Faiyaz Wasifuddin Dagar | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Faiyaz Wasifuddin Dagar 

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Here in the U.S. we're willing to call a parent and a kid or two a "musical family," but the Carters, the Judds, and even (cough) the Dylans have nothing on India's Dagars. They've been the greatest practitioners of dhrupad, the purest and most austere form of northern Indian classical music, for 20 generations. And Zahiruddin and Faiyazuddin Dagar--the uncle and father, respectively, of Faiyaz Wasifuddin Dagar, who gives an extremely rare concert in Chicago this weekend--are considered to have been the best dhrupad singers of the modern era. Faiyazuddin died in 1989, and Faiyaz Wasifuddin, who was only 20 but had been training since the age of 5, took his place in the duo. When Zahiruddin passed away in 1994, his nephew chose to carry on without a partner, which is atypical for the form--all the dhrupad recordings I've heard feature two singers. During the alaap, the beatless introduction that makes up the biggest part of a dhrupad performance, the singers alternate slow-building wordless improvisations that hover around the raga's tonic, first in long, graceful drones and subtle arcs, then in shorter, more insistent, almost percussive barrages, and finally in succinct but constantly morphing melodic patterns. Eventually the pakhavaj, a double-headed clay or wooden drum that predates the tabla, kicks in, adding fixed cyclical rhythms, and the text begins at last. This is usually rooted in Vedic chant, though the singers sometimes improvise on specific words or syllables. The acuity and speed of the interaction between two dhrupad vocalists can be breathtaking; that dynamic is missed on the only solo recording I've heard by Faiyaz Wasifuddin, but he's a remarkable singer nonetheless. He'll be accompanied here by two tamboura players and pakhavaj player Mohan Shyam Sharma. Sunday, 3 PM, Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; 312-744-6630. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Zakir Siddiqui.


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