Sonic Saturday

Listen: These duets by thumri singers Nirmala Devi and Lakshmi Shankar are rare gems

Despite being popular when they were released, these recordings have faded into oblivion

Hindustani music recordings made several decades ago continue to attract music lovers to this day. But there are some that seem to have fallen into oblivion even though they gained popularity soon after they were released.

Duets recorded by noted thumri singers Nirmala Devi and Lakshmi Shankar belong to this category. The two studied under the same guru, Abdul Rehman Khan of the Patiala gharana who also taught several playback singers from the world of Hindi cinema. Their recordings reveal experiments at various levels.

For one, they demonstrate a deliberate manner of presentation that involved singing in unison as well as individual elaborations that were precise and contained, rather than being flexible as would be the case normally with Hindustani recitals. Perhaps the fact that they were singing duets required some measure of arrangement, although this was not really the case with other duets that had been recorded. It is equally likely that the fact that they had learn from the same guru allowed them to explore this possibility. The compositions they recorded were creations of their guru, who probably also supervised their rehearsals and recordings.

On the musical level, the compositions do not conform to conventional melodic lines that are heard in the raags that they are based upon. The musical elaboration deviates from the original raags, a treatment that is allowed in thumri, dadra and allied forms, using ornamentation that is typical of the Patiala style. But at no point does the elaboration become too ornate. The song-texts are not similar to conventional thumri texts and the vocalists also do not necessarily treat them as in the traditional manner typical of thumri renditions.

The first track features a thumri based on Parmeshwari, a raag prescribed for the morning introduced in the Hindustani system by sitar maestro Ravi Shankar. The composition is set to Kaherva, a cycle of eight matras or time-units.

Play

The second composition set to the six-matra Dadra taal is a dadra that borrows heavily from Jogiya, a raag prescribed for the morning.

Play

The tabla is played by Nizamuddin Khan, a maestro acknowledged widely for his accompaniment to thumri-dadra recitals. He intersperses the rhythmic canvas with crisp and initimable laggi passages in quadruple tempo.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Following a mountaineer as he reaches the summit of Mount Everest

Accounts from Vikas Dimri’s second attempt reveal the immense fortitude and strength needed to summit the Everest.

Vikas Dimri made a huge attempt last year to climb the Mount Everest. Fate had other plans. Thwarted by unfavourable weather at the last minute, he came so close and yet not close enough to say he was at the top. But that did not deter him. Vikas is back on the Everest trail now, and this time he’s sharing his experiences at every leg of the journey.

The Everest journey began from the Lukla airport, known for its dicey landing conditions. It reminded him of the failed expedition, but he still moved on to Namche Bazaar - the staging point for Everest expeditions - with a positive mind. Vikas let the wisdom of the mountains guide him as he battled doubt and memories of the previous expedition. In his words, the Everest taught him that, “To conquer our personal Everest, we need to drop all our unnecessary baggage, be it physical or mental or even emotional”.

Vikas used a ‘descent for ascent’ approach to acclimatise. In this approach, mountaineers gain altitude during the day, but descend to catch some sleep. Acclimatising to such high altitudes is crucial as the lack of adequate oxygen can cause dizziness, nausea, headache and even muscle death. As Vikas prepared to scale the riskiest part of the climb - the unstable and continuously melting Khumbhu ice fall - he pondered over his journey so far.

His brother’s diagnosis of a heart condition in his youth was a wakeup call for the rather sedentary Vikas, and that is when he started focusing on his health more. For the first time in his life, he began to appreciate the power of nutrition and experimented with different diets and supplements for their health benefits. His quest for better health also motivated him to take up hiking, marathon running, squash and, eventually, a summit of the Everest.

Back in the Himalayas, after a string of sleepless nights, Vikas and his team ascended to Camp 2 (6,500m) as planned, and then descended to Base Camp for the basic luxuries - hot shower, hot lunch and essential supplements. Back up at Camp 2, the weather played spoiler again as a jet stream - a fast-flowing, narrow air current - moved right over the mountain. Wisdom from the mountains helped Vikas maintain perspective as they were required to descend 15km to Pheriche Valley. He accepted that “strength lies not merely in chasing the big dream, but also in...accepting that things could go wrong.”

At Camp 4 (8,000m), famously known as the death zone, Vikas caught a clear glimpse of the summit – his dream standing rather tall in front of him.

It was the 18th of May 2018 and Vikas finally reached the top. The top of his Everest…the top of Mount Everest!

Watch the video below to see actual moments from Vikas’ climb.

Play

Vikas credits his strength to dedication, exercise and a healthy diet. He credits dietary supplements for helping him sustain himself in the inhuman conditions on Mount Everest. On heights like these where the oxygen supply drops to 1/3rd the levels on the ground, the body requires 3 times the regular blood volume to pump the requisite amount of oxygen. He, thus, doesn’t embark on an expedition without double checking his supplements and uses Livogen as an aid to maintain adequate amounts of iron in his blood.

Livogen is proud to have supported Vikas Dimri on his ambitious quest and salutes his spirit. To read more about the benefits of iron, see here. To read Vikas Dimri’s account of his expedition, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Livogen and not by the Scroll editorial team.