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In Hindustani music, there are 10 main forms of styles of singing and compositions: Dhrupad, Dhamar, Hori, Khayal, Tappa, Chaturang, Ragasagar, Tarana, Sargam and Thumri. Nowadays Ghazals have become very popular as the 'light classical' form of music.




The word 'Dhrupad' is derived from 'Dhruva' meaning fixed and 'pada' meaning words or song. Therefore, the term dhrupad means "the literal rendering of verse into music" and so the songs have a particularly potent impact. Dhrupad is the oldest and perhaps the grandest form of Hindustani vocal music. It is said to have descended from older forms like the Prabandha and the Dhruvapada.  Dhrupad was essentially devotional in essence. In fact, prior to the reign of Akbar it was performed almost exclusively in temples. Dhrupad reached its pinnacle of glory during Akbar's reign when stalwarts like Swami Haridas, Baba Gopal Das, Tansen and Baiju Bawra performed it. By the 13th century AD, Dhrupad as a form of music was well developed.  It was adapted for court performance during the reign of Raja Man Singh Tomar (1486-1517) of Gwalior. Swami Haridas and his disciple Tansen have also greatly contributed in its development. Haridas  Haridas and his disciple Tansen have also helped in its development. Dhrupad has been in decline since the 18th century. Dhrupad is essentially a poetic form incorporated into an extended presentation style marked by precise and orderly elaboration of a raga. The exposition preceding the composed verses is called alap, and is usually the longest portion of the performance. Dhrupad compositions have four parts or stanzas. A dhrupad recital typically consists of one or two male vocalists accompanied by the Tanpura and Pankhawaj. Dhrupad compositions are usually written in Braj Bhasha, though sometimes Punjabi, Rajasthani, Bengali and Urdu are also used. Originally, the compositions were written in Sanskrit. The Sangeeta Ratnakara of Sarangadeva (12th century A.D) contains a detailed description of five major styles or geetis, of Shastriya Sangeet - 'Shuddha', 'Bhinna', 'Ghodi', 'Sadharani' and 'Vesura'. Of these the only one surviving in its original form today is the 'Sadharani geeti' which is the Dhrupad sung by the Dagars. There are four forms of Dhrupad singing: Dagar Bani, Khandaar Bani, Nauhar Bani and Gauhar Bani. The Dagar Bani, which is the leading school today, has survived changing musical patterns and presents this art form in all its originality. At present, the only renowned exponents of this genre of music are the Dagar brothers (Rajasthan) and Pandit Ram Chatur Mullick (West Bengal). Other important exponents of this form of singing are Bhavani Shankar Majumdar, Phalguni Mitra, Siyaram Tiwari, Abhay Narayan Mallick and Vidur Mallick from Darbhanga.


Khayal literally means ‘a stray thought’, ‘a lyric’ and  'an imagination'. This is the most prominent genre of Hindustani vocal music depicting a romantic style of singing. Khayal originated as a popular form of music in the 18th century AD and was ultimate in the blending of Hindu and Persian cultures. Its origins are a mystery. Some people trace its origins to 'Sadarang' Nyaamat Khan, a beenkaar in the Mughal court of Muhammad Shah 'Rangila'. Others believe that Khayal singing was the invention of Hussein Shah Sharqi.  The most important features of a Khayal are 'Tans' or the running glides over notes and 'Bol-tans' which distinguishes it from Dhrupad. Khayal is dependent to a large extent on the imagination of the performer and the improvisations he is able to incorporate. Khayals are of two varieties: Vilambit (slow tempoed) and Drut (fast tempoed). A Khayal is also composed in a particular raga and tala and has a brief text. The Khayal texts range from praise of kings or seasons, description of seasons to the pranks of Lord Krishna, divine love and sorrow of separation. The texts contain rhyme, alliteration and play on words. Generally composed in the archaic Hindi dialect known as Brij Bhasha, khayal songs are also found in languages like Bhojpuri, Punjabi, Urdu, Rajasthani, Marathi and occasionally Sanskrit. Essentially, the tanpura and tabla accompany khayal performances. Other ensembles include the sarangi, harmonium, violin and swarmandal. There are six main gharanas in khayal: Delhi, Patiala, Agra, Gwalior, Kirana and Atrauli-Jaipur. Gwalior Gharana is the oldest and is also considered the mother of all other gharanas. The Agra Gharana was founded by Haji Sujan Khan, the Jaipur-Atroli Gharana was founded by Ustad Allaudin Khan and the Kirana Gharana was pioneered by Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan and Ustad Abdul Karim Khan. Among the other eminent khayal singers, mention may be made of Faiyaz Khan, Amir Khan, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Kishori Amonkar, Bhimsen Joshi, Pandit Jasraj, Sawai Gandharva, Sureshbabu Mane, Balakrishnabuwa Kapileswari, Roshanara Begum, Hirabai Barodekar, Feroz Dastur, Gangubai Hangal, Manik Verma, Saraswati Rane and Prabha Atre. Some of the renowned khayal singers are C.R.Vyas, Rashid Khan, Shubha Maudgalya, Ajoy Chakraborty, Shahid Parvez, Shruti Sadolikar, Ashvini Bhede Deshpande, Mukul Shivputra and Meeta Pandit.


Thumri originated in the Eastern part of Uttar Pradesh, mainly in Lucknow and Benares, around the 18th century AD and was believed to be first patronised in the court of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of Lucknow. Thumri was developed by the famous musician Sadiq Ali Shah. It is believed to have been influenced by hori, kajri and dadra, popular in Eastern Uttar Pradesh.  Some people consider that an older musical presentation called chalika, described in the Harivansha (400 AD), to be the precursor of Thumri. Thumri is supposed to be a romantic and erotic style of singing and is also called “the lyric of Indian classical music”. The song compositions are mostly of love, separation and devotion. Its most distinct feature is the erotic subject matter picturesquely portraying the various episodes from the lives of Lord Krishna and Radha. They are usually sung in slower tempo, giving more importance to the lyrics with short alaps. Thumris are composed in lighter ragas and have simpler talas. Thumri is generally written in Braj Bhasha, Khari Boli and Urdu. A Thumri recital typically consists of one or two male/female vocalists accompanied by sarangi and/or harmonium, tanpura and tabla. A Thumri is usually performed as the last item of a Khayal concert. There are three main gharanas of thumri -- Benaras, Lucknow and Patiala. Qadar Piya, Sanad Piya, Lallan Piya, Kenwar Shyam, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah and Rang Piya are some well-known thumri singers of the Lucknow Gharana. Rasoolan Bai, Siddeshwari Devi and Girja Devi are exponents of the Benaras style of thumri. Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, one of the most famous thumri singers, belonged to the Patiala Gharana. Shobha Gurtu is a renowned contemporary singer of thumri.


 Dadra bears a close resemblance to the Thumri. The texts are as amorous as those of Thumris. The major difference is that dadras have more than one antara and are in dadra tala. Singers usually sing a dadra after a thumri.


These compositions are similar to Dhrupad but are chiefly associated with the festival of Holi. Here the compositions are specifically in praise of Lord Krishna. This music, sung in the dhamar tala, is chiefly used in festivals like Janmashthami, Ramnavami and Holi. Hori is a type of dhrupad sung on the festival of Holi. The compositions here describe the spring season. These compositions are mainly based on the love pranks of Radha-Krishna.


The tappa is said to have developed in the late 18th Century AD from the folk songs of camel drivers. The credit for its development goes to Shorey Mian or Ghulam Nabi of Multan. Tappa literally means 'jump' in Persian.  They are essentially folklore of love and passion and are written in Punjabi.  Its beauty lies in the quick and intricate display of various permutations and combinations of notes. The compositions are very short and are based on Shringara Rasa. It is rather strange that even though the Tappa lyrics are in Punjabi, Tappa is not sung in Punjab. Varanasi and Gwalior are the strongholds of Tappa. Bengal has also been greatly influenced by the Tappa style, where Ramnidhi Gupta created a special kind of songs, called Bangla Toppa, after the same kind of music from Punjab called Shori Mia's Toppa. He set his romantic lyrics on melodies, which were based on Hindustani classical music. Later his songs became popular as Nidhubabur Toppa. Even today this kind of songs are heard in Bengal, especially in Calcutta. But the numbers of both the exponents and audience of this kind of music are waning fast. Chandidas Maal is one of the last few performers of these songs. Others persons who created the same kind of songs in Bengal include Sridhar Kathak, Gopal Ude and Amritolal Basu to name a few. Some of the eminent tappa singers include Krishna Rao, Shankar Pandit, Nidhu Babu, Mian Gammu, Shadi Khan, Babu Ram Shai, Nawab Hussain Ali Khan, Mammi Khan, Chajju Khan, Sher Khan and Girija Devi.


Ragasagar consists of different parts of musical passages in different ragas as one song composition. These compositions have 8 to 12 different ragas and the lyrics indicate the change of the ragas. The peculiarity of this style depends on how smoothly the musical passages change along with the change of ragas.


Tarana is a style consisting of peculiar syllables woven into rhythmical patterns as a song. It is usually sung in faster tempo.


Chaturang denotes four colours or a composition of a song in four parts: Fast Khayal, Tarana, Sargam and a "Paran" of Tabla or Pakhwaj.


The ghazal is mainly a poetic form than a musical form, but it is more song-like than the thumri. The ghazal is described as the "pride of Urdu poetry". The ghazal originated in Iran in the 10th Century AD. It grew out of the Persian qasida, a poem written in praise of a king, a benefactor or a nobleman. The ghazal never exceeds 12 shers (couplets) and on an average, ghazals usually have about 7 shers. The ghazal found an opportunity to grow and develop in India around 12th Century AD when the Mughal influences came to India, and Persian gave way to Urdu as the language of poetry and literature. Even though ghazal began with Amir Khusro in northern India, Deccan in the south was its home in the early stages. It developed and evolved in the courts of Golconda and Bijapur under the patronage of Muslim rulers. The 18th and 19th centuries are regarded as the golden period of the ghazal with Delhi and Lucknow being its main centres.


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