The politics of poetry

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Man of many tunes Ajoy Chakraborty
Man of many tunes Ajoy Chakraborty

A thumri concert in Varanasi threw light on the history and variants of the tradition. GAUTAM CHATTERJEE

Recently Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty sang thumris in a concert organised by Kala Prakash in Varanasi.

The performance raised many questions about the traditional patterns and the modern paradigms of this most significant singing form of light classical music.

Thumri CDs

The same evening, Sangeet Natak Akademi and Saregama also jointly released a CD of six thumris sung in concert by Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan.

Chakraborty explained, “People know that Khan Saheb brought these thumris from Patiala or from other areas of Punjab. He also learned and practised in Lucknow, in accordance with the Patiala gharana and finally settled in Kolkata. His thumris are from Purab, so the Purab ang of thumri is not different from the thumris sung by Khan Saheb.”

The popular thumris released from the archives of SNA by Khan Saheb are “Baju Band Khul Khul Jaye”, “Yad Piya Ki Aye”, “Tori Tirchhi Nazaria”, “Prem Ki Mar Katar” and “Aye Na Balam”.

“The impression we get from the thumri singing of Khan Saheb, is the significant style of the Patiala gharana as cultivated from Ustad Kale Khan and the same is felt of Ustad Barkatullah Khan Saheb, but that is not of the Purab ang,” said Pandit Channulal Mishra, a veteran singer of thumris of the Purab ang.

Sucharita Gupta, a disciple of Savita Devi said, “This is quite natural if we sublimate the Gaya ang or style of Bihar with the Banaras gayaki, as I sing within the discipline of Siddheshwari Devi and my Guru, Savita di, but we can easily distinguish Purab ang from the Pashchim style of thumri recital.”

History of it

Pandit Kishen Maharaj presented a concise history of the thumri tradition.

He said that the Purab ang, as we know it, from the Banaras gharana originated in the early 20th Century with Jagdeep ji and Mouzuddin.

They used to sing not only here and but in Kolkata as well.

Their followers are Rasoolan Bai, Janaki Bai, Kashi Bai, Badi Moti, Chhoti Moti, Siddheshwari Devi and others.

In time, the tappa style from Punjab was assimilated with Khayal and light classical forms.

Similarly, when we hear the thumri “Piya Ke Milan Ki Aas” (in raga Jogia) by Ustad Abdul Karim Khan Saheb and by Prabha Atrre (also from the Kirana gharana, in the Pashchim ang), we notice a difference in style as well as in presentation.

These differences can also be noticed on listening to Nirmala Arun and Girija Devi.

We relish the different tastes provided by the angas and gharanas.

Chhanulal Mishra is also from the Hariharpur gharana, linked to the Kirana gharana.

The lineage

“But I sing thumris of Jagdip Maharaj, unlike Mahadev Mishra’s style (of Benaras) for I have the lineage of Jagdip Maharaj too,” he said.

Whatever be the present scenario, listeners continue to relish the bandishes and different singing styles of thumris.

Even though Mouzuddin came to Benaras from Punjab and Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan went to Punjab from Lucknow.



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