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Indian classical music

The origins of Indian classical music can be found from the oldest of scriptures the Vedas. Saamaveda, one of the four vedas describes music at length.

Indian classical music (marga) is monodic, and based around a single melody line. Compositions are based around a raga, or theme. The raga unfolds with meticulous precision. It begins with the performers coming out in a ritualized order -- drone instruments, then accompanists and percussionists, then the soloist. The musicians begin by tuning their instruments; this process often blends imperceptibly into the beginning of the music.

Players of the tabla, a type of drum, begin by tapping the edges with a hammer to make sure it is in tune with the soloist. Another common instrument is the stringed tambura, which is played at a steady tone throughout the raga. This monotonous job traditionally falls to a student of the soloist.

The raga begins with the melody being developed gradually, often over the course of a half-an-hour or more. The beginning of the raga is called an alap in Hindustani (Northern India) and a alapana in Karnatic Southern India. The alap is often the favorite part of Indian listeners, but is inaccessible to foreigners.

Once the raga is formed, the ornamentation around the theme grows more complex. This section is called the jor. After the jor climaxes, everything stops and the audiences applaud. Finally, the percussionist begins to play, interacting with the soloist, eventually reaching the spontaneous and competitive jihala section.

Southern Indian ragas (or, more properly, ragams) are generally much faster in tempo and generally shorter. The opening there is called a varnum, and is a warm-up for the musicians. An 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 kritis. This is followed by the pallavi or theme from the raga.

Table of contents
1 Classification


Medival classification of Indian classical music can be done broadly into two categories:

Carnatic music

Main article: Carnatic music

Carnatic music is the classical music of South India (as opposed to the classical music of North India called Hindustani) It is similar to Hindustani in that it is mostly improvised, but it is much more theoretical, with stringent rules. It also emphasizes the expertise of the voice rather than of the instruments.

Hindustani music

Main article: Hindustani music

This one from North India is predominantly more liberal than it's south Indian counterpart. The prime themes of Hindustani music are Rasleela of Krishna and the Nature in all its splendour. Bhimsen Joshi, Ravi Shankar, Hariprasad Chaurasia and Zakir Hussain are the arts' great living performers. Pandit Pran Nath is influential teacher of Hindustani vocal music whose students include Don Cherry, Terry Riley, and LaMonte Young.

Hindustani classical music is most frequently associated with Indian music, as it is a large bulk of the population of India and also large parts of Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan. In contrast to Karnatic Indian music, Hindustani music is influenced by Afghan and Mughal forms due to invasions. The most famous modern performer is undoubtedly Ravi Shankar, who helped popularize Hindustani ragas outside of India. Shankar's instrument is the sitar, which is, in many ways, considered the national instrument of India. Alongside the sitar in popularity are the bansuri, a sort of flute, and a sarod, known among fans for recordings of virtuoso Ali Akbar Khan.

Music has long been important to Hinduism, especially in the Vaishnavite cult, which is based on the worship of Vishnu. Under the Delhi Sultanate, Indian culture became influenced by Islamic forms. The subsequent conquering Mughal Empire banned music, dance and poetry forms like kathak, helping spur the fusion of Hindu and Muslim ideas to make qawwali and khayal. Perhaps the most legendary musician of this period is Amir Khusrau.

Later, the Mughal Empire intermarried with Indians, especially under Jar ad-Din Akbar. Music and dance flourished during this period, and the musician Tansen is still well-remembered.

In the 20th century, the power of the maharajahs and nawabs declined, and thus so did their patronage. All India Radio helped to stop this development and replaced the patronage system. The first star was Gauhar Jan, whose career was born out of Fred Gaisberg's first recordings of Indian music in 1902.

Hindustani vocal music utilizings a system of notation called sargam, a contraction for Sa Re Ga Ma. Re, Ga, Dha and Ni may be flat, or komal, Ma may be sharp or tivar. The designation komal or tivar is never sung with the note's syllable, however they are notated as a line under or an acute accent above, respectively, the note's letter, such as &Macute&; and N.

Hindustani note names
Sanskrit name Sung Written
Shadaja Sa S
Rishabha Re R
Gandhar Ga G
Madhyam Ma M
Pancham Pa P
Dhaivata Dha D
Nishadha Ni N

See also: Music of India, Indian musical instruments, Raga.