Faiyaz Wasifuddin Dagar is a renowned Indian classical singer who represents the 20th generation of the Dagar family’s devoted dhrupad vocalists. He is the son of well-known dhrupad singer Ustad Nasir Faiyazuddin Dagar. Faiyaz was conferred with the Padma Shri in 2010. He is the President of the Dagar Society of India.
Ustad Faiyaz Wasifuddin Dagar was born on Monday, 15 April 1968 (age 55 years; as of 2023) in Nizamuddin, Delhi. His zodiac sign is Taurus. He grew up in Asiad Village, Khel Gaon, Delhi, with the powerful Dagar clan all around him.
Height (approx.): 5′ 6″
Hair Colour: Salt & Pepper (Semi-Bald; sometimes dyes his hair black)
Eye Colour: Dark Brown
He belongs to a family of classical singers.
Parents & Siblings
His father, Ustad Nasir Faiyazuddin Dagar, was a Dhrupad singer. He was born in 1934 and died in 1989. Wasif’s mother, Begum Mehmooda Dagar, passed away in 2014. He has four sisters named Neelu, Meenu, Guddu, and Raju.
In 2020, he got married to Zainab.
His grandfather, Nasiruddin Khan, was a vocalist, who died in 1936.
Wasif’s father, Nasir Faiyazuddin Dagar, had three brothers; Nasir Moinuddin Khan Dagar (1919-1966), Ustad Nasir Aminuddin Dagar (1923-2000), and Ustad Nasir Zahiruddin Dagar (1932-1994).
Wasif’s uncles Nasir Moinuddin Dagar and Nasir Aminuddin Dagar performed as a duo and were popularly known as the Senior/Elder Dagar Brothers. His father, Nasir Faiyazuddin Dagar, and uncle Nasir Zahiruddin formed a very successful duo known as the Junior/Younger Dagar Brothers. Wasif’s other uncles (from his great-great-grandfather) have been awarded for preserving the Dhrupad tradition in the years following Indian independence.
It all began at home
At the age of five, Wasif started taking music lessons at his home. From 1989 to 1994, Faiyaz took training under his father and uncle Ustad N. Zahiruddin Dagar.
His grandfather’s younger brother, Ustad Rahimuddin Khan Dagar, who was a dhrupad practitioner, instructed Faiyaz and groomed him. His other uncles, Ustad N. Aminuddin Dagar and Ustad N. Mohiuddin Dagar, have also played a significant role in his life. In an interview, he said that he learnt a lot from his uncles, Ustad R. Fahimuddin Dagar, Ustad Z. Fariduddin Dagar, and Ustad H. Sayeeduddin Dagar.
Wasif’s Live Performances
On 25 February 1989, Wasifuddin Dagar gave his first performance in front of an audience; where he sang with his uncle Ustad Zahiruddin Dagar. In 1992, his first recording was released in India, Switzerland, and Japan. Since then, he has recorded for several well-known record labels in countries including Switzerland, Japan, and the United States of America.
Since 2000, Dagar has toured several countries including The Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Hungary, and North American countries, where he performed Dhrupad. In 2000, he gave his first solo live performance of Raga Bihag, a Hindustani classical raga. In 2001, he performed at the World Festival of Sacred Music, whose prime sponsor is Dalai Lama. Ustad has also performed at many high-level events such as United Nations Peace Summit and UNESCO, France. He has represented his ragas and surs at many prestigious universities including The Smithsonian Institution, Yale University, the University of Washington, Stanford University, and the University of California. He coordinates and participates in the Dhrupad festivals that his father and uncle launched in Delhi and Jaipur. Along with this, Wasif has appeared on television and radio including AurovilleRadio.
Wasif Dagar graced the events Le Festival de Fès des Musiques Sacrées du Monde 2015 (English transl. The Fez Festival of Sacred Music of the World 2015), Dilli Durbar 2019, and Delhi Classical Music Festival 2021 with his presence and performances.
He has performed in many workshops including Dhrupad Singing Seminar held in Amelia and a concert in Assisi, Italy in 2018.
Over the years, he has developed subtle adjustments and improvisations using volume and sound application to convey various shades of the same musical theme. Wasif balances a busy concert schedule with mentoring a number of students; carrying his family traditions.
Claiming Copyrights for a melody
In 2023, Wasifuddin Dagar claimed that the melody of the song ‘Veera Veera,’ sung by A. R. Rahman, in the film Ponniyin Selvan: II was copied and sung in the same tandava style in which his father and uncle sang their Shiva Stuti. Mani Ratnam’s production house, along with the producers of the films Ponniyin Selvan: I & II, and the Madras Talkies lawyers, reportedly, sent out a letter in which they said that the song was not copied by the Dagar Brothers’ composition in any way. While calling Wasifuddin’s copyright claim “misconceiving,” they also suggested that he was doing this in order to gain publicity and for monetary purposes. According to the production house, the song is a traditional composition written in the 13th century by Narayana Panditacharyain. During a media interaction, Wasifuddin said that A. R. Rahman talked to him on call and told him that the film’s production team would be in touch with him but that was all. He further added,
I wish Madras Talkies and Mr Rahman had taken the family’s permission. I would have never said no. But doing it like this, for massive commercial gains, is very problematic. The composition has just been lifted and sung in the same tandava style…. The only difference is the arrangement of the piece.”
In the letter sent by the lawyers of Madras Talkies, it was also written that the Dhrupad genre actually originated by Swami Haridas and no one could claim monopoly over a ‘style of singing.’ Later, S. Anand, who is Wasif’s student and also the founder of the publishing house Navayana, talked about this in a media interaction and said that although A. R. Rahman has credited Dagarvani, the lawyers remarked that it was a Shiv Stuti used by Narayana Panditacharya was a Sanskrit chant whereas the bandish by Junior Dagar Brothers is in Braj bhasha. The Indian Express
Received Eviction Notice
Since childhood, Wasif has lived in house no. 379 in KP Thakkar block, Asiad Village, Delhi, but in 2022, he received an eviction notice from the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in which he was asked to vacate the government-allotted residence. The family had to move out of the ‘House of Dhrupad’ after living there for 34 years. Twenty-seven other Indian Classical artists and dancers including Kuchipudi dancer Guru V Jayarama Rao and Mohiniyattam dancer Bharati Shivaji received the same notice as well. Later, a few of them petitioned the court to be empathetic towards their “unfortunate situations” such as their old age and financial conditions. However, the Delhi High Court later disregarded their pleas. Outlook Scroll In an interview, Wasif talked about this and said,
We’ll sit and see what we can do (after the Delhi HC verdict). It is clearly not easy to afford a house in Delhi for a person like me…But I don’t really understand why these 10-15 houses are bothering them (the government) so much? What is their larger agenda behind it? We, the artists, on our part have always stood for the government, the national cause and represented India as cultural ambassadors in international platforms.”
In 2010, Faiyaz Wasifuddin Dagar was honoured with the Padma Shri.
- He is fondly called Bachhu by his family.
- He is a descendant of Swami Haridas Dagar (1480-1573), who was the guru of Miyan Tansen.
- In 1992, Wasif and his uncle Zahir’s concerts and music were the subjects of a French television documentary titled Dagarvani by Renuka George.
- Most of Wasifuddin’s performances have been a topic for discussion at several prominent media houses including The Washington Post and The New York Times.
- He enjoys writing in his diary.
- Dagar is fascinated by art and likes to do calligraphy in his leisure time.
- Since childhood, he romanticised being a ‘Dilli-wala’ (a Delhi resident) and penned several poems about it.
Kai sadiyon ki basti hai
Kai sadiyon se basti hai
Baste baste basti hai
Dilli dil mein basti hai
The city of histories here
Many histories live here
It lives among the living here
In the heart of hearts here