by blood and devotion to the advancement of the dhurpad
musical style, the Dagar family members stand together
as a united front.
Courtesy of dhrupad.org
UCLA Welcomes Ustad Faiyaz Wasifuddin Dagar's Indian
Classical Vocal Music Performance
By Nayla Huq
Tom Bradley International Center presented Ustad Faiyaz
Wasifuddin Dagar's awe-inspiring performance of the
Indian Classical Vocal Music style, Dhrupad, which dates
back to the Mughal Emperor Jalaluddin Akbar's reign
in the middle of the 16th century, on Saturday, October
Wasif is lost in his dhrupad raga
of the UCLA Asia Institute
UCLA student association, SPIC MACAY, the Society for
the Promotion of Indian Classical Music And Culture
Among Youth, and NADA organized this culturally enlightening
event. These groups are playing an essential role in
assuring the continuous fruition of Indian classical
music, and the work of the Dagar family. Nearly extinct
half a century ago, the Dagar family took what was left
of the dhrupad style and brought it back to life.
F. W. Dagar is the twentieth generation of dhrupad vocalists
in his family. Previous generations consisted of duos.
His father and uncle made up the 19th generation, and
trained Wasif. The innovative Wasif combines both his
uncle's and father's talents in his performance, chanting
a duet on his own in an already complex musical composition.
Singing two parts simultaneously, his voice reaches
beyond human capabilities, achieving an unearthly level.
godly vocal music floats all around the lopping buzz
and hum of two sitar-like instruments called "tanpura,"
in the beginning part of the performance, which is called
the "alap." The tanpura are played by Qamar
Dagar and Laurence Bastit. The alap is entirely melodic
improvisation free of lyrics that begins in the middle
octave, then gradually explores the lowest notes of
the lower octave.
Ustad is entranced by the spirituality of his music
second part, the "madhya laya alap," traverses
the highest of the two-and-a-half octaves used, which
comes to a finish by sliding back down to the middle
octave, in which this complex intricate vocalization,
called "raga," began.
alap is followed by another composition, either the
dhrupad or the "dhamar", depending on the
number and speed of the beats. This time, the vocalization
is that of poetic lyrics, accompanied by the "pakhwaj,"
a single barrel percussion drum played by Mohan Shyam
Sharma. "This composition rendition begins with
a straightforward recital of the fixed composition,
often traditional and ancient, and usually consisting
of two parts to four parts from a poetic text."
(Courtesy of SPIC MACAY's Program of the performance)
intimacy and enlightenment was not just felt by the
meditating yoga hippies. The Ustad, meaning master and
teacher, explained his music and demonstrated the various
beats as he sang, gracefully and elegantly showing the
not-so-recent picture of Mohan Shyam Sharma, the
Ustad's trusted Pakhwaj player.
Wasif explained that the raga was 90% improvisation.
The dhrupad, the raga accompanied by the pakhwaj drum,
initially follows a distinctive rhythm in conjunction
with the vocalization, springing into a pronounced departure
from this collaboration, returning to a new one in it's
may be a very complex, esoteric type of music, but the
talent displayed by the quartet, especially the Ustad
and Sharma, are both exhilarating and enlightening experiences
that move the soul.
must admit however, that I was on the edge of my seat
during the alap, in anticipation of the dhrupad, not
that I really knew what any of these were, but because
the thundering drum is the most exciting part of the
raga, next to the Ustad's single-voiced duet. Before
this presentation, I had only seen ragas accompanying
classical dances. My minds eye watched an ornamented
court dancer gesticulate and spin about the room, executing
the Ustad's vocalizations.
father's and uncle's concerts and music are the subject
of a 1992 French television documentary, "Dagarvani."
The Ustad has performed in several European countries
and in prestigious American east coast venues. Saturday's
performance was his first visit to California, and at
the end of his performance, the audience encouraged
him to return with the warmth of a family friend.
information about this historically rooted musical style
and Ustad Faiyaz Wasifuddin Dagar can be found at: dhrupad.org