Bahauddin Dagar: Scion of Dhrupad

Bahauddin Dagar

Bahauddin Dagar

I can’t get enough of the rudraveena. So to share the glory here is an older recording of the scion of the Dagar family, India’s guardians of the dhrupad tradition. I’ve copied a short interview from The Hindu newspaper for you to read as you listen to his (Bahauddin Dagar) music.

Rudraveena exponent Ustad Mohiuddin Bahauddin Dagar, torchbearer of the Dagar legacy of Dhrupad, says that there are no short cuts to assimilating the exacting grammar of this genre of Hindustani music.

The word ‘Dhrupad’ immediately triggers in our memories the names of the Dagar brothers, Zia Mohiuddin Dagar and Fariduddin Dagar. A musical tradition which has a grammar that is not too easy to be assimilated by the impatient learner, Dhrupad remains the domain of practitioners who are unfazed by the demands of the market to generate popularity by packaging. “There are no short cuts,” was the discernible refrain in the words of Ustad Mohiuddin Bahauddin Dagar, who was in Thiruvananthapuram with his offering ‘The Sound of Siva’ in Dhrupad on the Rudraveena. An A-Grade artist at All India Radio, Mumbai, Bahauddin is the recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for 2012-2013. In an interview Bahauddin speaks about his legacy and the way forward for Dhrupad as a musical tradition. Excerpts…

Do you feel the responsibility of being the torchbearer of the Dagar vani demanding? In changing times how does the meditative element reach the new learner?

The Dagar vani follows the ‘Sadharani geethi’. To maintain the tradition lies with each one of the practitioners. There are many who follow this style. Anyone who has three preceding generations following a particular style can become a proponent of the vani. Of course, each person brings his own quality to the music, some take the variations too far, some adopt measures to popularise it. In the end, those who strike a balance between what has been handed down over generations and adapt without corrupting, will become the pillars of the tradition.

Dhrupad has receded from popular spaces with the advances made by Khayal. Will it be possible to reclaim the lost ground?

The bad times were during the post-Independence period. Then came the festivals within the country and abroad and efforts by SPIC MACAY to protect and preserve the arts. As far as Dhrupad is concerned, there is a certain level of maturity required, and that is a pre-requisite to training and attaining perfection. Only then will the learner develop the stamina for the long haul. It takes close to 15 years to master three or four ragas. The ‘alaap’ has no poetry to it. Khayal on the other hand has a bandish or poetry and appears more concrete to the learner.

Often, people take to Khayal initially, and, after decades of exposure, come to Dhrupad. This by itself is indicative of a maturity that is necessary to assimilate the essence of Dhrupad. Few relate to the nuances. In South India, probably due to the strong Carnatic music tradition, audiences relate better to Dhrupad.

How much have the efforts of organisations such as SPIC MACAY helped in garnering interest and bringing in new learners?

In an audience of 5,000 there will at best be five persons who will come up and talk to me about the recital, the finer points of handling a particular raga and so on. In such a situation organisations like these play a significant role by creating a platform and in nurturing young talent. However, the approach has to shift now. Rather than get 100 or 200 young learners, they should bring in parents who would form half the strength of such sessions. Since two generations have the shared experience, music will have earned its space at home. This is an aspect I appreciate in South India where music is ingrained into the lifestyle.

Traditionally training started with the ‘been’ and now in its absence the sequence is the sitar, the surbahar and the rudraveena, which is further reinforced with training in vocal. In present times is it possible to take this extended rigour to learn Dhrupad?

Teaching was minimal when I started learning under my father, Zia Mohiuddin Dagar. It was just practice on a singular raga for four or five years. Unless he was satisfied it was practice only. In that practice, there was an exploration of the raga taking place for me.

I have gone back to the gurukul system of training after my uncle Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar passed away. The students start riyaaz by 2.30 in the morning. One masters not just the music, it is a way of life that is being shaped. What to wear, how to present and perform, all of this, one absorbs watching the guru. I therefore insist that my learners who are abroad must spend time with me in India. To the students who are serious, I demand three to four hours daily for about eight years. Vocal training is essential to understand the counterpart. The yantra complements the voice, chisels your phrases, beautifies the voice, gifts exactness and lends perfection to the total delivery. Art forms are most alive – instils tolerance and resilience in a culture, an openness to accept the old and yet renew the form. (


Track Listing:

  1. Ragini Todi, Alap
  2. Ragini Todi, Jod, & Jhala
  3. Gat In Chautala


Expand your Consciousness: Shamshuddin Faridi Desai

Shamshuddin Faridi Desai

Shamshuddin Faridi Desai

Dhrupad and the adjective, ‘ancient’ are joined together so regularly and frequently that that is about all the casual listener knows about this form of Indian (in the pre-1947 Partition sense) of classical musical art. And I must confess that that knowledge of its hoary origins and long tradition does add a certain pleasure to the listening.

Yet, when I listen to the rudra veena being played in this style what strikes me is how thoroughly contemporary, modern and fresh the music sounds. In this time of instant accessibility to the most far away places, click-gratification and ever more sparky pop music (including the sounds coming out of Indian cinema studios) designed to make you twerk your booty, when pop music is delivered fast and faster, the drawn out cadences, shivering gaps and unhurried single notes of the dhrupad veena are an unexpected source of relief.

Dhrupad singing (the original vehicle of this style) is intended to expand our human consciousness as well as to entertain. It relies on vibrations, deep and mortal, to shake loose the excess of thought and transport the soul to another plane. Long and fat slides, whether of the vocal chords or the strings, produces an upsurge in energy. The Buddhist saying, “go slow to go fast’ is evidenced in the long alaps of the dhrupad.

Listen to the recording in the spotlight tonight. In the sparse deliberate plucking and the resounding vibrating that ensues, you will experience a completely modern and minimalist sound. Setting the scene (alap) is the show stopper and focus of dhrupad. And in this way you could argue (in opposition to my opening claim) that dhrupad is anti-modern. It eschews pace and it does not want you to shake your booty or any other part of your body. It does not care about being snappy. Like consciousness, dhrupad simply is.

Rudra Veena

Rudra Veena

This recording by Shamsuddin Faridi Desai is a gorgeous delight. Music of the deepest kind and yet so friendly. Desai was born in 1936 in the Indian state of Gujarat. His family was one of traditional courtly musicians who had honed their art over centuries. Shamsuddin was immersed in music from his birth but did confess that he had his eye set on a stage career, hoping to hook up with the great Indian actor Prithviraj Kapoor. But then the veena the long gourded string instrument he has mastered, took over his being and music became his life.

“An important part of our music is the link between our spiritual beliefs and pursuit of music. We belong to the Qadri sect of Sufism, which regards music as the path to the realization of God. The fountainhead of our gharana, Ustad Bande Ali Khan, is reported to have offered penance at the shrine of the Sufi saint, Khwaja Garibnawaz in Ajmer, and obtained a boon that he and his heirs would have the power to make people laugh or cry at will. It is that boon that inspires our music.” (

Be Moved!

The Tradition of Dhrupad on Been Khandarbani

01 Yaman- Alap

02 Yaman-Jor

03 Yaman-Jhala

04 Komal Rishabh Asavari – Alap

05 Komal Rishabh Asavari – Jor & Jhala


Anniversary Utsav Vol. 6: Hindustani Classical


Volume 5 (is still under development!), but Volume 6 of the Washerman’s Dog and Harmonium Music Blog Anniversary splash out special tamasha features subtle and masterful, sublime and elevating ragas interpreted by Pakistani artists (Ustad Salamat Ali Khan and Ustad Nazakhat Ali Khan; Saeen Ditta Qadri) and Indians too: Ustad Sultan Khan, Zakir Hussain, Kishori Amonkar, Himanshu Biswas, Dulal Roy, Ustad Bismillah Khan, Malikarjun Mansur and Pandit Ram Chatur Malik.


Large files mean we are dispensing these goodies in two volumes.  Get both!


Till next time!


Vol. 1. Track Listing:

01 Des [Saeen Ditta Qadri]

02 Raga Shuddh Kalyan  (Drut Teental) [Ustad Bismillah Khan]

03 Alhaiya Bilawal – Nahin Bin Dekhe Chain [Malikarjun Mansur]

04 Raag Basant {Ustad Sultan Khan and Zakhir Hussain]

05 Raag Durbari [Ustad Salamat Ali Khan and Ustad Nazakhat Ali Khan]



Vol. 2. Track Listing

01 Raga Bhoop (Prathama Sur Saadhe) [Kishori Amonkar]

02 Vinod_ Alap [Pandit Ram Chatur Malik]

03 Vinod_ Dhrupad [Pandit Ram Chatur Malik]

04 Dhun [Himanshu Biswas and Dulal Roy]



The Ancient Art of Dhrupad: Talwandi Brothers and Pandit Ram Chatur Mallick


Another week comes to an end. What better way than to bid farewell then to listen to two great interpreters of dhrupad.  Pandit Ram Chatur Mallick,  and the Talwandi Brothers have appeared on the Washerman’s Dog before.  One came from India and the others still perform in Pakistan.

Pandit Ram Chatur Mallick

Pandit Ram Chatur Mallic

Talwandi Brothers

Talwandi Brothers








I hope you enjoy this.


Track Listing:

01. Raga Bhupali (Pandit Ram Chatur Mallick)

02. Raga Chandni Kedara (Talwandi Brothers)