 15 disciples and sees promise in at least four of them.
“Music is life for me,” he says, not so sure of what would eventually become of the art from he holds so dear.