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Festival of luminous music

Barsi, the first ever dhrupad festival in the south, brings that ancient music, named after the luminous evening star, to Bangalore

October 20, 21
Alliance Francaise, Bangalore
Ustad Ziauddin Dagar Memorial Trust

Ustad Zia Moinuddin Dagar, who inspires Barsi

Barsi began on Friday to a full house at Alliance Francaise. The venue is tucked away in a dark, unlit corner near the Cantonment railway station, and is not very encouraging to people who have to take a bus back home. But the organisers of the first ever dhrupad festival in the south needn't have worried -- Barsi attracted a very mixed audience that represented the various extensions of Bangalore.

Barsi has already travelled to other cities like Mumbai, Pune, Aurangabad and Bhopal. In Bangalore, Centre for Learning is co-ordinating the festival. "Since there hasn't been a festival of dhrupad in Bangalore, we thought people would welcome Barsi," Vandana, a dhrupad student and spokesperson for Centre for Learning told The Music Magazine.

The opening concert featured the young Afzal Hussain, who sang an elaborate Yaman and concluded his session with a short Madhumat Sarang. Hussain has learnt from Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar and Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar. His singing showed a heavy influence of the rudra vina style. His gamaks, and even his gestures, evoked the sounds of the ancient instrument. His voice at times betrayed exhaustion, as when he attempted a upward glide and a landing on the gandhar, and found that his voice wasn't co-operating.

Afzal Hussain teaches dhrupad at the Mahatma Gandhi Mission Sangeet Academy at Aurangabad.

The second session featured Bahauddin Mohiuddin Dagar, who played the rudra vina. He continues the tradition of the great Zia Mohiuddin Dagar, his father, who trained him for many years. After his father's death in 1990, Bahauddin began learning from his uncle Ziauddin Dagar.

The young vina player established his credentials with a masterly and hour-long alaap, jod and jhala. A deeply meditative beginning, reaching all the way down the lower octave, took off slowly into middle tempo improvisation, and ended in a well-executed rhapsody. In the composition that followed, pakhawaj player Sanjay Agle thoroughly enjoyed his role, punctuating long stretches of melody with off-beat, accurately executed patterns.

Bahauddin concluded with a short alaap in Bhairavi, which he called Shuddh Bhairavi to distinguish it from the more commonly heard version of the raga. It was a very refreshingly austere rendition, using only the prescribed arohana and avarohana of the raga; it was unlike the Bhairavi one hears at khayal concerts where all 12 notes in the chromatic scale make their appearance.

The festival continues on Saturday with sessions by the Gundecha brothers and Ustad Fariduddin Dagar.

Ustad Ziauddin Dagar Memorial Trust, Mumbai, with help from Hindustan Lever Limited, is holding the festival to mark the tenth death anniversary of the legendary rudra vina master Zia Mohiuddin Dagar.

"Dhrupad is the oldest existing form of Indian classical music. Its nature is spiritual. It seeks not to entertain, but to induce deep feelings of peace and contemplation in the listener," says Vandana.

The Dagar family has helped preserve this art for 20 generations. Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar revived the deep-toned rudra vina as a concert instrument. He built a gurukul at Panvel, on the outskirts of Mumbai, where students can live with and learn from masters of this difficult art.

Vandana is one of those who go to the gurukul once in a while. She stays for a month or so and takes lessons form Bahauddin. When the guru comes to Bangalore, he teaches at her house in Banashankari. How come no one in Bangalore seems to know about it? "It's just that we haven't gone around telling people, but if there's anyone keen on learning, they're welcome," says Vandana.

The Zia Mohiuddin Dagar Memorial Trust has released an unsual tape to mark this year's festival -- a live concert featuring the late master on the rudra vina, playing with his vocalist-brother Fariduddin. It is made from their programme at Mosers Church, Amsterdam, where they presented a stately raga Chandrakauns.

Dhruva means the pole star, the unwavering and bright point of reference, and pada means poetry or song. Dhrupad comes from dhruvapada. Thanks to the efforts of the Dagar family, this art hasn't become extinct. It remains unwavering, a point of reference against which more recent genres like the khayal can be compared and contrasted.

S R Ramakrishna

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