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vocal styles

Dhrupad- Dhrupad is an ancient, powerful, and extremely revered form of vocal classical music. In modern times, its quite rare to be able to listen to pure dhrupad in the Sanskrit language. Although we are unable to make definite remarks regarding the origin of dhrupad, we know for sure that it is one of the oldest forms of singing in Indian Classical Music. It was a very popular form 500-600 years ago, and all musicians in Akbar's court were dhrupad singers. Tansen was a jewel amongst all dhrupad vocalists, and was the supreme disciple of Swami Haridas. Dhrupad is even more comprehensive and powerful compared to forms such as khayal, with dhrupad's 4 main parts being asthayi, antara, sanchari, and abhogi, each part usually having 3-4 verses each. Dhrupad is a relatively serious and masculine vocal form of music, with a predominance of moods such as veer rasa (heroic mood), shringar rasa (erotic mood), shanta rasa (mood of tranquility). The language is of high quality and meaning. Dhrupad is sung in taals such as chautaal, soolphak, jhampa, tevra, brahma, rudra, etc. There is no "Tan" activity in dhrupad, and dhrupad was presented with various forms of gamak, layakari, bol-tan, etc.

Khayal- Khayal is a persian word. Sultan Hussein Turki (ट) established khayal gayaki. The singer, using creativity, presents different swars in vilambit laya. Khayal did not always have the same reputation and status that it enjoys today. After dhrupad/dhamaar, khayal became very prominent in classical singing. Artists Sadarang and Adarang, vocalists with an exquisite degree of talent, composed several compositions in khayal gayaki under the emperor Muhammad Shah's court. Their work helped to popularize and expand the form of singing. Khayal gayaki can be performed in tilwada, teentaal, ektaal, jhoomra, ada-chautaal, and roopak. The shringar rasa is upheld to a great extent, and components of compositions often include emphasis, variety of words, purity, etc. Unlike dhrupad, there are no laya restrictions. It includes two main parts: the asthayi and antara. The vocalist is expected to adhere closely to the rules of the raag. The vocalist enjoys greater independence (khayal = thought) and also explores improvisation in the predominant alaap portion. Bada khayal is the vilambit portion of khayal, after which chhota khayal is presented in a faster speed. Khayal, today, is regarded as a rich, enjoyable, and reputable form of singing.

Thumri- Thumri originated from the presentation idea of combining dance and singing at the same time. Lucknow Nawab Wajid Ali (under pen name / singer name Akhtar Pia) composed many thumris. Thumri is a very romantic form of singing and has two parts: sthaai and antara. Many times, in thumri, the love between Radha and Krishna is expressed, oftentimes including the separation of both lovers. Thumri concludes by playing laggi at a very fast speed. It is normally sung in piloo, khafi, and khamaaj. It is also a shringar rasa predominant form. It is sung in taal punjabi (a version of teentaal), deepchandi, addha, and keherwa, in madhya laya. Although in the past the elite class did not consider thumri to be a primary form of singing, it is undoubtedly a very difficult and praiseworthy style. Lucknow and Benares are well known cities for thumri, yet Uttar Pradesh remains the highlight for the best thumri.


Bhajan- Appreciation of God and stories of God’s miracles, some spiritual advice, and devotional composition are included in bhajans. Many spectacular poets and saints from India have composed bhajans for spiritual purposes and bhakti. The importance of this style is that it can be done alone or in a group singing together, in which devotion towards God is expressed. Instruments used in accompanying bhajan are pakhawaaj, tabla, and tal. The most common theka used in accompanying bhajan is the bhajani theka. Various abhanga are concluded by playing a tod-tihai (small tihai). Example: dhinSSta SkedhinS taSkedhin StaSke | dhin. Two albums of Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, Abhang Waani and Sant Waani, have become very popular.

Ghazal- Ghazal is a vocal form sung either in Parsi or Urdu language, in taals such as pashto, deepchandi, etc. Ghazal's predominant rasa is the shringar rasa. Themes such as the calling of love, separation sorrow, etc are found in ghazal compositions. Ghazal lyrics are often aesthetic, delicate, pleasing, and full of rich literary content and meaning. Several verses are labeled as "antara," and all antaras are sung in a similar fashion. Sung in ragas of light nature such as kafi, khamaj, and pilu, ghazal exemplifies and places importance on lyrical meaning, linguistics, and emotions such as love.

Taraana- Another singing style similar to khayal gayaki. It is said that Amir Khusro invented taraana in the 13th century. The words sung have no meaning (tadim, tadare, tundir, derena, etc). In taraana, the two parts are asthayi and antara. Taans are also used in taraana. At the end of taraana, the speed is increased and the bandish is sung again. The same bandish is presented in different layas as the speed increases. Although it has meaningless words, it can give the essence of drut laya (which is the main characteristic of taraana). In drut laya, the taraana is improvised in a similar fashion to sitar playing. It was created to stop the boundary of words as making a song out of words requires meaning and the words need to have a specific syllable count. In taraana, there are various phrases with different syllable counts, which can be organized in a multitude of ways.

Tappa- Compared to dhrupad and khayal, tappa is a brief and restless type of vocal music. There is a lesser number of words. The two parts of tappa are the asthayi and antara, and the taals employed in tappa are the ones used by khayal singers. It's a light form with a predominance of shringar rasa, sung in raags such as kafi, jhinjhoti, khamaj, pilu, barwa, bhairavi, etc. This form was popularized by Shouri Miyan, and the origin seems to be Punjabi as this form oftentimes utilizes Punjabi language words. Tappa singers utilize a fast tempo and attempt to present an attracting and fascinating experience. The tappa may be sung in a laya that is vilambit or madhya, yet the pronunciation of bols in tappa is fast, rapid, and surprising.

Chaturanga, trivat, and hori are also amongst the main styles of vocal singing in Hindustani Classical.

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