A wholesome rendition by Rajendra Sijuar

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Rajendra Sijuar conveyed the nuances of the Banarasi ang at the Thumri-Kajri Utsav

Apart from providing respite from heat, monsoon ushers in a celebratory mood, best expressed through music. Many Hindustani music festivals, such as the Malhar Festival and those that focus on thumri, dadra and chaiti, are timed during this season. And there are raags sung especially during monsoon.

Thumri, the most popular genre of Hindustani music, is a fine blend of the classical and folk. Under it, seasonal folk genres like Kajri, Chaiti, Hori etc have also developed, of which Kajri is the soul of the rains. With its leisurely and abstract techniques like the ‘Bol-Banaav’, which conveys the meaning of the text musically, thumri is instantly appealing to listeners who are not steeped in the classical tradition. It’s no wonder, therefore, that the annual Thumri-Kajri Utsav organised by Kala Prakash in Varanasi is remarkably popular among music lovers. This year too, the organisation’s founder-chairman, Ashok Kapoor, decided to hold the festival virtually.

The festival showcased Rajendra Sijuar, a disciple of Pt. Rajan-Sajan Mishra, streamed live from Gaya, a city famous for its thumri tradition, like the Purab ang and Punjab ang thumris. One expected the Gaya flavour in Rajendra’s concert, but being groomed under the Mishra Bandhus, he presented Banarasi thumris and kajris.

An unusual choice

Opening with a traditional thumri in raag Tilang, ‘Deejo mohe nai chunari mangay’, set to Deepchandi taal, Rajendra impressed with his unusual selection of raag. Normally, thumri concerts begin with Mishra-Khamaj, where the ‘Mishra’ indicates the possibility of taking liberties with Khamaj. Here was a thumri singer who started with Tilang and treated it faithfully.

The slow tempo of Deepchandi taal helped him elaborate, expand and embellish the song-text. The leisurely elaboration keeping in rhythm of the theka played on the tabla had imaginative ‘bol-banaav’, where the singer chose words and phrases from the thumri and gradually decorated them with a variety of swara combinations.

After the ‘Sanyog Shringar’ thumri, celebrating togetherness, with the nayika requesting her beloved for a colourful chunari, came the ‘Viyog-Shringar’, the pathos of separation, conveyed through the popular thumri, ‘Mora saiyan bulave aadhi raat, nadiya bairan bhai’, in raag Desh, set to Addha Theka of Teentaal.

The thumris were followed with a traditional dadra, ‘Kaise bedardi se pale pade hain, mose bharaave gagaria’, in Manjh-Khamaj, set to the lilting gait of Dadra taal.

To conclude, Rajendra sung a couple of kajris describing the beauty of badariya — dark rain clouds. The kajri, ‘Barsan lagi badariya sawan ki, mori dhani chunariya bhij gai’ in Pilu was followed by the popular ‘Barsan lagi badariya room, jhoom ke’.

Rajendra’s open-throated singing and sensitive treatment of the repertoire impressed. Each piece ended in a brilliant laggi, with the tabla artiste Dinesh Kumar bringing in amazing rhythmic variations. The harmonium accompaniment by Sarvottam Kumar matched the subtleties in the compositions and vocals. Rajendra Sijuar dedicated his concert to the late Pt. Rajan Mishra.

The Delhi-based writer focusses on Hindustani music.

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