The music of Thumbprint is infused with the sounds of South Asia, melding classical Hindustani music with western classical music.
Kamala Sankaram, who is both the piece’s composer and plays the leading role of Mukhtar Mai, has woven traditional instruments – piano, flute, violins, drums, and what you’d expect in a band – with some that are not often seen in opera.
The sounds that form the musical language of Thumbprint and provide its regional nuances come from the traditional instruments of South Asia.
Harmonium – like an accordion, the harmonium is a small pump organ.
You’ll hear the harmonium prominently in the ragas Sankaram has composed. It is used primarily in the sections featuring the men who have perpetrated crimes against Mukhtar. Learn more about the harmonium here and see it played below.
Tabla – the tabla is a set of percussion instruments. Two sets of tabla are used in Thumbprint to because there are different ragas and tonal centers in the show.
It is revered as the queen of drums and the most popular Indian rhythm instrument. Musicians typically play two of them – the Bayan is the larger brass drum and the Dayan is the smaller one. Together, the drums make up the tabla. Learn more about the tabla here.
Dhol – also a percussion instrument, the Dhol is a double headed drum used primarily as accompaniment.
It’s played using wooden sticks – sometimes one, others using two. The two ends of the drum have different pitches – the larger is a much deeper bass sound, while the smaller end has a much higher note. Dhols have made music since the 15th century and are used throughout the South Asian region in both formal and informal dance performances.
Someone who plays a dhol is referred to as a dholi. Check out this one:
Although they give you a sense of the sounds of the show, these quick samples don’t do the music of Thumbprint justice. If you haven’t picked up a ticket to see the show, do so soon…they’re going fast.
To purchase tickets to Thumbprint, click here.LA Opera is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the greater good.