Malini Awasthi, credited with taking folk music to a new level with her participation in a reality show, elaborates on the rich tradition of Hori songs.

A festival without music, especially in this part of the world, is equivalent to a body without soul. Every festivity calls for celebration through music and offers it a specific role to play in the setting. Just like every season comes with a festival tagging along, spring brings in Holi, the exuberant festival of colours. Hori — one of the many forms belonging to the light classical music traditions of Hindustani music — is sung on Holi capturing its joyous and playful spirit. And even though Malini Awasthi, disciple of Girija Devi, the torch-bearer of the Banaras gharana, is in town to participate in Jahan-e-Khusrau, a Sufi extravaganza of music and dance, the impending Holi, together with the vocalist's expertise and contribution to the revival of the folk culture, encourages one to engage her in a conversation on the tradition of Hori.

On Holi

Spring is the time for madness and to have fun. After reeling in severe cold for months, a not-so-harsh sun and nature in full bloom give a perfect opportunity to people to let their hair down. In olden times, one lived in joint families following certain rules and regulations. Holi would come as a pleasant break where people could just let go of everything and enjoy.

According to me, it is the only festival which allows man-woman proximity. It is socially acceptable for men and women to play Holi together.

And that's why feelings of love and romance are at their peak in this season.

On Hori compositions

In Banaras and Awadh, Holi celebrations would begin on Basant Panchami and continue till Baisakh. For one whole month, people gather and sing Dhamar, set to Deepchandi tala, Ulhara, Faag and many more. “Holi khele raghubira Awadh mein” from the film “Baghban” and the hugely popular “Rang barse” are ulharas which have their roots in Awadh. In the film “Kati Patang”, the Holi song “Aaj na choddenge bas humjoli” has shades of Dhamar. This form begins with a slow tempo but as it progresses it becomes extremely fast. “Holi aayi re kanhai” from “Mother India” is a hori but interestingly has a kajri tune.

The nature of these compositions

Understandably, Shringar rasa dominates in the Hori compositions. There is a lot of chhed-chhaad. Though most of the songs are upbeat in nature, there are few based on viraha evoking the pathos of two separated lovers. In Mathura-Vrindavan, every hori revolves around Radha-Krishna and is called Raas. In Awadh region, one would find many compositions on Ram and his brothers playing Holi, for example “Awadh nagariya chhayi re bahariya, ke bhal rang khele hori chaaro bhaiyan”, whereas it is only in the Banaras tradition that one finds the mention of Lord Shankar and Parvati in the Hori compositions: “Krishna Murari sang Radhika khele parvat upar maja Shankarji le le aur Gaura ki bhijat chir ho”. The Hori compositions of Benaras are more classical in nature.

THE MELANGE

Malini together with contemporary dancer Astad Deboo hopes to create some magic for the audience at Jahan-e-Khusrau. Malini will render the powerful composition of Baba Bulleh Shah “Tere ishq nachaya” with Astad moving on it accompanied by Manipuri dancers. A ghazal by Amir Khusrau will also be presented.

(The performance will take place on February 28 at Humayun's Tomb)