A Tribute to Ustad Sayeeduddin Dagar
Ustad Sayeeduddin Dagar, one of the leading exponents of the Dhrupad genre of classical music, passed away a few days ago. An Isha volunteer recollects how Ustad ji was one-of-a-kind as a musician and a human being.
When I heard about Ustad Sayeeduddin’s demise, I thought of the first time I experienced one of his concerts. We had asked him to perform during Yaksha 2010. I will never forget the gratitude and humility with which he spoke at the end of the concert, and how he sought Sadhguru's blessings.
Ustad Sayeeduddin came from a long, unbroken lineage of Dhrupad singers. The legend is that Swami Haridas Dagar (also famous as the Guru of Mian Tansen) was so happy with his disciple that he bestowed his own name, Dagar, upon him.
This disciple was the first of 19 direct descendants of the lineage to which Ustad Sayeeduddin belonged. Later, during Aurangzeb's time, the family, like many others, had to convert to Islam under threat of persecution and death. In fact, as singing itself was not allowed, they had to modify the alaap by breaking it down to individual sounds – that is their style to this day.
Ustad ji was the youngest and the last one of his generation. Renowned for his subtle and devotional style, he was often overwhelmed with tears while singing. Those of us who knew him personally experienced his nature as being like water, immediately and effortlessly conforming to any situation without resistance. This was reflected in his first visit to the ashram. Whatever we requested of him, he was always more than willing to oblige and put himself into it with devotion and gratitude. He sang in the Nada Aradhana, again at the Pancha Bhuta Aradhana, and once more for Mahashivratri! We asked him to stay back, and he readily agreed, changing his original plans to sing in Varanasi, which he otherwise did every year. He visited the Isha Home School and spent time with the children. Most of them couldn’t get enough – they were sad when the session was over.
In 2015, when Ustad ji returned once again to sing at Yaksha, one of the ragas he sang was Jait Kalyan, a rare raga he had not sung for 45 years, since the time he had learnt it. He was very grateful that he could come back and receive Sadhguru's blessings.
Over the years, he stayed in regular touch with the ashram and had felt connected with Sadhguru. Those who knew him will always remember him as an embodiment of devotion in his music and his life.
- Isha Volunteer
Here is how Ustad ji himself expressed his views on music and spirituality during an interview before his performance at Yaksha 2015:
“I visited the Ashram earlier and stayed for a week, during which time I took part in the Pancha Bhuta Aradhana with Sadhguru at the Dhyanalinga. More than religion, it is the spiritual essence of any place that matters. I performed once at a church in Paris, with the priest of the church beside me. All these places of spiritual significance are temples beyond religion. However, I do feel the quality of each place is different.
Today's generation wants everything fast. Someone came to me and asked if I can train their son so that he can perform in a week. I failed to understand this, as I spend about 8-12 hours every day practicing music.
Only if I feel what I am signing, the people listening would feel the same. If I am in tears, the audience will be in tears. Tears can be two kinds – they can be tears of happiness or tears of pain.”