As the monsoon approaches, it is time to hear a musical response from practitioners of Hindustani vocal music who have learnt special songforms associated with this season.

Of course, there are several instances of vocalists who have heard such compositions from recordings and have chosen to interpret them without providing acknowledgement to the original source. But if the ethical aspect were to be set aside (as it so often is by such musicians), it is important to note that despite being in urban settings, vocalists are drawn to these compositions that conjure up imagery from an essentially rural environment.

The attraction may be due to several reasons, but the need to include compositions of this nature in concert repertoire is very much a reality even in today’s rapidly changing world.

For tabla players who aspire to become versatile accompanists not only to vocal and instrumental music, but also to forms within vocal music, it is imperative that they acquaint themselves as much with seasonal songforms as with khayal and thumri-dadra. I had already discussed tabla accompaniment with songforms related to the spring season. Today, we will look closely at the role of the tabla player while accompanying compositions that celebrate monsoon.

Kajri, jhoola, and sawan, are some of the noteworthy forms that are heard during the monsoon. Today, we will focus on the tabla accompaniment to kajri compositions as presented by Hindustani vocalists. For those who may be interested in reading about the kajri form, here is a link to a previous article.

Kajris form an integral part of the repertoire presented by thumri specialists. Many are originally folk songs but are sung in a stylised manner borrowing various stylistic features from the thumri-dadra forms. The songtexts has imagery related to the monsoon, but there are some kajris which may not include such metaphors.

The first track in this episode features an extended presentation of one such kajri composition by Siddheshwari Devi, the pre-eminent Banaras gharana exponent. The composition is set to the eight-matra Kaherva, which is maintained at a steady pace for the better part of the performance. It changes to the laggi section towards the end of the track. The accompaniment on this recording made for the All India Radio is provided by well-known tabla player Chatur Lal and by sarangi player Sabri Khan.


The second track is another kajri sung by Siddheshwari Devi. But this composition is set to the seven-matra Rupak taal. Unlike the previous track and as heard in most kajri performances, this recording does not have the conventional laggi section although the tabla player changes from the Rupak theka to quadruple-tempo rhythmic phrasing.


You may want to note that kajri compositions in thumri dadra repertoire are often sourced from folk repertoire of the Gangetic region. However, the compositions included in this installment do not follow this trend. They perhaps lean more towards diverse literary verses where common images of the monsoon are avoided, and the musical rendering too is unusual in its being more anchored in the bol banaav of thumri and dadra compositions.

One of India’s leading tabla players, Aneesh Pradhan is a widely recognised performer, teacher, composer and scholar of Hindustani music. Visit his website here.

This article is based on Pradhan’s book Tabla: A Performer’s Perspective.