Many dadras, compositions that collectively are a subset of the thumri genre, have been composed in the raag Khamaj. Set to the Dadra taal, a rhythmic cycle of six matras or time-units, or to the eight-matra Kaherva taal, the song-texts for dadras often run longer than those in the case of thumris. Typically, the smaller rhythmic canvas demands a tighter melodic elaboration and a more frequent dialoguing with the former, unlike thumri presentations. However, as in the case of thumris, performers have the license to deviate from the main raag if the song-text demands such expression, preferably without making obvious and long excursions into other raags.
After the first two episodes of our series on Khamaj, which were devoted to bandish ki thumris and bol banaav thumris in this raag, we now explore dadras performed by artists belonging to different gharanas.
To begin with, here is a track from the All India Radio archives featuring the renowned Begum Akhtar, known for her ghazal, thumri and dadra renditions. She sings a dadra based on Khamaj set to an uptempo Kaherva.
Agra gharana maestro Latafat Hussain Khan sings a dadra in Khamaj. This would perhaps come as a surprise to purists, who feel that thumri-dadra compositions are ‘lighter’ and are not part of the fare chosen by ‘classical’ vocalists. But Latafat Hussain Khan in fact follows in the footsteps of one of his predecessors, namely Faiyaz Khan, whose thumri and dadra presentations are as well-known as are his khayal or dhamaar recitals.
Dhrupad exponent Vidur Mallick’s dadra presentation is yet another reminder to us of creative minds going against the imaginary hierarchies that purists have created between genres. The deviation from the original raag is clearly evident in this exposition.
Even the maverick vocalist Kumar Gandharva, whose name is not usually associated with the thumri-dadra genre, sings a famous dadra in raag Khamaj set to an uptempo Dadra taal also called Khemta. As was the case with all his presentations, this one too has his unmistakable stamp and peculiar utterance. In other words, it cannot be categorised under the popular Poorab and Punjab thumri styles.