Indian classical music

Indian classical music
Indian Music
Indian classical music
Carnatic music
Hindustani music
Core Concepts
Shruti · Swara · Alankar · Rāga · Tāla

The origins of Indian classical music can be found in the Vedas, which are the oldest scriptures in the Hindu tradition. Indian classical music has also been significantly influenced by, or syncretised with, Indian folk music and Persian music. The Samaveda, one of the four Vedas, describes music at length. The Samaveda was derived from the Rigveda so that its hymns could be sung as Samagana; this style evolved into jatis and eventually into ragas. Bharat's Natyashastra was the first treatise laying down fundamental principles of dance, music, and drama.

Indian classical music is both elaborate and expressive. Like Western classical music, it divides the octave into 12 semitones of which the 7 basic notes are, in ascending tonal order, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni Sa for Hindustani music and Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni Sa for Carnatic music, similar to Western music's Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do. However, Indian music uses just-intonation tuning, unlike most modern Western classical music, which uses the equal-temperament tuning system.

Indian classical music is monophonic in nature and based around a single melody line, which is played over a fixed drone. The performance is based melodically on particular ragas and rhythmically on talas. Because of the focus on exploring the raga, performances have traditionally been solo endeavors, but duets are gaining in popularity.


Notation system

Indian music is traditionally taught via oral methods, and until the 20th century did not employ notations as the primary media of instruction, understanding, or transmission. The rules of Indian music and compositions themselves are taught from a guru to a shishya, in person. Various Indian music schools follow notations and classifications (see Melakarta and thaat); these are generally based on a notation system created by Bhatkhande.

Hindustani music

Hindustani music is mainly found in North India. Khyal and dhrupad are its two main forms, but there are several other classical and semi-classical forms. There is a significant amount of Persian influence in Hindustani music in terms of the instruments, style of presentation, and ragas such as Hijaz Bhairav, Bhairavi, Bahar, and Yaman. Also, as is the case with Carnatic music, Hindustani music has assimilated various folk tunes. For example, ragas such as Kafi and Jaijaiwanti, are based on folk tunes. Players of the tabla, a type of drum, usually keep the rhythm, an indicator of time in Hindustani music. Another common instrument is the stringed tanpura, which is played at a steady tone (a drone) throughout the performance of the raga. This task traditionally falls to a student of the soloist, a task which might seem monotonous but is, in fact, an honour and a rare opportunity for the student who gets it. Other instruments for accompaniment include the sarangi and the harmonium. Emotions are the prime themes of the different ragas in Hindustani classical music.

The performance usually begins with a slow elaboration of the raga, known as badhat. This can range from long (30–60 minutes) to short (8–10 minutes) depending on the raga, the style and preference of the musician, and the medium (LP records and All India Radio performance times had a fixed upper limit). Once the raga is established, the ornamentation around the mode begins to become rhythmical, gradually speeding up; this section is called the drut in vocal performances or the jor in instrumental performances.

Carnatic music

Carnatic music, from South India, tends to be significantly more structured than Hindustani music. Examples of this are the logical classification of ragas into melakarthas, and the use of fixed compositions similar to Western classical music. Carnatic raga elaborations are generally much faster in tempo and shorter than their equivalents in Hindustani music. The opening piece is called a varnam, and is a warm-up for the musicians. A devotion and a request for a blessing follows, then a series of interchanges between ragams (unmetered melody) and thaalams (the ornamentation, equivalent to the jor). This is intermixed with hymns called krithis. The pallavi or theme from the raga then follows. Carnatic pieces also have notated lyrical poems that are reproduced as such, possibly with embellishments and treatments according to the performer's ideology; these pieces are called compositions.

Carnatic music is similar to Hindustani music in that it is improvised (see musical improvisation). Primary themes include worship, descriptions of temples, philosophy, and nayaka-nayaki (Sanskrit "hero & heroine") themes. Tyagaraja (1759–1847), Muthuswami Dikshitar (1776–1827) and Syama Sastri (1762–1827) are known as the Trinity of Carnatic music, while Purandara Dasa (1480–1564) is the father of Carnatic music.


Instruments typically used in Hindustani music include the sitar, sarod, surbahar, tanpura, bansuri, shehnai, sarangi, santoor, pakhavaj and tabla. Instruments typically used in Carnatic music include venu, gottuvadyam, harmonium, veena, mridangam, kanjira, ghatam and violin.

The fundamental authoritative work on the subject of Indian instruments, Bharatiya Sangeet Vadya, was based on years of research carried out by Dr. Lalmani Misra.


Ancient texts give fundamental rules of Indian music but the modern writings of Omkarnath Thakur, Lalit Kishore Singh, Lalmani Misra, Acharya Brahaspati, Thakur Jaidev Singh, R. C. Mehta, Premlata Sharma, Subhadra Choudhary, Indrani Chakravarty, Ashok Ranade, Aban E. Mistry, and contemporary ones of Pushpa Basu, Prabha Atre, Ragini Trivedi, Ravi Sharma, Swatantra Sharma, Saubhagyavardhan Brahaspati, Suneera Kasliwal, and the like have given a rigorous basis to the Indian music system. Besides these, scholars from other streams[1] have also written about Indian music. There are a number of biographies of Indian musicians[2] although some critics[3] feel that Indian biographers have not paid due attention to the music.[4][5]


There have been many notable vocalists from Indian classical music, these include Tansen, Kesarbai Kerkar, Roshan Ara Begum, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar, M. S. Subbulakshmi, G. N. Balasubramaniam, M. Balamuralikrishna, Jon B. Higgins, Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, Abdul Karim Khan, Abdul Wahid Khan, Faiyaz Khan, Amir Khan, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Kumar Gandharva, Bhimsen Joshi, Mogubai Kurdikar, Prabha Atre, Kishori Amonkar, Ulhas Kashalkar, Rashid Khan, D. V. Paluskar, Vinayakrao Patwardhan, Narayanrao Vyas, Basavaraj Rajguru, Mallikarjun Mansur, the senior and junior Dagar Brothers, Zia Fariduddin Dagar, the Gundecha Brothers, Nazakat and Salamat Ali Khan, Omkarnath Thakur, Jasraj, and Mohammad Hussain Sarahang.


Allauddin Khan was a versatile instrumentalist. He trained his son Ali Akbar Khan, his daughter Annapurna Devi, Nikhil Banerjee, Ravi Shankar, the flautist Pannalal Ghosh, Azizul Islam from Bangladesh. Younger-generation sitar players include Chandrakant Sardeshmukh, Budhaditya Mukherjee and Shahid Parvez. Among the list of younger-generation flautists are eminent names such as Vijay Raghav Rao and Hariprasad Chaurasia.

The name Bismillah Khan is synonymous with that of the shehnai. Zia Mohiuddin Dagar was known for his proficiency with Rudra veena. Dr. Lalmani Misra revived Vichitra Veena along with creating Misrabani—a tantrakari style suited to string instruments. V. G. Jog portrayed Hindustani classical music on the violin.

Alla Rakha made the tabla popular in the West with Ravi Shankar. His son Zakir Hussain is also a well-known tabla player.

L.Shankar (not to be confused with Ravi) is a famous for developing and playing the ten-string, stereophonic double violin. L. Shankar worked on the score of the film The Last Temptation of Christ (1988),composed by Peter Gabriel, with his music ending up on both albums of the score - Passion: Music for The Last Temptation of Christ and Passion - Sources. He won a Grammy for his work on the latter in 1994. 1996 saw a Grammy nomination for the album Raga Aberi.[6] Shankar has performed on several of Peter Gabriel's records such as So and Us.

Among the southern classical musicians, Master U Srinivas is a top artist known worldwide. Known for his introduction of Mandolin to the Carnatic classical form of music, he has become synonymous with the word mandolin in India.

Among other well established Carnatic instrumentalists are Lalgudi G Jayaraman, the late Kunnukudi Vaidyanathan, T.N.Krishnan, Dr.L.Subramaniam, M.S. Gopalakrishnan, and the duo of Kumaresh & Ganesh, all known for their violin performances.

See also


  1. ^ Umesh Joshi. Bharatiya Sangeet ka Itihas. 
  2. ^ Komal Gandhar. Ustad Vilayat Khan. 
  3. ^ "Indian Classical Music". 
  4. ^ Mohan Nadkarni. The Great Masters Profiles in Hindustani Classical Vocal Music. 
  5. ^ Eminent Musicians of Yesteryears
  6. ^ "Hinduism Today L Shankar Mar/Apr 2001". Hinduism Today. Retrieved 15 October 2008. 

Further reading

  • Ludwig Pesch, The Oxford Illustrated Companion to South Indian Classical Music, Oxford University Press.
  • George E. Ruckert, Music in North India: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture, Oxford University Press.
  • T. Viswanathan and Matthew Harp Allen; Music in South India: The Karnatak Concert Tradition and Beyond Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture; Oxford University Press.
  • Martin Clayton; Time in Indian Music: Rhythm, Metre, and Form in North Indian Rag Performance; Oxford University Press.

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Comparative view of jazz and Indian classical music — Comparing Jazz and Indian classic musicComparative View of Jazz and Indian Classical MusicIndian music is the greatest tradition of improvisation in the East. Therefore it is unsurprising that Jazz musicians, which have become the greatest… …   Wikipedia

  • Anthology of Indian Classical Music - A Tribute to Alain Daniélou — The Anthology of Indian Classical Music A Tribute to Alain Daniélou is a new edition of Alain Danielou s Anthology of Indian Classical Music . The series received the Diapason d Or award and the Grand Prix du Disque in 1998.This collection was… …   Wikipedia

  • Indian folk music — is diverse because of India s vast cultural diversity. It has many forms including bhangra, lavani, dandiya and Rajasthani. The arrival of movies and pop music weakened folk music s popularity, but cheaply recordable music has made it easier to… …   Wikipedia

  • Classical music — Montage of great classical music composers. From left to right: Top row – Antonio Vivaldi, Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven; second row – Gioachino Rossini, Felix Mendelssohn, Frédéric… …   Wikipedia

  • Indian classical dance — Bharata Natyam a traditional dance of the Tamils …   Wikipedia

  • Hindustani classical music — Concepts Sruti • Swara • Alankar • Raga • Tala • Thaat • Gharana Instruments melody: Vocals • Sitar • Sarod • Bansuri • Sarangi • …   Wikipedia

  • Contemporary classical music — Contemporary music redirects here. For other forms of contemporary music, see Popular music. Periods of Western art music Early Medieval   (500–1400) Renaissance (1400–1600) Baroque (1600–1760) Common practice …   Wikipedia

  • French classical music — began with the sacred music of the Roman Catholic Church, with written records predating the reign of Charlemagne. It includes all of the major genres of sacred and secular, instrumental and vocal music. French classical styles often have an… …   Wikipedia

  • Canadian classical music — In Canada, classical music includes a range of musical styles rooted in the traditions of Western or European classical music that European settlers brought to the country from the 1600s and onwards. As well, it includes musical styles brought by …   Wikipedia

  • History of classical music traditions — For the academic study of history of music, see Music history. Music is found in every known culture, past and present, varying wildly between times and places. Around 50,000 years ago, early modern humans began to disperse from Africa, reaching… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.