Thumri singer Savita Devi,who will perform at the Delhi Classical Music Festival,goes down memory lane to talk about her mother the legendary Siddheshwari Devi
It was in Varanasi,the city where even the most obscure notes find residence,that a young Savita Devi began to learn the art of singing thumris,kajris,tappas and chaitis from her mother,the legendary thumri singer Siddheshwari Devi. I think I must have heard the first notes of thumri when I was in my mothers womb, says the 70-year-old,who is now based in Gurgaon.
Savita Devi is one of the foremost performers of the Purab Ang thumri gayaki today,apart from khayal gayaki of the kirana gharana,and will be seen in concert along with shehnai maestro Pandit Daya Shankar on the third day of the Delhi Classical Music Festival,which starts today. Organised by the Punjabi Academy in collaboration with Delhi governments Department of Art,Culture and Languages,the five-day festival will be held at Kamani Auditorium.
Savita Devi talks about learning from her mother an exacting purist whose temper was well-known to those who were under her tutelage and also to those who performed with her. And that is precisely why the eloquence of her bol-banao style of thumri and her perfect vocal expressions remains without any antecedent in the history of thumri music. The note had to be perfect. She would not tolerate a single taan that had a besura note in it, says Savita Devi,adding that her mother would even be particular about the pallu of the sari,and how it could not move an inch away from the shoulder.
But she admits that it was her mothers strict training that made her work so hard,learn the style and inherit the rich tradition. For me,music is worship and that is the only way,I have understood it, says the artiste,who also runs the Siddheshwari Devi Academy of Music in Gurgaon.
As for other performances at the sixth edition of the festival,it will open today with a recital by Wasifuddin Dagar,a name synonymous with dhrupad devotional music that originated in 12th century and is said to be the oldest surviving form of classical music in India. This will be followed by a recital by santoor maestro Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma. The highlight of the second day will be Imrat Khan,a legendary sitar player and Ustad Vilayat Khans younger brother,whose performance will be preceded by vocalist Venkatesh Kumar.
The finale will feature 103-year-old Ustad Abdul Rashid Khan,the oldest dhrupad artiste in India,and will conclude with a performance by Pandit Jasraj,the torchbearer of Mewati gharana,whose bhajans are as much revered as the classical ragas.