Millennium Post

The end of a musical legacy

With the demise of Ustad Hussain Sayeeduddin Dagar, the venerable Dhrupad tradition of Hindustani classical music has come to a sad end. Known affectionately to his legions of disciples and admirers as 'Saeed Bhai', the maestro was the youngest among the eight famous Dagar brothers – who had mastered all exponents of the ancient, complex and elaborate Dhrupad tradition. An ancient form of classical singing, Dhrupad has its roots in Vedic hymns. Practitioners today owe it to the Dagarvani that has preserved the austere form, despite losing out in popularity to the faster-paced and ornamented Khyal and Thumri. The renowned brothers were the grandsons of the legendary Zakiruddin and Allabande Khan Dagar, and the entire family is frequently credited with being the curators who preserved the oldest known form of North Indian classical music from which much of the extant Indian classical music is said to have been derived. Saeed Bhai came to Pune in 1984 and had been residing in the city's bustling Karvenagar-Kothrud area, staying at a number of houses for several years as he awaited the State government to allot him a permanent one. He frequently visited Benares to grace the Dhrupad festival held there. Dhrupad - a Sanskrit portmanteau of Dhruva (immovable) and Pad (verse) has its roots since ancient times, mentioned as early as the 3rd Century B.C. in the Natyashastra.

The contribution of the Dagar family through 20 generations of Dhrupad exponents is all the more remarkable given the slow death of this form following Independence and the extinction of a musically informed aristocracy when the milieu of royal court patronage had all but vanished. In Saeed Bhai's opinion, good art should elevate art lovers to the level of divine beauty and Dhrupad does exactly that. To appreciate Dhrupad one must be willing to turn inwards or upwards to reach a plane of serenity and equanimity, qualities which were very much present in the Ustad's music. Dhrupad is not about entertainment, it is about sadhana and the immeasurable joy that is to be found in it. Not to forget, the Dagars always shunned publicity and preferred to practise this 'music of silence' in solitude, where they could unite with the sound, with Nada Brahma, which is the aim of this music. He constantly warned his students by telling them that should they perform for an audience, they should sing or play for the divine, or for themselves, merging into the music, being one with it, only then could the listeners be lifted up to higher planes of contemplation as in marg sangeet where one does not play to obtain favours and wealth. The world of music will certainly miss the mathematical permutation of 'alaap', incorporated to make rhythmic variations for an attractive aesthetic appeal of the Dagar legacy.

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