Sunday, March 31, 2013

Songs for Her Lover: Afroz Bano

Gopis (cow herdesses) and Lord Krishna

Thumri,  a semi-classical genre of Hindustani music, arose out of the love/erotic Bhakti/sufi poetry that described an intimate direct relationship between Divinity and Individual. In particular, the ultimate subject of the thumri is the devotion and love felt for Lord Krishna.

Most thumris are composed and sung in the medieval dialect of Hindi, Braj Bhasa, spoken around Mathura, the northern Indian city associated with Lord Krishna.  It was in the area around Mathura that the Krishna legends and tradition especially captured the imagination of devotees.  Though thumris have been composed and performed in other regional dialects of Hindi, especially Avadhi and Bhojpuri, centered around the cities of Lucknow and Varanasi, respectively,  Braj Bhasa retains its strong hold on the language of this beautiful genre.Even though many listeners would find Braj difficult to follow compared with other dialects.   Some scholars have claimed that Braj has the most vowels of any form of Hindi, making it far easier to sing. But probably the real reason for the thumri staying so attached to the language is that it was, by the 17th century, the recognised literary dialect of north India.  Though the artistocracy used Persian and later Urdu as the ‘official’ and ‘Court’ language, the lingua franca of most people across that part of India known today as the Cow Belt, was Braj Bhasa.  

Thumris are primarily love songs, or intimate songs of devotional love for Krishna told from the perspective of a woman.  Ghazal, that other great genre of North Indian verse, by contrast, usually takes the man’s voice and speaks of the pain of separation.   This does not mean that men do not sing thumri or women are banned from signing ghazals. Most classical singers (male and female) have a vast repertoire of thumris which they render with as much care as any raga.  And where would we be without the ghazals of Farida Khanum or Iqbal Bano?  But the fact remains that thumris , many of which are filled with erotic and intimate imagery, are the ultimate vehicle for the expression of feminine love in Hindustani classical and semi-classical music.

Though the standard thumri  extols the passions that arise within the (female) heart of the Krishna devotee, a subject matter entirely ‘Hindu’, most thumris were written by Muslim musicians. The bulk of the composers remain anonymous and were likely to have been paid court musicians in the courts of large landlords (zamindars) or petty as well as major aristocratic households.  And indeed, the most acclaimed performers of the thumri are or have been Muslim: Khansahib Abdul Karim Khan, Barkat Ali Khan, Begum Akhtar, Iqbal Bano.  Pakistan, the world’s first confessional state, of course has made demands (overt as well as indirect) on artists to transform the subject matter/lyrics of thumris from Krisha-hymns to reflections on more appropriate Islamic themes. And the lyrics have been de-linked from Braj Bhasa and are usually sung in Punjabi. 

Tonight, it is my great pleasure to share an absolutely fantastically rendered collection of 5 thumris by the Indian artist Afroz Bano. Afroz Bano was initiated by Sadullah Khan of Sikar and subsequently trained with Faiyaz and Niyaz Ahmed Khan of the Kirana gharana. Her wide-ranging repertoire of thumri, dadra, and allied forms includes Rajasthani mand and folk songs. A top-grade artiste of All India Radio, Afroz Bano performs regularly and has several commercial albums to her credit, besides lending playback for commercial films and TV.

Track Listing:
01 Balma Nahin Aaye [Tilak Kamod]
02 Nadiya Kinare Moro gaon [Mishra Pilu]
03 Najariya Laagi rahi [Kaushik Dhwani]
04 Kesariya Balam [Mishra Maand]
05 Ho Gayi beriya [Mishra Bhairavi]


Anonymous said...

hey........interesting write up.....thanks ......SJL

Music lover said...

File is no more public pl.make it public thanx

Dr.Bukhari said...

The file you are trying to access is no longer available publicly.