Thumri: A Bridge between Different Classical Genres
Partho Datta
MUSIC AND MIND: DEMYSTIFYING THUMRI MAESTROS by By Meenakshi Prasad. With a Foreword by Late Pandit Birju Maharaj Motilal Banarsidass Publications, Delhi, 2023, 326 pp., INR 895.00
July 2024, volume 48, No 7

The author writes in the preface that she grew up listening to music but it was mid-career as a senior officer in a Corporation that she decided to give up her job and commit to learning music full-time. Her quest took her to Savita Devi, the well-known thumri singer. Learning was an immersive experience and she developed a deep bond with her teacher. The nurturing atmosphere of the music school, the camaraderie and friendship of fellow students and the larger ethos of Hindustani music cultures evoked many questions that she has explored in this book. These address the nature of thumri, the aesthetic experience, and the guru-shishya tradition. Her training as a psychology graduate helped to organize and make sense of the experience of performance, place it in the larger context, probe the quirks and idiosyncrasies of maestros, and understand the importance of informal pedagogical conventions. The interaction with thumri teachers and performers adds an ethnographic dimension which is supported by plenty of anecdotal material. The tone is mostly celebratory. The result is a book that is expansive if occasionally rambling.

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