Concert recorded at the home of Shantha and Niranjan B. Benegal, Seattle, Washington 9 March 1986.
Zia Mohiuddin Dagar plays rudra veena, Annie Penta plays tanpura.
Around ten years ago, deep into a cozy and hazy night following a concert with my sound brothers Daniel O'Sullivan and Kristoffer Rygg in London (as Æthenor), they graciously introduced me to a recording of rudra veena (a kind of noble deeper bass relative to the sitar, in a way) as performed by dhrupad master Zia Mohiuddin Dagar.
Dhrupad, for those who do not know, is a branch of Hindustani classical music said to "show the raga in its clearest and purest form". It's pacing concentrates heavily on the slow, contemplative alap section and works with specific microtonal gestures and deep characteristics of resonance ... in short I was hooked on this new (to me) and ancient form of music from the first listen, and feel that a more or less continual listening & reviewing of Zia Mohiuddin Dagar's recordings in the years that followed have influenced my own approach to music quite heavily (if, albeit, indirectly).
In early 2015 I was able to make contact with Zia Mohiuddin Dagar's son Bahauddin and some of his American students/disciples, primarily Jeff Lewis. Over time we developed a friendly and educational exchange, access a massive archive of recordings and developed these two paired titles for my label. It's been a long path to arrive at actually releasing them but also probably in many ways one of the most significant releases I've worked on. And I'm proud to be able to reveal these to date unreleased archival recordings of one of the masters of dhrupad, Z. M. Dagar, to the public for the first time.
Zia Mohiuddin Dagar was the nineteenth generation in a family tradition known as Dagar gharana, a rich lineage which continued and performed the musical form of dhrupad (Bahauddin Dagar continues the lineage as a master rudra veena dhrupad player of note today). Initially, dhrupad was a rigorous, austere, devotional genre that was sung in Hindu temples. But between the 16th and the 18th centuries, it became the preeminent genre in royal courts in North and Central India, and the Dagar gharana developed and continued publicly following the eventual loss of court patronage for dhrupad in the 19th century. The French ethnomusicologist Renaud Brizard covers the story of Zia Mohiuddin Dagar's life and teaching (a long story also in Seattle, my hometown!), the Dagar family and gharana, the rudra veena and more topics in an extensive set of liner notes in this release.
Ragas Abhogi & Vardhani were recorded in a private house concert in Seattle at the home of the Benegals in March 1986 (the week before the accompanying release SOMA029 Raga Yaman was recorded). The Benegals were friends (& Shantha Benegal was also a student) of Dagarsahib who sometimes hosted Hindustani music concerts in their home. It's a rare glimpse of a more intimate, personal and perhaps different kind of performance considering the form of dhrupad.
-Stephen O'Malley, March 2018, Paris, France