Z. M. Dagar: a Memoir by Jody Stecher
Z.M. Dagar was the slowest moving individual I’ve ever met. He was never interested in playing very fast music, and his mind and body seemed to be set at alap speed. He gave the impression of being continuously half asleep, but everyone who got to know him soon realized that Dagarsahib was alive and alert to subtle realities that most people never even notice. He was a keen observer of people and events, a sort of amateur psychologist, and he could speak to the innermost part of a person when he wished to – with his music of course, but also with words. English was his fourth language I think, but he got his point across splendidly.
Dagarsahib had very strong hands and fingers. I watched him make sitar mizrabs from heavy wire without any tools and of course he pulled heavy vina strings with phenomenal accuracy. Anyone who has tried to replicate Ustad’s meend and sruti will know it takes not only a lot of patience and skill but steady endurance as well.
He was a splendid cook. He used black pepper as much as chilies and was fond of chicken. He made the best blackeye peas (loobia) and the best cauliflower I’ve ever eaten.
He felt that North Indian classical music, and Dhrupad alap especially, was a Universal Science of music and sound, of which India was the custodian. It could be learned, performed and deeply felt by non-Indians. He rejected the notions of “Hindu music,” “Muslim music,” “Black music” etcetera and I think he enjoyed gently annoying ethnomusicologists by his emphatic dismissal of their terminology and concepts. Of course he recognized different musical styles in different cultures and communities but he knew from experience how pure music could transcend rather than define the differences between people. He also knew that sound is vibrating air and that vibrating air in itself has no religious beliefs or cultural identity. Link