Thumri is a genre of North Indian classical music that is characterized by its light, romantic, and emotional tone. It is a style of music that is often associated with the courtesan culture of North India, where it was performed in intimate settings for a select audience. Thumri is known for its graceful melody, intricate rhythm, and its ability to evoke a range of emotions from the listener. In this article, we will take a closer look at the structure of Thumri, its origins, types, lyrics, and notable artists.
Table of Contents
Structure of Thumri
The structure of Thumri is usually based on a specific raag or melodic scale, which sets the mood and tone of the song. The melody of the song is typically structured around a series of melodic phrases called ‘bol’, which are repeated throughout the composition. These bol are typically sung in a free-form style, with the singer using their own interpretation and ornamentation to create a unique sound.
The lyrics of Thumri are usually written in the Hindustani language and are typically romantic or devotional in nature. They are usually written in a simple language that is easily understood by the general public, and the poetry is often drawn from the works of famous poets such as Amir Khusro, Mirza Ghalib, and Bulleh Shah.
The structure of Thumri typically follows a specific sequence of sections, which are designed to highlight different aspects of the song. The opening section is called the ‘sthayi’, which establishes the melody and sets the mood for the composition. This is followed by the ‘antara’, which is a contrasting section that provides a new melodic phrase and further develops the lyrical content of the song.
After the antara, the singer usually performs a series of improvisational sections called ‘taans’, which allow them to showcase their vocal abilities and add new melodic variations to the song. These taans are usually performed with great virtuosity and are a highlight of the performance.
The final section of Thumri is called the ‘abhog’, which is a repetition of the sthayi and antara with variations and improvisation. This section often includes a ‘bol-baant’, where the singer rapidly alternates between different bol phrases, showcasing their virtuosity and control over the melody.
In summary, the structure of Thumri is based on a specific raag or melodic scale, with lyrics that are typically romantic or devotional in nature. The melody is structured around a series of bol phrases, with improvisation and ornamentation added by the singer to create a unique sound. The song typically follows a sequence of sthayi, antara, taans, and abhog sections, with the abhog providing a climactic finale to the composition.
Origins of Thumri:
Thumri is a popular genre of Hindustani classical music that originated in North India in the late 18th century. It is a semi-classical style of music that blends elements of classical and folk music with poetic lyrics. Thumri is known for its emotive and romantic themes, and is often performed at weddings, festivals, and other celebrations.
The origins of Thumri can be traced back to the courtesan culture of North India, particularly in Lucknow and Banaras. The courtesans were highly trained in music, dance, and poetry, and were known for their refined taste and artistic skills. They would often perform for the nobility and the wealthy, and their performances were considered to be the epitome of sophistication and elegance.
The early Thumri compositions were mostly devotional songs in praise of Lord Krishna, but they gradually evolved to include romantic and sensual themes as well. The lyrics of Thumri are usually written in the Braj Bhasha dialect, which was spoken in the region around Mathura and Vrindavan, the birthplace of Lord Krishna.
Thumri gained popularity in the 19th century with the rise of the North Indian middle class, who were fascinated by the courtesan culture and its artistic traditions. Thumri became a staple of the classical music scene in North India, and it continues to be performed by both male and female vocalists.
The musical structure of Thumri is based on the raga system of Hindustani classical music. The melody is set to a specific raga, which provides a framework for improvisation and embellishment. The tempo of Thumri is slow and leisurely, allowing the singer to explore the nuances of the raga and the emotions expressed in the lyrics.
Some of the famous Thumri singers of the past include Begum Akhtar, Rasoolan Bai, Siddheshwari Devi, and Badi Moti Bai. Today, Thumri is performed by a new generation of singers, including Shubha Mudgal, Vidya Rao, and Kaushiki Chakraborty, among others.
In conclusion, Thumri is a unique genre of Hindustani classical music that has its roots in the courtesan culture of North India. It has evolved over the centuries to become a highly refined and sophisticated style of music, characterized by its emotive and romantic themes, and its beautiful melodies. Thumri continues to captivate audiences around the world with its timeless beauty and elegance.
The Characteristic Features of the Thumri:
The characteristic features of the thumri, as a musical style, can be enumerated thus:
- The musical effect of the thumri is far more dependent on its poetic content than is the case in the orthodox style of the khayal;
- The poetic theme of songs sung in this style deals most often with Shringara Rasa, and has sometimes a dual significance, spiritual and mundane;
- Its lyric form is due to the restricted range of ragas suitable for its rendering and to its latitude of elaboration. It is, at present, the most lyrical of a ll forms of Indian light classical music;
- Judged by the familiar pr.inciple of art design, ‘Unity in Diversity’, this form dwells more in its melodic pattern on the element of diversity than on that of unity;
- It requires a special quality of voice, natural or cultivated, for its proper rendering;
- Its association with the Kathak style of dance, looked upon as an inferior dance style, led to the exponents of this musical style being assigned a low social status until quite recently;
- The talas identified with this form of music constitute one of its features;
- The embellishments are tonal-verbal for the most part and not purely the tonal ones which preponderate in orthodox classical music.
The thumri is an ephemeral evolute or a variant out of a long series of forms, beginning with the Dhruvas mentioned in Bharata’s Natya Shastra.
Bharata deals with verbal-tonal rhythmic compositional patterns in the Thirty-Second Chapter of Natya Shastra, entitled Dhruva-Vidhana. He speaks of five types of Dhruva in the context of drama (Natya) : Praveshiki, Akshepiki, Naishkramiki, Santara, and Prasadiki or Prasadini. Prasadini is described as that which gives rise to colourful delight (Rangaraga) and self-engrossing
Types of Thumri:
One of the unique features of Thumri is its use of different “angs” or styles of rendition. Each ang has its own distinct characteristics, and the use of these different styles adds variety and depth to the performance. There are several types of Thumri, each with its own unique style and characteristics. Some of the most popular types of Thumri include:
Purab Ang Thumri:
Purab Ang Thumri is a genre of semi-classical music that originated in the eastern part of India, specifically in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. This musical style is characterized by its slow, romantic melodies, and its lyrics typically revolve around themes of love and separation.
The word “thumri” is derived from the Hindi word “thumak,” which means a delicate, graceful movement of the body. This style of music is closely associated with the courtesan culture of North India, where women known as tawaifs were trained in music and dance and would perform for wealthy patrons.
Purab Ang Thumri has a distinctive style that sets it apart from other forms of thumri. It is known for its use of intricate taans (fast, melodic patterns) and bol-baant (syllable-splitting), which give the music a rhythmic complexity and a lively, playful quality.
The lyrics of Purab Ang Thumri often draw on the poetry of the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly the work of poets like Mirza Ghalib and Amir Khusro. The songs often explore the theme of unrequited love, with the singer lamenting the pain of separation from their beloved.
One of the most famous exponents of Purab Ang Thumri was Siddheshwari Devi, a legendary singer who was known for her powerful voice and her ability to convey deep emotion through her singing. Other notable singers of the genre include Badi Moti Bai, Rasoolan Bai, and Girija Devi.
In recent years, Purab Ang Thumri has enjoyed a resurgence of popularity, with young musicians and singers rediscovering the beauty and richness of this musical tradition. While it may have its roots in a bygone era, the timeless beauty of Purab Ang Thumri continues to captivate audiences today.
Punjabi Thumri is a popular style of classical music that originated in the northwestern region of India known as Punjab. This style of music is characterized by its soulful and melodious nature, often featuring emotive lyrics that explore themes of love, longing, and separation.
The origins of Punjabi Thumri can be traced back to the 19th century, when it first emerged as a genre of classical music in the court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. It was during this time that many of the great classical musicians of Punjab, such as Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and Ustad Barkat Ali Khan, began to develop the distinctive style and techniques that would come to define Punjabi Thumri.
One of the defining features of Punjabi Thumri is its use of tala, a rhythmic cycle that is repeated throughout the composition. The tala in Punjabi Thumri is typically set to a slow tempo, allowing the singer to explore the emotions of the lyrics in a more expressive manner.
Another key feature of Punjabi Thumri is its use of meend, a technique in which the singer slides between notes to create a fluid and expressive melody. This technique is used to great effect in Punjabi Thumri, allowing the singer to convey the nuances of the lyrics and capture the emotions of the composition.
Lyrically, Punjabi Thumri is often characterized by its focus on love and romance, with many compositions exploring the themes of separation and longing. The lyrics are typically written in a poetic style, with a focus on metaphor and imagery to convey the emotions of the composition.
Overall, Punjabi Thumri is a beautiful and emotive style of classical music that has its roots in the rich cultural heritage of Punjab. Whether you are a fan of classical music or simply appreciate the beauty of soulful melodies and emotive lyrics, Punjabi Thumri is sure to captivate and inspire you.
Benaras Thumri is a genre of Indian classical music that originated in the city of Varanasi (also known as Benaras or Kashi) in Uttar Pradesh, India. Thumri is a semi-classical genre that is known for its romantic and devotional themes, and it is often performed by female vocalists accompanied by a small ensemble of musicians.
Benaras Thumri is characterized by its lyrical and emotive nature, with a focus on the expression of various emotions such as love, longing, and devotion. The compositions are typically based on ragas, which are melodic frameworks used in Indian classical music. The ragas used in Benaras Thumri are often derived from the lighter forms of classical music such as Kafi, Bhairavi, and Pilu.
One of the unique features of Benaras Thumri is its use of the ‘bol-banav’ style of singing, which involves the use of spoken syllables along with the melody. This style of singing adds a rhythmic and percussive quality to the music, enhancing its emotional impact.
The lyrics of Benaras Thumri are usually in the form of couplets, and they are often in a dialect of Hindi known as Brij Bhasha. The themes of the lyrics are diverse, ranging from love and romance to spiritual devotion and philosophical musings.
The instruments used in Benaras Thumri are typically the sitar, sarangi, tabla, and harmonium. The sitar and sarangi are stringed instruments that provide the melodic framework, while the tabla is a percussion instrument that provides the rhythm. The harmonium is a keyboard instrument that provides accompaniment and support to the vocalist.
Benaras Thumri has a rich history and has been performed by many legendary musicians over the years. Some of the most renowned performers of Benaras Thumri include Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Girija Devi, and Shobha Gurtu.
In conclusion, Benaras Thumri is a beautiful and emotive genre of Indian classical music that is known for its romantic and devotional themes, intricate melodies, and rhythmic complexity. Its rich history and continued popularity make it a cherished part of India’s cultural heritage.
Poorab Ang Thumri:
Poorab Ang Thumri is a genre of semi-classical Indian music that originated in the eastern region of India, specifically in the state of Bihar. It is a style of thumri, which is a type of North Indian classical music that is typically romantic in nature and is often associated with the courtesan culture of India.
Poorab Ang Thumri has a distinct flavor and style that sets it apart from other forms of thumri. The name “Poorab Ang” refers to the eastern aspect of the music, which is reflected in its rhythms, melodies, and lyrics. The music is known for its slow tempo, intricate rhythms, and soulful lyrics.
One of the key features of Poorab Ang Thumri is the use of the “bandish,” which is a poetic composition that serves as the central focus of the music. The bandish is typically written in a language called Braj Bhasha, which is a dialect of Hindi that was popularized by the poet Surdas in the 16th century.
Another notable feature of Poorab Ang Thumri is the use of the “bol-banav,” which is a technique that involves singing the lyrics of the song in a rhythmic and melodic pattern. The bol-banav is often used to create a sense of anticipation and build tension in the music.
Poorab Ang Thumri has been performed by some of the greatest musicians in Indian classical music, including Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Begum Akhtar, and Girija Devi. It continues to be an important part of India’s musical heritage and is enjoyed by audiences around the world.
Lyrics of Thumri
Thumri is a popular genre of Indian classical music that originated in the North Indian region during the 19th century. It is a semi-classical style that blends elements of classical and folk music and is often performed by female vocalists. Thumri is known for its emotive and romantic lyrics, which often explore themes of love, longing, and separation.
The lyrics of Thumri are usually written in Hindi or Urdu and are characterized by their poetic and metaphorical language. The words are chosen carefully to convey deep emotions and to evoke the feelings of the listener. The lyrics are often set to a particular melody, which enhances the emotional impact of the words.
One of the defining features of Thumri is the use of bol-banao, a technique in which the lyrics are sung in a conversational style, as if the singer is speaking directly to the listener. This technique creates an intimate and personal connection between the singer and the audience, and is one of the reasons why Thumri is such a beloved genre of music.
The themes of Thumri lyrics vary widely, but they often explore the complexities of love and relationships. Many Thumris focus on the pain of separation and the longing for a loved one. Others celebrate the joy of being in love, or explore the different stages of a romantic relationship.
Here is an example of Thumri lyrics, written in Hindi:
बार-बार मोरे सैंया, भई जल्दी अब आजा
बिरहा का डर दिल में, जब से तेरी याद आई
चारों ओर अंधेरा है, दूर तक नहीं कोई चिराग़
सूनी सी ये रातें हैं, तुझको बुलाती हुई
जानेमन तुझे हम देखेंगे, हम नहीं रहेंगे दूर
आजा तू हमको बुला ले, जीतेंगे हम हज़ार
Translated into English, these lyrics roughly mean:
My love, come to me quickly
The fear of separation is in my heart since I remembered you
There is darkness all around, no lamp is visible in the distance
These nights are empty, calling out to you
My love, I will see you, we will not be apart
Call me to you, we will conquer a thousand obstacles.
Thumri is a beautiful genre of Indian classical music that is beloved for its emotive and romantic lyrics. The language is poetic and metaphorical, and the lyrics explore themes of love, longing, and separation. The use of bol-banao creates an intimate connection between the singer and the listener, making Thumri a deeply emotional and personal experience.
Classical Thumri is a genre of Indian classical music that originated in the northern regions of India, particularly in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Thumri is a form of semi-classical music that emerged in the 19th century, and over time, different styles and types of Thumri have evolved. Classical Thumri is one such type of Thumri that has its own distinct characteristics and style.
Classical Thumri is characterized by its slow tempo and emotive lyrics, which are often romantic or devotional in nature. The music is usually set to a specific rhythm, such as dadra or kehrwa, and is accompanied by the tabla and harmonium. The lyrics are typically in Hindi, Urdu, or Braj Bhasha, and often use metaphors and imagery to convey the emotions and sentiments of the singer.
One of the defining features of Classical Thumri is the use of ‘bol-baant,’ which is a technique of dividing the lyrics into small segments and repeating them in a melodic and rhythmic manner. This technique adds depth and complexity to the music, and allows the singer to explore different nuances and emotions within the lyrics.
Classical Thumri also emphasizes improvisation and ornamentation, with singers often embellishing the melody with intricate vocal flourishes and ornamentations. This improvisational aspect of the music allows for a great deal of creativity and expression, and is one of the reasons why Classical Thumri is so highly valued in the Indian classical music tradition.
Over the years, many legendary singers and musicians have contributed to the development and popularization of Classical Thumri. Some of the most famous names in the genre include Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Siddheshwari Devi, and Rasoolan Bai, among others. Their performances and recordings have helped to preserve and promote this rich and vibrant form of Indian classical music.
In conclusion, Classical Thumri is a type of Thumri that is characterized by its slow tempo, emotive lyrics, and use of improvisation and ornamentation. It is a highly expressive and nuanced form of music that has played an important role in the development and evolution of Indian classical music.
This is the third pattern of thumri where the composition has high musical value. Here, the text is longer having a literary charm, and the composition may be in a raaga and the rendering restricted to it. Kathaks are better reputed to know this type of thumri. This third type is practiced less frequently nowadays. The reason for this appears to be the fact that bhajana, gita, pada and other such fare, called light music, offer nearly everything that a Bandisa Thumri may have to offer musically.
Bola Banao Thumri:
It is known as artha-bhava. Artha means meaning and bhava means emotions. The bola-banao thumri is performed at a much slower tempo than the bandisa thumri. In the choreographic context, this form was appropriate for dance formats devoid of fast or intricate footwork. By the early twentieth-century, it stabilized at a rendition tempo approximately twice the beat-density of the contemporary bada khayal.
Difference between Thumri and Khayal:
Thumri and Khayal are both forms of North Indian classical music, but there are some key differences between the two. Khayal is a more structured form of classical music that is characterized by its use of complex rhythmic patterns and melodic structures. Thumri, on the other hand, is a more free-form style of music that is characterized by its light and romantic tone. While they share some similarities, there are also several differences between them in terms of their structure, style, and presentation.
Thumri originated in the late 19th century as a lighter form of classical music meant for the entertainment of the royalty and nobility, while Khayal is one of the oldest forms of Indian classical music, dating back to the 14th century.
Thumri is primarily a form of vocal music that expresses the nuances of romantic love and divine love, while Khayal is a more abstract form of classical music that is based on raag and taal.
Thumri has a lighter and more emotive style than Khayal. It employs a lot of vocal ornamentation, including meend, gamak, murki, and bol-bant, to convey the mood and emotions of the song. In contrast, Khayal is more focused on the melody and the technical aspects of the performance, such as the taan, sargam, and alap.
Thumri is usually composed in a shorter format, with a set of stanzas (bandish) that are repeated with variations in melody and rhythm. The lyrics are often in the form of couplets (doha) or quatrains (chaupai). Khayal, on the other hand, is composed in a longer format, with a more extensive exploration of the raag through alap, vilambit, and drut gats.
Thumri is usually performed in a more intimate setting, such as a mehfil or baithak, where the singer and the audience are in close proximity. The performance is often accompanied by a tabla and a harmonium. In contrast, Khayal is usually performed on a stage, accompanied by a full ensemble of musicians, including a tabla, sarangi, and harmonium.
Thumri and Khayal share some common roots, they are distinct forms of North Indian classical music that differ in terms of their origin, theme, style, structure, and presentation.
Noted Thumri Artists:
There have been many notable Thumri artists throughout history, including:
Girija Devi was one of the most renowned Thumri artists of India. She was born in Varanasi and was trained in the Benaras Gharana. Her voice was known for its sweetness and mellifluousness, which she used to great effect in her Thumri renditions. She was also a recipient of several awards, including the Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, and Padma Vibhushan.
Badi Moti Bai:
Badi Moti Bai was a Thumri singer who belonged to the Gwalior Gharana. Her voice was known for its depth and richness, which made her one of the most sought-after Thumri singers of her time. She was also a composer and created several new Thumris during her lifetime.
Shobha Gurtu was a Thumri singer who was known for her versatility and range. She belonged to the Jaipur-Atrauli Gharana and was trained by her mother. Her voice was known for its earthiness and rustic quality, which added a unique flavor to her Thumri renditions.
Siddheshwari Devi was a Thumri singer who was born in Varanasi. She belonged to the Banaras Gharana and was known for her ability to convey deep emotions through her voice. Her Thumri renditions were marked by their sensitivity and grace.
Begum Akhtar was a Thumri singer who belonged to the Patiala Gharana. Her voice was known for its sweetness and purity, which made her one of the most popular Thumri singers of her time. She was also a gifted ghazal singer and was known for her unique style.