As the concert season continues, music veterans say folk genres such as thumri, qawwali and kajri aren’t losing out to other popular styles of music. But they do need more government support.
‘Qawwali changed from worship to romance’
Sabri Brothers (Qawwali)
Qawwali is a form of ibaadat (worship). Although it has undergone several changes, we believe they have been for the better. The genre stepped out of dargahs and made its way to Bollywood. Our qawwali ‘Nahi hona tha’ from the film Pardes (1997) is fondly remembered even now. Also, these days, a lot of film songs are inspired by the qawwali rhythm, with a lot of Sufi elements in them. The most drastic change has been that the genre has gone from being a form of worship to attaining a more romantic streak. But with Sufi music doing so well, the future of qawwali looks safe.
‘Kajri acts are more organised now’
Pandit Channulal Mishra (Kajri)
Kajri is evolving, just like any other style of music. The traditional rendition used to involve a call-and-answer singing style between two groups. The way it used to be sung was very disorganised. The two groups would just go on singing with a dholak. Now, it has become a form of gaayaki (singing). It’s a lot more organised now. Since I’ve been part of the earlier tradition and have seen the genre undergo the change, I enjoy both the trends.
‘I’m training 40 young students’
Girija Devi (thumri and kajri)
I think the main elements in thumri are the words and the expressions. If they remain unaltered, the genre is safe. Over the years, I have brought about several changes in the style because my emphasis has always been on words. I still perform across the world and there is an audience. I don’t know what the future the holds for thumri, but I’m training 40 young students, who are very enthusiastic.
As far as genres like kajri, chaiti and holi are concerned; they’ve been around for ages. Lately, we’ve seen classical elements being added to traditional kajris. The genre is still in demand and whenever I have concerts, I always get requests for it. Apart from my students, I’m sure the admirers of kajri will keep it alive.
‘Sufi element attracts youth’
Sarfaraz Chishti (chishti Brothers (Qawwali)
Qawwali is an 800-year-old genre that originated in
dargahs (religious shrines). While initially it involved intricate singing and weighty words, it gradually became lighter in essence — helping it attract a wider audience. In fact, it’s more popular today than ever before. The Sufi element in the genre has attracted many youngsters, who form a huge chunk of our audience. This can be gauged from the fact that we perform a lot at youth festivals, cultural nights and even weddings. A lot of young people are showing interest in learning qawwali, even though it is a very difficult style to master.
‘Government needs to preserve this art’
Malini Awasthi(thumri and dadra)
When it comes to expressing the feeling of love, no genre does it better than thumri. But things have really changed over the years, for both thumri and dadra. These arts can only be learnt under a great guru (teacher), one who is well-equipped to explain the true meaning of the genres. I think today we lack good gurus. Plus, the learner must also have a will to innovate. Also, you have to be well-versed in classical music. Today, people take degrees in music from popular institutions, but don’t imbibe the essence in their performances. So the number of thumri concerts has gone down. Though I always get a packed show, it’s never a concert that’s dedicated only to thumri or dadra.
I think it’s time that the government and the sponsors take initiatives to preserve this heritage art.
Popular folk music in bollywood
‘Humein to loot liya mil kehusn walon ne’(Al Hila, 1958)
‘Aae meri zohra zabeen’ (Waqt, 1965)
‘Parda hai parda’ (Amar Akbar Anthony, 1977)
Piya haji ali, (Fiza, 2000)
‘Khwaja mere khwaja’ (Jodha Akbar, 2008)
‘Babul mora naihar chhooto hi jaaye’ (Street Singer, 1937)
‘Kanha’ (Veer, 2009)
‘Abhi na jao chhodkar’ (Hum Dono, 1961)
‘Lag jaa gale’ (Woh Kaun Thi? (1964)
‘Aaye ho meri zindagi mein’ (Raja Hindustani, 1996)