As mentioned last week, Khamaj, a raag prescribed for the night, has been exploited prolifically for the thumri genre. The second episode in the series on Khamaj focuses on bol banaav thumris in this raag. Listeners will note the slight deviations from the original raag structure that vocalists often make to express the emotive content of the song-text, an important feature of the thumri-dadra genres. Diehard fans of dhrupad and khayal who believe that thumri is “light” or “semi-classical” due to the melodic flexibility it exercises in its use of raag, would hopefully realise from such presentations that thumri too has its own grammar and shastra or theory, which needs to be studied and internalised over long years.
Banaras gharana maestro Mahadev Prasad Mishra sings a bol banaav thumri in the raag Khamaj set to Jat taal, a rhythmic cycle of 16 matras or time-units. His style is marked by drama highlighted by the utterance of one or two words with different melodic phrasing at times using chromatic sequence of notes. Although, the latter is not originally used in Khamaj, it adds colour and a sense of surprise to the performance. He even introduces short phrases of Hameer, but notably, he does not enter the Hameer domain completely.
The maestro is accompanied by eminent sarangi player Sultan Khan and well-known tabla player Anand Gopal Bandopadhyaya.
Thumri exponent Shobha Gurtu sings a composition that she had popularised. Typically, she would sing this Khamaj bol banaav thumri in the 14-matra Deepchandi. However, this presentation recorded for Doordarshan a few decades ago, uses the Jat taal. She is accompanied by Inderlal Dhandra on the sarangi, Mehmood Dholpuri on the harmonium and Ballu Khan Warsi on the tabla.
Salamat Ali Khan, the famous vocalist of the Sham Chaurasi gharana, sings a thumri set to the eight-matra Kaherva. Vocal support is provided by his son Sharafat Ali Khan, and tabla and sarangi accompaniment is provided by Shaukat Hussain Khan and Alla Rakha Khan, respectively. Importantly, this recital demonstrates the extent to which some vocalists deviate from the main framework of the raag. In particular, the vocal dexterity of Salamat Ali Khan allows him to incorporate quicksilver melodic phrasing that does not necessarily pertain to the Khamaj paradigm.