Khayal is a semi-classical genre of singing that originated from the courts of royals in Awadh. Khayal in Urdu means imagination. Khayal got this name because it is based on a lover’s imagination of his/her beloved. This genre is different from the folk genres of Uttar Pradesh such as Kajari, Chaiti and Birha because of its delicate ornamentation of phrases that derives have more importance than the original text of the lyrics. Amir Khusrau, a great Sufi poet and father of Ghazal, developed the Khayal genre of Hindustani classical music in the thirteenth century.
Khayal has various similarities with other genres. For example, typical of Indian classical music genres, Khayal too is modal with a single melodic line that has very little or no harmonic parts. The modes are called Raga, and each Raga is a complicated framework of melodic rules. Khayal is primarily based on a repertoire of short songs that usually varies between 2 to 16 lines depending upon theme and mood. Nevertheless contrary to Thumari and Dhrupad, a Thumri singer has more space for improvisation. A Thumri singer uses the lyrics as raw material for improvisation, accompanied by a set of 2 Hand-drums, a Tabla and usually a Harmonium or Bowed-String instrument such as the Sarangi. As the songs are short, and performances long, the lyrics lose much of their importance.
The story of Khayal is inseparable with the system of Muslim family styles that is popularly called ‘Gharanas’. About a dozen Khayal Gharanas are well known in India. Each Gharana has originated in a particular city or at a particular court, each developed their own techniques and style, based on what they came to emphasize their own take on raga. Two of the famous exponents of Khayal singers are Fahim-ud-Din Dagar and Waheed-ud-Din Dagar who are otherwise known for their Dhrupad singing. Apart from that Inayat Hussein Khan, Mahboob Hussein Khan and Rashid Khan are other well-known Khayal singers of Uttar Pradesh.