The Thumri festival and the annual offering of the Bade Ghulam Ali Khan Yaadgar Sabha were highlights of the music calendar.

The Thumri festival presented by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) at the Kamani auditorium and the 42nd Sabrang Utsav presented by the Bade Ghulam Ali Khan Yaadgar Sabha at India International Centre were the two important festivals of Hindustani classical music held recently. The two-day Thumri festival opened with Malini Awasthi, who had the best of accompaniment in sarangi by Murad Ali, tabla by Sudhir Pande and harmonium by Mehmood Dhaulpuri when she presented thumris in Mishra Khamaj and Tilak Kamod with flashes of Mishra Jhinjhoti, a thumri ang dohe ki kajari, a Banarasi kajari and a jhula which had more of folk elements than the semi-classical Thumri genre.

Sarathi Chatterjee rescued the status of Thumri on the inaugural evening with his classicism when he opened with a composition in raga Mishra Tilang set to the conventional Deepchandi theka of 14 beats, a time cycle apt for traditional thumris. Ramkumar Mishra's Banarasi laggi on the tabla during the concluding segments of Sarathi's rendition and Paromita Mukherjee's mijaazdaari on the harmonium added extra charm to his performance.

“Neel-Maadhava” in raga Bhinna-Shadja set to Dhumali theka and a bandishi thumri in raga Kiravani provided different dimensions of Thumri singing before he concluded with a Bhairavi bhajan “Saadh re man Sur ko saadh le” — also in Thumri style.

The next evening opened with Shaunak Abhisheki, the son and disciple of late Pandit Jitendra Abhisheki, and concluded with Ustad Iqbal Ahmad Khan of the Dilli gharana who opened with the famous thumri “Saiyaan bolo” in raga Pilu followed by a dadra in the same raga. The next composition, “Saajanawan nahin aaye” in raga Pahadi, had a mixed treatment of Thumri and Dadra genres before he concluded with the Bhairavi thumri “Bahut din beete” in his pursoz andaaz. Ghulam Ali on the sarangi, Sajjad Ahmad on the harmonium, Akhtar Hasan on the tabla and Anis and Tanvir Ahmad on the tanpura added extra charm to his colourful renditions.

It was just a coincidence that Ustad Iqbal Ahmad Khan stole the show at the 42nd Sabrang Utsav also, presented at the IIC auditorium by the Bade Ghulam Ali Khan Yaadgar Sabha, as its concluding artiste. He opened his concert with raga Anandshri which was a unique combination of ragas Purvi, Puria-Kalyan, Shri, Puria, and Maligauda. In the beginning it sounded like Puria Dhanashri and then kept changing its myriad hues as its elaboration progressed. The vilambit khayal “Rakho mori laaj” was set to slow Ek tala. Tanveer and Imran Ahmad gave him commendable vocal support apart from the other competent accompanying artistes on sarangi, harmonium and tabla. The evening opened with a soulful Yaman by a remarkable debutant Bhaven Gosain, a talented disciple of Malti Gilani.

Earlier, while inaugurating the festival, Gurusharan Kaur praised the commendable work done by the Sabha over the years for the promotion of classical music and providing medical aid to ailing artistes, besides giving musical instruments to deserving students. The festival opened with a vocal recital by Malti Gilani, disciple of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and founder trustee of the Yaadgar Sabha. A vocal recital by Raza Ali, grandson of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, was the other attraction of the inaugural evening.