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Thumri, Dadra and other semi-classical forms in Indian Music - by Chaitanya Kunte

Chaitanya Kunte is a disciple of Dr. Arawind Thatte. Chaitanya has created a niche for himself as a talented and well appreciated young composer. His compositions cover a wide range of genre such as Khayal, Tappa, Tarana, Chataranga, Sadra, Sargam Geet, Thumari, Dadra, Bhajan etc. In the following article Chaitanya shares his knowledge about Thumari and other Semi Classical music forms in Indian Music.

Thumari stands as an important and dominant genre in Indian music along with Dhrupad, Khayal and Tappa; as a well-accepted genre by all performers, musicologists and audience. With keeping its unique character intact as a musical form, Thumari has its own idiom, scholastic tradition, aesthetics and mannerisms, which are in many ways different than Khayal and Tappa, but still there are many commonalities.

The Hindi word 'Thumari' is said to be derived from - 'Thumakna' meaning an attractive gait. So, literary meaning is 'the song having attractive - rather sensuous, gait of melody and rhythm'. The content of sensuousness is the main emotive basis in Thumari, though there are many compositions of Thumari depicting the devotional aspect. An example of thumri is Bari Umar Larkaiya Na Chhedo Saiyyan by Shobha Gurtu 

Some musicologists speculate about the traces of Thumari in ancient form - 'Charchari Prabandh' or 'Hallisak Geeti'. But the available documentation on Thumari mentions its origin in around 16-17th century A.D. Thumari is said to be originated from the songs of Northern Indian folks, specifically from the region between Ganga - Yamuna Rivers.

These songs are basically in the regional dialects of Hindi such as Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Mirzapuri, etc. But there are some compositions of Thumari in other languages such as Rajasthani, Marathi and Bengali, also. The dialect of Thumari is soft and tender than any other forms and it allows making colloquial usage of words to sound them elastic, for example - 'Paani' becomes 'Paniyaa' and 'Piyaa' turns into 'Piu' or 'Piyaruwa', etc.

Subject matter:
Thumari portrays mainly various moods in love - unison, separation and such ups and downs in the journey of relationship. The main character in the lyric of Thumari is mostly a woman in love, and the illustration differs in the stages of the disposition such as age, social status, etc.

Musical characteristics:
In Thumari, the lyrics i.e. 'Bol-ang', is very important. So, the musical elaboration of the words with different shades is focused in the rendering, which is called as 'Bol Banaao'. Thins involves Alap, some times with mixtures of Raags for highlighting the sentiments. After singing the Sthayi and Antara in slow tempo, usually there is rendition of words in fast progression on Tabla called 'Laggi' when the singer twists the words with melodic variations called as 'Bol-Baant'.

Thumari is sung mostly in the so called 'lighter' Raags such as Khamaj, Kafi, Tilang, Desh, Tilak Kamod, Sorath, Piloo, Mand,Manjh-Khamaj, Jogia, Kalingda, Shiv-ranjani, Bhairavi, etc. in which there is wider scope for emotive improvisation with the subtleties in Alankaars, mixtures of Raags. So, many times, Thumari is found in combination of some Dhuns, so called as 'Jhilla' and 'Jangulaa'. But the tradition has gifted us some Thumaris in raags typical of Khayal, such as Bihag, Shahana, Sarang, Poorvi, Kalyan, Sohni, etc.

The Taals for Thumari are Deepachandi, Addha, Ikwaai, Sitarkhani, and some 'Bandhi Thumari' is to be sung in Jhaptaal, Ektaal also. There taals of smaller cycle, derived from folk music, that are Kehrawa, Dadra, Khemta, Chachar which are used for the compositions of Dadra, in fast tempo. Some able Thumari singers also sing Thumari in slow tempo Kehrawa or Dadra.

Difference between Thumari and Dadra:
'Dadra' can be explained as a speedier version of Thumari, approximately. Though the name suggests about the Taal Dadra, the compositions are set in other taals than dadra such as Kehrwa and Chachar. An example of a dadra is Savare Aijaiyo by Dr Vasantrao Deshpande 

Though Thumari and Dadra are mentioned always as a twin-term, there is some distinction -

  1. Thumari is usually sung in slow tempo and Dadra is bit faster.
  2. Thumari has more elaborate, lengthy structure of improvisation than crisp, compact Dadra.
  3. The lyric of Thumari generally possesses only two parts - Sthayi and Antara. On the contrary, Dadra is decorated by and large with more than one Ataras.
  4. Thumari mostly says purely about the human love relationship. But the songs in the category of Dadra such as Kajri, Jhoola, Hori, Chaiti, etc. mostly depict the nature, seasonal variation and the human sentiments in that reference.


Forms under the umbrella of Dadra:

  • Kajri: 'Kajri' word means 'Black - rainy clouds'. Kajri mainly explains the pathos of a separated lover during rainy season. But the typical of Mirzapuri Kajri also narrates the joy in rains. Eg. Shobha Gurtu - Tarsat Jiyara Hamar Naihar Me 
  • Sawan: Sawan also is a rainy season song, but rather than explaining the human sentiments, it gives emphasis on the seasonal beauty. Eg. Shobha Gurtu - Sakhi Sawan Aayo 
  • Jhoola: This is the song while playing the swings, sung by women in north India during the rainy season, with the depiction of romantic mood of Lord Krishna and Radha. Eg. Shobha Gurtu - Jhoola Dheerese Jhulao 
  • Chaiti: Song to be sung in the summer month, Chaitra, which has depiction of girl asking for new bridal dress to her husband, mostly. In Chaiti, there is usage of words 'Ho Raam'. Eg. Shobha Gurtu - Chaitar Chunariya Rang De 
  • Hori: Hori in Thumari style is called as 'Kacchi Hori' in which the festival of colors is described. Eg. Shobha Gurtu- Hori Khelan Kaise Jaoon 
  • Barahmasa: That has description of all the three seasons in the twelve months in Indian scenario.


Thumari and Bhajan:
'Bhajan' means devotional song, specifically written by the saint-poets such as Meerabai, Kabir, Surdas, etc. Many Thumari singers sing the Bhajans in the format of Thumari-Dadra. So, it adds the repertoire of the Thumari's subject matter, not restricting it only to the sensual realm. The compositions such as 'Saiyya Nikas Gaye' or 'Barse Badariya Sawan Ki' are fine examples of Thumari-Ang Bhajans. 

Thumari and Ghazal:
It is a form of Urdu-Farsi poetry with its unique stylistic construction and subject matter is mainly related to love relationship. Till the first half of 20th century, Ghazal was also often sung in Thumari-Dadra format. But later, as there was development of distinct style of Ghazal rendering, this form was separated from Thumari's influence. On the other hand, there are some Dadras in which Sher's (couplet) in Urdu poetry are rendered between two Antaras. For example - 'Chha Rahi kali Ghata' (Dadra in Desh).

Gharanas in Thumari: Thumari is said to be originated in the Purab, i.e. eastern region of Ganga-Yamuna rivers in north India, so it is called as 'Purabi' or 'Banarasi' Thumari, which is sung mostly in slow tempo. Later new style emerge called 'Lucknowi Thumari' which gives more importance to fast tempo compositions, also called as 'Pachhahi Thumari'. Another school in Thumari came out, that was 'Punjabi Thumari' which has lighter rendering, but fanciful and startlingly attractive phrases.

Benaras Gharana - Girija Dev - Pilu - Preeti Kiye
Punjab Gharana - Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan - Pilu - Kate Na Birha Ki Raat