In the past, we have discussed prominent raags like Kalyan, Bhairav, Bilawal, Kafi and Sarang. They have distinct identities that shape their variants, but also act as raagaang raags that colour other raags, which may not be directly related to them. Khamaj is another raag that works in a similar manner. It uses all shuddha or natural notes with the addition of the komal or flattened version of Nishad or the seventh. It omits the Rishabh or second in the ascent and the dominant and sub-dominant notes are Gandhar and Dhaivat, the third and sixth, respectively. This episode will be the first in a series devoted to Khamaj.
Typically, Khamaj has been prolifically used for the thumri-dadra genres. It is rare to find instances of dhrupad compositions in this raag and even rarer to find khayals. Today, we feature bandish ki thumri compositions in this raag. Traditionally, bandish ki thumri compositions have syllables of the song-text closely knit to the rhythmic canvas, as will be evident in the following tracks.
The first track features Patiala gharana exponent Jagdish Prasad. He sings a bandish ki thumri set to an uptempo Teentaal, a cycle of 16 matras or time-units. The character of Khamaj is demonstrated amply through the melodic elaboration that involves sargam or solfège and free-flowing phrases that are sung in aakaar or using the vowel “aa”.
Rampur-Sahaswan gharana maestro Nissar Hussain Khan sings a bandish ki thumri in Teentaal.
Ulhas Kashalkar, known otherwise for his khayal expositions, sings the same bandish ki thumri, but listeners will note the difference in pace and tenor of this performance to the earlier one. He deviates at times from the characteristic phrases of Khamaj, as this is permitted in the melodic elaboration of thumri-dadra and allied forms. Mehmood Dholpuri plays the harmonium, Murad Ali provides sarangi accompaniment and Aneesh Pradhan accompanies on the tabla.
The last track features Agra gharana maestro Sharafat Hussain Khan. He sings a bandish ki thumri set to Teentaal.