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What is Tappa? Overview of famous Indian Classical Form

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As mentioned in earlier article What is Indian Classical Music? , Indian Classical Music has various divisions like (Hori) Khyaal, Thumari, Tappa, Tarana etc. If a singer wishes to sing Khyaal style, he initially expands Raag through singing. Then he starts Khyaal Cheej in Vilambeet Laya. Then bit by bit, he sings this Cheej in Asthayee and Antara. Once the Raag is beautified with Aalaap Taan and Bol Taan, he then joins Chhota Khyaal in the same Raaga, but in Druta Laya. To end Khyaal, Taanas are sung noticeably.

Tappa is an Indian semi-classical vocal music, with its specialty of rapid, delicate and complex arrangement. ‘Tappa’ means leaping, springing up and hopping. In Tappa singing also, the singer uses an astonishing rule of constant efforts not to stop while singing.

Poetry full of expressions of love and physical intimacy is the salient feature of Tappa. Murkee, Meend, Taan with Gamak are used in this brand of singing that is sung in Jalad Laya (fast). Khamaaj, Kafee, Bhairavee, Pilu are Raagas that are chiefly employed in this style of singing.

It is believed that Tappa was derived from folk music of Punjab and Sindh. It was the folk song of camel-drivers in that region and was developed as a form of classical music by Mian Gulam Nabi Shori or Shori Mian, who was a court singer for the Nawab of Awadh, Asaf-Ud-Dowlah. Therefore, it has Punjabi words in it. The typical word arrangement in Tappa portrays love and partition of any lovers. Tappa style of singing is attractive to the ears, with its remarkable feature of bounce and re-bounce of musical notes.

Tappa employs Ragas like Khamaj, Jhinjhoti, Kafi, Tilang, Bhairavi, Des, which conveys affection and light tempers or sadness, with its vigorous Taan and irregular musical tones of voice. Tappa singing has complex Taans. The lyrics are sung in irregular speed and pronunciation. This style of Tappa singing is a specialty of Gwalior gharana, with its beautification with geetkari, khatka, mukri and harkat. The lyrics in Tappa are very short and not as richly controlled as in khayal or thumri. Needless to say, this breathless form of Tappa singing demands an immense skill over pleasing musical aspect, as the singer has to manage incessantly.

In Maharashtra also, Tappa singing has its influence on romantic Lawani, religious Kirtan and theatrical Natya Sangeet.

Bade Ramdasji, Siddheshwari Devi, Girija Devi, Rajabhau Kogje, Ganesh Prasad Mishra, Rajan and Sajan Mishra, Krishnarao Pandit, Rajabhaiyya Panchawale, Balasaheb Panchawale, Sharad Akolkar, Jaal Balaporia, Sharad Sathe, Neela Bhagwat, Malini Rajurkar, Kumar Gandharva, Jitendra Abhisheki, Vijay Koparkar, Arti Ankalikar, Asha Khadilkar, Manjiri Asnare are some of the names of the accomplished Tappa singers.

Tappa is rarely heard in musical concerts these days, as it is a extremely difficult style. Also, the number of competent singers has decreased suddenly in the recent past. Thus Tappa is unquestionably an ‘endangered’ form of music now. Yet, many singers, instrumentalists and some gharanas have initiated to combine Tappa with khayal, to give rise to a compound form known as ‘Tapkhayal’.