Zia Fariduddin Dagar passed away today at 6:45 pm (IST). In reading of his passing from one of my own Gurujis, Ramakant Gundecha, I was left with a great feeling of loss–as if a bright star vanished into the night. The Dagars were unmatched in their vocal tradition, one I have come to love and admire beyond words. They exemplified what it means to persevere–waking every morning at 4 am and training daily for hours, practicing single ragas for years to get the perfection they delivered on stage. Hearing their alap in the development of a raga may be the closest thing to musical perfection I have ever heard.
Dagars Performing Malkauns: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-W_AYI0n_Kg
Their music moves me in so many ways, and I could go on to talk about their formative role in my own life and inspiration for music. But for anyone familiar with Dhrupad, they will likely have experienced the same.
The Dagars saved dhrupad music from extinction. They represented an era of 20th Century Indian classical music, and perhaps another end to a longstanding gharana that is now survived and carried on in new ways–through the jugalbandi tradition the Gundechas have established as well as through their more traditional students. As many in their generation have passed in recent years–Bhimsen Joshi, Ali Akbar Khan, and Gangubai Hangal, to name a few–I have heard in many corridors that this is the end of India’s great classical musicians. From my own Guruji, I know however, that great music has no end, but will be adapted and will carry on in the students the Dagars inspired.
I am not a good musician, or the good dhrupad student I so much wish I could be. My music lessons–like my yoga practice–come from a desire to listen, learn and appreciate. While yoga is constantly teaching patience, my pursuit of dhrupad has been an ever evolving lesson in learning to listen–to delve deeper into the beauty of a single note. I spend more time on Sa than I do learning dhrupad at this point, but Ramakantji and Shubha Sankaran, my music teacher in DC, have always encouraged me to continue and to learn. Through them, I have learned to appreciate the Indian classical music I so much love, especially dhrupad.
In life, I have many teachers but only two whom I call Guruji–Ramakantji and Shri K. Pattabhi Jois, who founded the modern practice of ashtanga yoga. What does it mean to be called Guruji? When I think of a Guru–it is someone who has devoted their lives to the pursuit of a discipline and the pursuit of teaching and passing it on. Ramakantji has done this selflessly and brings out so much in his students. His commitment to teaching is unparalleled. And he not only teaches dhrupad, he teaches a system of music and a way of living that have inspired me to listen more and aspire to be a better person.
Zia Fariduddin Dagar was that Guru for many. The world has lost a great musician and teacher. Shall his legacy and teachings persevere and continue to thrive.
Gundecha’s website about their teachers: http://dhrupad.org/gundecha-brothers/teachers/