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Gharanas in Thumari

Banaras Gharana

Benaras thumri is usually equated to the bol banav thumri. In this kind of thumri, words of the song-text are treated with musical embellishments to bring out the meaning of the text. The gharana borrows many features of folk songs of the areas adjoining Uttar Pradesh. For example, the doubling of tempo after initial elaboration and the playing of special tabla compositions known as laggi are ascribed to the impact of the folk tradition on the Benaras thumri.

The Benaras thumri is sung in tala-s, such as deepchandi, dadra, and addha, which are also commonly used by other gharana-s. However, the Benaras treatment is full of poise and restraint, and the tempo is slightly slower. The raga-s too are common to many gharana-s but the treatment in the Benaras school is more serious in keeping with the general tenor of music made.

Thumri-singers of the gharana are not inclined to include ada in their presentations. In fact, their singing does not include indications of spaces created for this kind of mildly overt eroticism through abhinaya as is done in the Lucknow gharana.

Lucknow Gharana

The gharana presents thumri-s full of delicacy and intricate embellishments. Associations of the gliarana with the art of court-dancing have certainly helped in creating a form full of the suggestion of movement, gestures, and grace. In comparison to the Benaras thumri, the Lucknow version or interpretation is more explicit in its eroticism. Possibly, the ghazal tradition as developed in the Awadh court is the source of this feature.

A very distinctive contribution of the gharana is the evolution of the bandish-ki-thumri. It is a composition-type sung usually in a fast-paced teentala and an association with the dance patterns and tabla compositions accompanying it are detectable. As the term itself suggests, a discernible compactness about the composition-type made it so attractive that khayal-singers promptly included many compositions of the type in their repertoire as chota khayal-s. As some have argued, this might have legitimized the thumri, but to my mind this act of musical preemption also harmed the type as the khayal-singers soon began treating such compositions just like any other chota khayal In the process, they deprived the form of its original special flexibility and sensuousness.

Patiala Gharana

The Patiala gharana, though of comparatively recent origin, has made its mark on the musical scene early and in many ways. The chief feature of the thumri in the school is its incorporation of the tappa ang (tappa aspect) from the Punjab region. Thus, the gharana immediately makes its presence felt as a fresh departure from the khayal-dominated Benaras and the dance-oriented Lucknow thumri-s. These thumri-s dazzle on account of their imaginative and extremely swift movements. Of equal importance is the intricacy of tonal patterns - a special mark of tappa.

The Patiala thumri is also influenced by folk tunes of the region, which are in Pahadi, and its multiple varieties. The descending and lyrical tonal patterns associated with the Heer songs of the region are known for their moving quality and Patiala thumri has certainly benefited from this regional source.

However, while gaining on one front the Patiala thumri has lost on the other. The dazzle it has cannot be retained for longer stretches and, thus, the thumri lacks in expansiveness. The musical ideas it throws up are brilliant but short-lived and the effects, though intense, do not have the potential for an elaborate treatment.

Regional Varieties of Thumri

Some scholars have pointed out regional variations of the form. For example, thumri-s sung by Ustad Abdul Karim Khan and his followers have been described as khayali thumri-s on account of their perceptible lack of eroticism and seriousness of approach bordering on the devotional. This kind of thumri was shaped in Maharashtra. Yet another variety from the same region popularized by Master Krishnarao, a senior disciple of Pt. Bhaskarbuwa Bakhale, is delightfully cerebral and lyrical as it relies on imaginative variations not necessarily emotive in impact and intent. Maharashtra also brought into vogue Baithakichi Lavani, a form which was a musical response to the Hindustani thumri in every way, though the text is in Marathi. Variations of the form in Bengal are also worth considering. In the final analysis, all these claims prove the major musical contribution of the prototype thumri discussed with the added perspective offered by the gharana-s outlined earlier.


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