(Last Updated on : 17/08/2011)
Thumri is the most important "light classical" genre of North Indian Classical music
. It is performed in many contexts, from the sphere of dance, to the vocal concert stage, to performance on instruments. The reason behind calling Thumri
light classical are many and varied. One of the prime reasons is that the melodies are not always composed in a Raaga and the may break the rules in singing those that are. It has also been suggested that simpler talas and less weighty raagas are used for thumri. Yet another likely reason is that alap-type improvisation is not cultivated in Thumri, and alap is the real test of good musicianship. In addition, Thumri is traditionally accompanied by a harmonium. As the artist sings, he pumps a bellows at the back of the harmonium and reproduces the vocal melody on the keyboard with the other hand. The fixed pitches that the harmonium
is restricted to are considered a serious threat to traditional melodic flexibility. Whatever the reason, Thumri provides light, enjoyable music with which to end a vocal or instrumental concert.
Origins of Thumri
Thumri was cultivated primarily in Lucknow
in the nineteenth century, and it is possible to pinpoint differences between the styles of Thumri from those two places. Other regional styles have developed as well, for example, that of Punjab. Nowadays, audiences prefer to hear female vocalists sing Thumri. A full performing ensemble includes harmonium, usually played by the vocalist, tambura
, and probably a Sarangi
Text of Thumri
The texts of Thumri are romantic. They refer perhaps to Lord Krishna
and his amorous pranks, or to "the beloved," who may (or may not) be Krishna. Other texts are unequivocally romantic: they contain no allegorical suggestions. One of the main tenets concerning thumri is that the text is most important. Each word is pronounced clearly, and every bit of feeling the text might express is brought out musically. This is a major difference between Thumri and Khayal
Structure of Thumri
A Thumri is a brief composition consisting of sthai and one or more antaras with improvisation. Usually, the "more antaras" are additional text, which is sung to approximately the same antara melody. Most Thumri, however, have only sthai and antara. The sthai phrase proper is used at cadences to close each singer's turn. After the several repetitions of the sthai in variant forms, the amount of improvisation on the sthai text increases gradually and the middle and upper registers are explored. In that respect, this performance is very similar to medium-speed khayal. The antara is sung when the upper register has already been introduced in the improvisation, and it is presented partially at first, as a Khayal antara is likely to be.
After that point, the performance goes into a section that belongs specifically to Thumri. The singing stops, and melody making is left to the accompanying harmonium. The drummer takes the spotlight in a section called laggi. In laggi, the count will always be duple (4 or 8), no matter what the tala cycle has been. The drummer doubles or quadruples the speed with a sudden splash of virtuosity. Then the singing begins again, at the same speed (approximately) where it was before and in the old tala. In this performance, the sthai is heard for a short time and then a second antara is sung. After a return to the sthai and then another brief laggi, the performance ends with the sthai. The speed of this Thumri performance never increases beyond = 100. The gradual acceleration to a furious climax that marks Kahyal is not usually a performance trait of Thumri.
Talas used in Thumri
The tala most frequently used for thumri are dipchandi (14 counts), jat (16 counts), Panjabi (16 counts), kaharva (8 counts), and dadra (6 counts). (Dadra tal is usually associated with a light classical genre that is also called dadra.) The 16-count talas jat and Panjabi have the same structural subdivisions as 16-count tintal, but the thekas with which they are drummed are very different, They can easily be distinguished in performance because the drummer keeps primarily to the theka. Dipchandi of 14 counts is the same as jat tal, with one count removed in each half of the cycle (as indicated by the boxes in Example 7-10) so that the structure is 3 + 4 + 3 + 4. Bracketed strokes are played in one count. Since this tala has such a brief cycle, the singers go through several cycles of it before singing a cadence. The principle of keeping the text at the same points in the tala cycle and singing the full sthai phrase for cadences is kept more consistently than it is in khayal mukhra.