Thumri is the single most popular and important sub-genre of Trinidadian and Guyanese local-classical music. At a typical song session e.g. a wedding) in these countries, once the obligatory Dhrupad and Tillana have been dispensed with, most of the subsequent pieces consist of Thumris, interspersed with Ghazals, Bhajans, and other miscellaneous items. As such, Thumris may be said to constitute almost half of the local-classical music repertoire, both in live performances as well as on recordings. Moreover, Thumri’s particularly idiosyncratic and distinctive form makes it quintessentially representative of the sorts of transformative and generative processes which have animated the evolution of local-classical music.
Understanding the evolution of Thumri, in many respects, would provide a key to reconstructing local-classical music history in general. Unfortunately, much of its development remains obscure, although analysis can reveal certain insights. The modern North Indian Thumri, although stylistically and technically ‘semi-classical’, rest fully in the social milieu of Hindustani classical music. Despite the democratization of certain aspects of North Indian arts culture, Thumri in India is little heard outside of urban concert halls attended by bourgeois arts patrons. However, during the period of indentured emigration to the Caribbean, Thumri- whether in simple or evolved form-may have enjoyed a somewhat broader-based dissemination.
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