Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar

Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar born on 14th March 1929 was a scion of an illustrious family of dhrupadiyas and beenkars from the former princely state of Udaipur in Rajasthan. Fondly known as Bade Ustad, he was one of the world`s most renowned exponents of the Rudra veena, the instrumental ancestor of the Sitar. He was also one of the few mastersof Dhrupad, the slow, austere, meditative traditional music still performed as it was centuries ago by Dagar forefathers.

He was only seven when he began his training under the tutelage of his father, Ustad Ziauddin Khan Dagar, court musician for the Maharaj of Udaipur. The training was in both vocal and instrumental music. Even while he learnt to sing dhrupad, he was also acquainted with the styles of playing instruments like the veena, the sursringar, the sitar, the surbahar and the sarod. He was the first member of his family to break with tradition and become a rudra veena player instead of a dhrupad singer.

He stood against all odds to pursue his chosen course because he felt it imperative to save this instrument from passing into oblivion. Although research and teaching were his main pursuits, his music as a performer offered the very quintessence of the best virtues of the dhrupad parampara pioneered and popularized by his distinguished forebears. Ustad Saheb`s playing Veena was devoid of showmanship or superficiality. Endowed with a sharp artistic sense, he chose to deal with the most fundamental, austere and refined aspects of Hindustani music. By performing mainly Alap he made the profound musical statement that in Alap alone the essence of Raga could be revealed.

He revived the majestic Rudra Veena as a concert instrument, modifying it to enhance its tonal quality, resonance and sound sustenance, adapting it to the subtle and expressive nature of the Gayaki. The first musician to take the North Indian veena abroad, he performed all over the world and was affiliated with the American society of Eastern Arts in Berkeley, California and taught for many years at the University of Washington in Seattle and Rotterdam Music Conservatory in Holland.

Towards the last decade of his life and with a deep belief in the oral tradition of learning, Khan Sahib or Bade Ustad as he was called by his students, built his gurukul near Panvel where Dhrupad was taught in the guru-shishya parampara way. Among his protégés and shishyas were the Ustad’s brother-in-law, Chandrashekhar Naringrekar and Pushparaj Koshti, who learnt the surbahar under him, his only son, Bahauddin who learnt the veena, and vocalists, Ritwik Sanyal, Gundecha brothers and Uday Bhawalkar.

The prestigious Kalidas Samman for classical music, instituted by the government of Madhya Pradesh on the Ustad in 1986, truly came as a fitting recognition of his contribution to the traditional music of North India. He had also received the Sangeet Natak Academy Award, Rajasthan Sangeet Natak Academy award, Maharana Kumbha award and many more. His untimely death on Sept 28, 1990 was a great loss to the Dhrupad tradition.

Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar

Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar was born in Udaipur, Rajasthan on the 15 June 1932. His father was Ustad Ziauddin Khan Dagar, court musician of the state of Udaipur. He was taught Dhrupad by his father and elder brother, the Veena maestro, Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar.

Ustad represents the 19th generation of the Dagarbani musical tradition and has dedicated his life to the propagation of this art form. He is known for his remarkable command over microtones (swar-bheda), gamak and other alankarans and lakshans.

He has been the recipient of many awards a few of which include the Tansen Samman from the Madhya Pradesh government (1993), the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (year) as well as the Padma Shri (2012). In 2005, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the North American Dhrupad Association. He was the first director of the Dhrupad Kendra, Bhopal and taught there since 1981 for many years.

A large number of well known Dhrupad performers came from this institute under his guidance and tutelage, including the Gundecha brothers and Uday Bhawalkar. He also taught at Dhrupad Sansar at IIT Mumbai for 5 years. He now lives and continues to teach near Panvel at a Gurukul built by his elder brother. He performs widely in India and abroad.