Ali Zaki Hader, Renowned Ustad, Dies

Tragic Loss of Ustad Ali Zaki Hader: End of an Ancient Tradition

Renowned Rudra veena exponent, Ustad Ali Zaki Hader, passed away in the early hours of Friday in New Delhi, leaving a void in the world of classical music. At the age of 50, Hader was considered the last exponent of the Khandarbani style of the Jaipur Beenkar gharana of Dhrupad. His untimely demise marks the tragic end of this ancient tradition of Rudra veena.

A Legacy of Musical Mastery

Hader, a disciple of Ustad Asad Ali Khan, was versatile in his mastery of the Rudra veena. He inherited the Khandarbani style from his guru, and his exceptional talent and dedication earned him the title of the last exponent of this rare musical tradition. Born as the nephew of Ustad Asad Ali Khan, Hader was adopted by his uncle as his own son. From the tender age of four, he began his rigorous training under the guidance of his guru, shaping him into the principal disciple and torchbearer of the Khandarbani style.

The Weight of Responsibility

With the untimely demise of Ustad Asad Ali Khan in 2011, a heavy burden fell upon the young shoulders of Ali Zaki Hader. At only 38 years old, he found himself in the challenging position of preserving and passing on the rich musical heritage of the Khandarbani style almost singlehandedly. Classical musicians, even the most prodigious, typically reach their artistic peak in their 40s. It was a hopeful time for Hader, as he prepared to come into his own and carry forward the legacy. However, fate had a different plan, leaving the world of music bereft of his extraordinary talent.

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Struggles and Sacrifices

In the wake of Asad Ali Khan’s demise, Hader continued to reside in the artists’ quota flat that had been allotted to his guru at Khel Gaon for several years. However, his appeals to retain the accommodation were ultimately denied. Hader argued that the rarity of his art and the limited number of students and income opportunities made it a challenge to sustain himself. About a year ago, he reluctantly moved to a small flat in Delhi’s Jamia Nagar, acknowledging the financial difficulties he faced.

In an effort to cope with his diminished circumstances, Hader made the heartbreaking decision to put up for sale some of the rare instruments and musical artifacts he had inherited. The realization of the impossibility of maintaining them weighed heavily on him. Despite facing such adversity, Hader was fortunate to have the unwavering support of his dedicated sister, Shazia, who selflessly cared for him throughout his life.

A Family Divided

Hader’s tragic passing did not just leave a void in the world of music, but also highlighted the heartbreaking divide that spans the subcontinent. With his immediate family, including his mother Naseem Akhtar, residing in Pakistan, they were unable to be present for his funeral in person. The pain of this separation is a stark reminder of the ongoing challenges faced by families across the border.

A Final Farewell

After the funeral prayers held at a local mosque, Ustad Ali Zaki Hader was laid to rest at Jamia cemetery on Saturday afternoon. The somber occasion was attended by a gathering of mourners, including celebrated Dhrupad exponent Ustad Wasifuddin Dagar, who paid their last respects. Hader’s disciples Prasad, Yogesh, and Shashi were also present to bid farewell to their beloved teacher. The absence of his mother and immediate family served as a poignant reminder of the lasting impact of a divided subcontinent.

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Ustad Ali Zaki Hader’s untimely demise has left the world of music in mourning. As the last exponent of the Khandarbani style of the Jaipur Beenkar gharana of Dhrupad, he carried the weight of preserving an ancient tradition. Despite the hardships he faced, Hader’s devotion to his craft remained unwavering. His legacy will forever be remembered, and his absence leaves a void that will be felt by all those who cherished his extraordinary talent.

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