The recent Thumri Festival brought to Delhi audiences the different gharanas of this popular classical art form

A three-day Thumri Festival was organised recently by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) at Kamani auditorium with a view to present three different gharanas of thumri singing — Banaras, Patiala and Lucknow. The festival opened with the performance of Purnima Chaudhuri, a disciple of Mahadev Prasad Mishra, who later learnt from Girija Devi too.

Endowed with a strong and powerful voice, Purnima Chaudhuri began her recial with a Mishra Khamaj thumri “Kaare Matwaare Man Har Leenho” in bol-banao style and explored its various facets with deep involvement. One could not discern much influence of the effortless, delicate and winsome style of Mahadev Prasad Mishra and she sang in the typical forceful Girija Devi way. However, she gave ample evidence of her mastery over the form and impressed with her attractive way of arriving at the sam when she sang a bol-baant or bandish ki thumri “Roko Na Dagar Mero Shyam” in Tilak Kamod, displaying good command over the rhythmic aspect. Young Vinay Mishra on harmonium and Vinod Lele on tabla impressed with their unobtrusive and performance-enhancing accompaniment while veteran Bharat Bhushan Goswami was as usual good on sarangi.

Being the daughter of Siddheshwari Devi, Savita Devi has an impressive pedigree. However, these days she does not seem to be in top form. She sang a typical Banarasi thumri “Piya Tori Tirachhi Nazar Laage Pyari”, followed by a dadra “Radha Maan Mor Kahanwa”. She ended her recital with a kajri “Barkha Lagi Mori Guiyan”. Her dadra was interspersed with Urdu couplets and Brajbhasha kavits, imbuing the performance with a mehfil-like character. Badlu Khan on harmonium, Ghulam Sabir Khan on sarangi and Akhtar Hasan on tabla provided good accompaniment while Savita Devi’s disciples Deepti Bansal and Neeta Soorma lent vocal support.

Girija Devi is a living example of how a top performer defies age and maintains class and form. At 84, her voice retains its tunefulness, resonance and luminosity and age has affected only her stamina. She began her recital with a Khambawati thumri “Chithiya Na Darasa Dikhao” and went on to sing a Mishra Kafi thumri “Man Har Leeno Shyam” and on in Mishra Kafi Pilu, “Kaisi Bansiya Bajaee Kanha”. Her voice rose like an arrow and her notes hit the bull’s eye. She then switched over to a traditional dadra “Ganga Reti Pe Bangla Chhava De More Raja” followed by a kajri and a Bhairavi bhajan of Miyan Ekrang. She was accompanied by Ghulam Sabir Khan on sarangi, Dharmnath Mishra on harmonium and Jaishankar Mishra on tabla while her disciples Sucheta Ganguli and Snehlata Mishra provided vocal support.

The task of presenting the Patiala gharana thumri fell on the shoulders of Mazhar Ali and Jawaad Ali, grandsons of the one and only Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. They sang a Khamaj thumri “Paniya Bharan Kaise Jaoon” and followed it up with a Mand and a Bhairavi composition made immortal by their legendary grandfather — “Yaad Piya Ki Aaye” and “Aaye Na Balam, Kya Karoon Sajani”. However, one is constrained to say that their performance left much to be desired. Gulam Sabir Khan, Shailendra Mishra and Zamir Khan accompanied them on sarangi, tabla and harmonium respectively.

Young Kaushiki Chakraborty, accompanied by Paromita Mukherjee on harmonium, Allarakha Kalawant on sarangi and Sandeep Ghosh on tabla, impressed the listeners with her taiyaari, tunefulness and élan. She began with a Tilang thumri “Tore Naina Jadu Bhare”and went on to sing a composition of her father and guru Ajoy Chakraborty “Sajanwa Kab Aaoge” before taking up the famous Bade Ghulam Ali Khan rendition “Ab To Aao Saajna” and a Shobha Gurtu immortal dadra “Rangi Saari Gulabi Chunariya Re”. Her sparkling taans, fast-paced sargams and layakari were most amazing. However, her performance had a diamond-like quality that dazzled but did not touch the heart.

Ajoy Chakraborty sang a thumri in Mishra Bihag set to Dadra tala and showed how shifting the tonic can produce the effects of other ragas such as Shankara, Bihagda and Bilaskhani Todi. He also sang another composition in Meerabai Ki Malhar. However, he seemed more in the lec-dem rather than the performance mode.

On the last day of the festival, Kumud Diwan sang Gaya thumri while Kathak maestros Uma Sharma and Birju Maharaj sang in the Lucknow style accompanied by abhinaya.