Born in 1929, Girija Devi is a living legend, and one of the few remaining maestros of the Purab ang gayaki tradition of the Benaras gharana. Although renown and revered as the Queen of Thumri, she is equally at home with the traditional 18th century style of classical khyal singing as well as the poetic semi-classical styles like thumri, dadra, tappa, kajri and chaiti.
It was her father Ramdev Rai who inculcated a deep love of classical music in his daughter. At the tender age of 5 Girija Devi began taking music lessons from teachers like sarangi player Pt. Sarju Prasad and Pt. Srichand Misra. Girija Devi’s very first music recital took place in 1949 at the Allahabad branch of All India Radio. Her brilliant renderings of light classical music went on to capture audiences’ hearts worldwide. Girija Devi is also an accomplished composer, and has composed several bandishes and thumri.
Girija Devi’s khyal repertoire is centered around popular ragas and she expounds these ragas with detailed attention to the subtleties of the raga grammar. Her light classical renditions follow the same approach. Despite having the license to explore and improvise her thumris and tappas are firmly grounded on the traditional style of raga development. The melodic progression in her light classical pieces is akin to the alap in a khyal, with clearly defined sthayi and antara sections, within which she weaves a brilliant interplay of poetic, melodic . and rhythmic elements. In her renditions of tappas—a fast paced genre of semi classical music—despite the total architectural freedom available in the genre, she adopts a steady ascent and progression. Graceful melodic contours enhanced by elongated notes (meend) are used to communicate the musical essense of the piece.
Girija Devi was decorated with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1978, the Padma Shri in 1973 and the Padma Bhushan in 1989. She has served a long stint as a guru at the ITC Sangeet Research Academy in Kolkata and continues to guide students even today. (liner notes)
01 Khyal in Raga Bilaskhani [Teental]
02 Hori in Raga Mishra Kafi [Deepchandi taal]
03 Chaiti in Raga Kalingada Mishra [Addha Taal]
04 Bandish Thumri in Raga Bhairavi [Teental]
05 Tappa in Raga Bhairavi [Addha Taal]