Rudraveena maestro Baha’ud’din Mohiuddin Dagar (born 1970), is the son of the famous Zia Mohiuddin Dagar. He traces his ancestry to Baba Gopal Das, who converted to Islam, and became Baba Imam Baksh in the 18th century. Bahauddin is thus a representative of the eighth generation of rudraveena players in Dagarbani dhrupad. He spoke to Shuchita Das about his music and his instrument.
The rudra veena originated around the 13th century according to some. A mangal vadya, it was played on auspicious occasions. It slowly graduated to become a solo instrument over time.
My family practises the “sadharani geeti” in the dhrupad genre. This style emphasises detailed alap and the finer nuances of the raga. It believes that the raga has a swaroop independent of the ascending and descending notes and this is where the alap is very important.
Each note has seven shades. Even the sa is chalayman or movable. This in itself creates a million possibilities to explore the raga. We use syllables like ri, na, tey ta, and nom, giving way for abstraction to blend into the music. All these syllables and ideas are placed in a specific way to enhance the nuances, the tonality and the depth of the raga, while still allowing the artist to bring in his individuality. The rudra veena has been in our family for the last three generations and has incorporated unimaginable nuances and in a sense has refined and cultivated this art form.
I started learning to play the sitar under my mother Srimati Pramila Dagar. Then I moved on to the surbahar for a very short while and then to the rudraveena under the tutelage of my father Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar. After his demise, I have been continuing lessons with my uncle Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar. I am also taking guidance from my father’s senior-most disciple Pandit Pushpraj Koshtiji, a veteran surbahar player.
Rudraveena and other instruments for dhrupad
Dhrupad compositions have a pada part - meaning a poem with lyrics in praise of gods and goddesses and sometimes kings and queens. But, the alap portion that precedes the rendition of the pada is an ocean in itself and, if explored correctly, complete enough to engage a listener. In quite a few concerts, I have played alap without the use of any percussion and have received excellent response from listeners.
Certain instruments have been preferred for dhrupad renditions, but I personally feel just as my father did, that a whole range of classical musical instruments can be used to play dhrupad, so long as we understand the limitations of the individual instruments. The present rudra veena was modified by my father and because of this reason, it has come close to sounding like the human voice.
His goals and challenges
To be honest, I have absolutely no goals. Neither do I yearn to be somebody or do something with the music. As long as I can enjoy and recreate what is given to me as long as I can, I shall do just that and enjoy the work. The day it becomes a drag for me and others, I shall stop doing it. But I do pray and hope that all my life I shall be blessed with this music.