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Hindustani classical music great Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar's 'Vrindavan 1982' is a previously unheard performance of the night raga Yaman Kalyan, a mystifying, meditative set played on the rudra veena, with additional percussion from pakhawaj master Shrikant Mishra.
Born in Udaipur, Rajasthan to a family of dhrupad musicians, Dagar was trained as a vocalist, using the unwieldy rudra veena (a stick zither with two large gourds as resonators) to practice singing. At the time it was no longer widely used as a solo instrument, but Dagar was motivated to make it his focus, performing with the rudra veena in public for the first time at just 16. He modified the instrument to suit his needs, and evolved the form, helping to not only popularize the rudra veena but dhrupad outside of the court. Dagar's technique was idiosyncratic; he rarely played with percussion, preferring to perform with tanpura drones and approach his ragas with a slow, meditative technique that set him apart from his peers.
'Vrindavan 1982' shows Dagar at his absolute best, stretching out the mostly improvised alap section of the Yaman Kalyan raga to over 42 minutes, playing the bass-heavy rudra veena tones as if they were vocals. Celestial and hypnotic, it's music that connects to the very foundations of Indian classical music, and does so without the expected embellishments. During the almost half-hour jod section, where metered rhythm is prioritized, Dagar's playing is more animated, but the big surprise here is the final, faster jhala, where the timing accelerates and Shrikant Mishra joins on pakhawaj. The familiar barrel shaped drum is a dhrupad staple, but was rarely used by Dagar, so it's a treat to hear him playing alongside Mishra; while usually this would be the moment where the players would show off their skills, Dagar and Mishra prefer to dance with each other subtly, weaving in and out of each other's carefully florid patterns.
If you managed to peep Ideologic Organ's 2018 albums of Dagar's 1986 performances you'll already know how crucial this music is. 'Vrindavan 1982' is just as essential, and comes bundled with archival pics from Swedish percussionist Bengt Berger and liner notes from Bradford Bailey.