Song of the Heart

Hindustani classical vocalist Rita Dev on thumri and how it is about feeling the words while performing tunes from the genre

Published: April 1, 2013 11:23 pm

ONE of the most important lessons a young Rita Dev imbibed from her guru,Girija Devi,was to balance her life. “Balance between my time,children,husband,family,work and my music,” said a petite Dev,who was in Chandigarh for a concert at the Triveni Sangeet Sabha on Saturday. The Assam-born Hindustani classical vocalist of Benares gharana presented an evening of thumri,dadra,chaiti,jhoola and the seasonal Hori.

Dev was initiated into music at an early age by Guru Sri Nirmal Acharjee. In 1991,she was awarded a PhD in music by Benares Hindu University and the prestigious Pt Omkarnath Thakur award. Her desire to evolve a unique and distinctive style saw her being guided by the doyenne of thumri,Girija Devi,for advanced training in khayal,thumri,tappa,dadra,kajri,hori,chaiti and bhajan. Dev also learnt light classical music of Benares gharana from late Pt. Mahadev Prasad Mishra.

“I have always been fond of thumri and Benaras gharana’s gayaki. Thumri lays a lot of stress on words,on feeling each and every one of them and presenting it in your style. It mostly depends on your thought process and the way you view and perceive life,” said Dev,who added that thumri is a challenge to sing as one has to be involved thoroughly. “When I started learning under Girijaji,she said,‘wait till you get married. It will bring more ras and emotion to your music’,” said Dev. She was right. Marriage and children,work as an assistant professor of music in a college in Agra,managing two households in Delhi and Agra,and a musical career has made Dev sing even more beautifully. “Guruji said,‘do your cooking,have kids,manage and enjoy it all as music alone can’t be everything’. One has to live life and everything it has to offer. Age and experience — everything goes into my singing and what better way than to express all this through thumri,” she said with a smile.

It is difficult to shuttle between Delhi and Agra,but Dev credits her supportive husband. Her riyaaz is constant,and she finds time to practice while teaching her students. “I feel disappointed and incomplete the day I do not sing or practice,” said Dev,who also performed with her guru at the President’s residence in New Delhi on Sunday.

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