‘Sayeeduddin was torchbearer of Dagar Vani’

The Dagar Vani is unlike the Gharana of Khayal. While ‘Vani’ has linguistic, musicological, and even esoteric connotations, gharana is a socio-cultural term which by design is family centric.

pune Updated: Aug 01, 2017 10:11 IST
Subroto Roy
Subroto Roy
Hindustan Times, Pune
Dhrupad,Lalit Mohon Mukherjee,Yadunath Bhattacharya
The seven Dagar brother (Sayeeduddin is on the extreme right).(HT file photo)

My first encounter with the word ‘Dhrupad’ was through the legends within my maternal family, especially the late Lalit Mohon Mukherjee who had learnt Dhrupad from the great Yadunath Bhattacharya, but it was only when I heard Hussein Sayeeduddin Dagar’s (Sayeed Sahab) eldest cousin, the Kolkata-based late Ustad Aminuddin Dagar that I actually started embodying this powerful musical form known to have deep roots in the Sama Veda.

Sayeed Sahab was also a resident of Kolkata until he left the mighty city in the early 60s and took up a Dhrupad music teaching job at the Jaipur University.

Several years after he settled in Pune, I had the opportunity to listen to his Raga Shree at a programme organised by SPICMACAY in the late 1990s. Those were my MA (music) days with the Lalit Kala Kendra (LKK), University of Pune. The next encounter which was bound to make me his disciple was a workshop at the LKK. His week-long workshop was phenomenal to state the least. His silken, yet firm voice was unique and almost inseparable from the acoustic aura of the tanpura which he had obviously tuned. His awe-inspiring multiple exploitation of his voice in keeping with the lyrics and raga ethos was Dhrupad at its best.

He had pointed out in this workshop that the celebrated composition ‘Hari Ke Charana Kamal’ which was made immortal by the then young and eclectic Gwalior gharana maestro Pandit DV Paluskar in the form of a ‘Khayal’ was actually a ‘Sadra’ of the Dhrupad idiom. The ‘Sadra’ was as, it turns out, borrowed into the ‘Khayal’ tradition (I then discovered that innumerable compositions of Dhrupad have been sung as Khayal by several noted khayalists). So, thanks to the Dhrupad tradition of Vidya Daan (freely sharing knowledge with the aspiring and deserving students) that many aspiring students from outside the family of the Khayal ustads refused to teach, could learn the dhrupad compositions and then modify them into the Khayal form and present them to learned audiences. One such master was Ramkrishnabua Vaze who had also learnt Dhrupad from Swami Vivekanananda.

The Dagar Vani is unlike the Gharana of Khayal. While ‘Vani’ has linguistic, musicological, and even esoteric connotations, gharana is a socio-cultural term which by design is family centric.

Sayeed Sahab was the torchbearer of the Dagar Vani (or Bani), a vocalism chiefly inspired by the Sadharani Geeti that emanated from the Sama Veda. Also known as Satyadev Pande, his forefathers were Brahmins. In fact, it is believed that Ustadji’s father Husseinuddin Dagar had reconverted to Hinduism and was renamed as Tansen Pande, although Ustadji had told me that since he was the court musician of the Princely state of Alwar, he was given the title of Tansen Pande. He did confirm that they are of Brahmin descent.

Ustadji had inherited a deep voice from his father who could not teach him much due to his untimely demise. He had narrated me an incident in Kolkata about his father. Husseinuddin Dagar had sung a whole concert around two and a half hours on the lower ‘octave’ starting from C downwards (to be precise Saptak), a feat many would not even imagine doing. Yet his father’s vocal qualities combined with the purity of note of his main mentor- the legendary Ustad Rahimuddin Dagar (also known for his mastery over Sanskrit that gave him the title of Shadshastri) and other senior cousins shaped his music in a unique fashion unequalled by his peers.

His two gifted sons Nafees and Anees, along with senior cousin F Wasiffuddn now represent the 21st generation of this vocal music tradition. Their other cousin M Bahauddin Dagar is a Veena player par excellence. But most of us who have learnt or come in close contact with the Dagars are worried that there might not be another Dagar after the 21st generation as the possibility of the 22nd generation being born in the near future appears rather bleak.

I am pained at the passing of my first Dhrupad mentor; the one who had gifted his coat as a token of happiness following a concert that I had given vocal support to him in Aurangabad as both Naeesbhai and Aneesbhai were unwell. I wear the coat whenever there is an opportunity to perform. Now I shall refrain from overusing it fearing wear and tear. But I promise myself to work overtime to bring his teachings to practice. The body which failed due to wear and tear has not failed to leave behind a handful of students to carry forward the tradition.

Despite this assurance, I see little support coming from the state for a tradition which epitomises what India should be proud of; its culture founded on the true tenets of the Guru-Shishya tradition. Today, it is Dhrupad music education and the Vedic education in Pathshalas which are upholding this tradition in the true sense; free vidya since vidya cannot be sold. Ustadji, like all his forefathers did not demand a fee to teach Dhrupad just as is done in the Vedic tradition even today. What commitment this! Unparallelled.

We will remain deficient for our remaining lives of Ustadji’s poetic music and unique interpretation of Raga and compositions therein. A Frenchman whom I had stumbled upon one fine evening at a music concert in the city some years back had aptly said ‘Sayeed Sahab is the most poetic among the Dagars,’ a type of comparison that is taboo in our student circle.

First Published: Aug 01, 2017 10:11 IST