Younger Dagar brothers – Ustad Nasir Faiyazuddin Dagar and Ustad Nasir Zahiruddin Dagar
Within the Hindustani vocal traditions of North Indian Classical music, few names inspire the respect and awe of Dagar. The family represents an unbroken chain of dedication to Dhrupad – dating back 20 generations (roughly 700 years). Dhrupad is one of the oldest and most devout realizations of Indian Classical music – crossing through both Hindustani and Carnatic traditions. It is profoundly moving – filled with depth, spiritual meaning, and emotion rarely found anywhere else, but, like much of this music, by the early 20th Century it had fallen deeply out of popular favor – largely understood as the music of the upper casts.
The Senior Dagar brothers – Ustad Nasir Moinuddin Dagar and Ustad Nasir Aminuddin Dagar
During the 1940’s and 50’s, a new generation of practitioners – seeing the potential of radio, television, and recording, began to make conscious strides toward broadening the listening public of India’s Classical traditions – to free them from cast association. Figures like Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan deserve the most credit for the remarkable surge in appreciation that occurred over the ensuing decades, but they were far from alone. Countless others contributed to the effort with great success – bringing new audiences from within India and without.
In the West – largely because of the public profile achieved by Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan, and a number of others, Indian Classical music is often regarded as primarily instrumental music. In fact, nearly all ragas begin as vocal works. When a raga is played on an instrument, the human voice is the reference – it is singing.
The Senior Dagar Brothers performing in 1957
For most serious fans of the musics of India, few voices have reached the heights achieved by the Dagars. The family commands unparalleled respect. Specifically through the efforts of the Senior Dagar brothers – Ustad Nasir Moinuddin Dagar and Ustad Nasir Aminuddin Dagar, and the Younger Dagar brothers – Ustad Nasir Faiyazuddin Dagar and Ustad Nasir Zahiruddin Dagar, they are almost entirely responsible for returning Dhrupad, and arguably Hindustani vocal music at large, to the attention and admiration it deserves.
The Younger Dagar brothers – Ustad Nasir Faiyazuddin Dagar and Ustad Nasir Zahiruddin Dagar
The Senior Dagar brothers are widely credited for reigniting interest in Dhrupad and jugalbandi (duo) singing within India. Following the death of Nasir Moinuddin Dagar in 1966, the momentum begun by their older brothers was passed to Nasir Faiyazuddin and Nasir Zahiruddin, who carried it into the West. There are only a slim number of releases by the Senior Dagars – the HMV issue of their recordings of Raga Darbari Kanada and Raga Adana, and the Bärenreiter-Musicaphon / Unesco release India III, being the most notable. For most western listeners familiar with the Dagars, encounters will likely have been with the younger two. Their discography is considerably more substantial, as were their appearances on television and radio. For whatever reason, people often fail to distinguish that there were two pairs.
The video below is a performance of Raga Malkauns and Raga Sohini on Indian television. I’m unsure of the date, but it appears to be from sometime during the late 60’s or early 70’s. It is stunning on every count. Whether an introduction to the Dagars, Dhrupad, the vocal traditions of Indian Classical music, or approached by a seasoned listener, it is filled with profound rewards. Malkauns is a well known and widely performed raga. As such it opens the possibility for reference and comparison to other interpretations – a window into what makes Dhrupad so special, while Sohini is quite rare. There are only a small number of recordings of it available – making this an important document on a number of counts. I hope you enjoy, and it ushers a happy end to the weekend.
The Younger Dagar brothers – Ustad Nasir Faiyazuddin Dagar and Ustad Nasir Zahiruddin Dagar – Raga Malkauns and Raga Sohini