Indian music attempts to assign each
of the standard notes of its octave (Sa, Re, Ga ,Ma, Pa, Tha, Ni, Sa)
to some sound in nature.
Music, which is held as the highest level of sanctity
finds exhaustive treatment in concept, theory and practice in the world's most
ancient texts of wisdom, the Vedas. In India from ancient times, music is treated
with reverence befitting a divinity. The first adoption of music appears to
have been for the purpose of chanting hymns of the Rig Veda.
Indian tradition recognized the
"Saptasvara" or seven basic notes and later on the existence of
22 srutis or standards, based on the number of sound vibrations
produced by a note every second called pitch.
Raga is the
soul of Indian music,
with its uniqueness and aesthetic quality. Associated with every Raga are a
divine mood, belief, restrictions, and rituals. The major elements of a complete
musical rendering in classical style may be said to be Sruti,
(base note) Sahitya, (lyric) Raaga, (combination
of notes) Laya (rhythm) and Tala (beats).
Western music emphasizes harmony
while Indian music is melody- based. Melody is the pursuit of a single note,
a stamp of individuality while harmony stands for harnessing and systematization
and coordination of various notes. In the past two decades there have been vigorous
attempts at fusion.
Sculpture and architecture have concrete
works of past artisans, literature passes on from generation to generation at
least in the oral form, dance has many sculptures of the past to quote on, but
we are unable to glean much about the state of music in India from the ancient
times. Music of Saraswathi, Hanuman, Krishna's flute, Bharata's Natya Shastra
and Sangeeta Ratnakara are the only sources on ancient music.
The North Indian school of music
is called Hindusthani
and that of the South as Carnatic.
These two systems have maintained their individuality, which got so deeply rooted
that there appears to be a little chance of a merger, except during music festivals
where they appear in the form of Jugalbhandhis.
Southern musical literature has been developed in Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and
Malayalam while the Northern one is that of Hindi.
During the reign of Alauddin Khilji
during the last few years of the 13th century, Hindustani music took a different
course. The earliest form of Hindustani music called Dhrupad,
showed itself in India. Baiju Bawra, a wandering Sadhu, is credited with having
popularized it, as also Nayak Gopal and Amir
Khusru, musicians of the court of Allaudin. The innovation
of ragas by them and developed by Haridas Swami and later by his disciple, the
of Akbar's court, enriched the Dhrupad to a highly refined
Mirza Ghalib introduced
the ghazal, simple, melodious, romantic and soulful and popular
among the common folks. The important periods of the development of Hindustani
music are Allaudin Khilji's (1296-1316), Akbar's (1556-1603) and post Mughal
Rabindra Sangeet is
another form of music developed by the great Rabindranath Tagore who churned
out some 2500 lyrics. Rabindra Sangeet in Bengal and Subramania
Bharathi in the South used music and verse as powerful
media to stir up the national sentiment. Rabindra Sangeets have a good integration
of Carnatic, Hindustani and Western music.
In the South, Bharathi had an eye
for nature so he put that all into his music and lyrics. The one feature, which
is present in Bharathi and not so evident in Tagore, is the dedication to divinity.
Goddess Sakthi was Bharathi's greatest obsession.
The progress in South Indian music
is only in the current millennium because we are unable to garner any information
about its previous history. Carnatic music came to be systematized only around
the beginning of the 15th century. Around that time Kritis came
into great popularity. Purandaradasa systematized Carnatic music,
particularly for learning and practicing. His is perhaps the only instance in
South India where pure musical form without words was emphasized.
From the 18th to the 19th century
period, the Southern musical Trinity, Syaama Sastri, Muthusamy Dikshitar
and Tyagaraja flourished with their immortal compositions
on their "Ishta Devatas" or their favorite deities, each one penetrating the
heart of the listener. Syama Sastri extolled Amba and Tyagaraja pleaded with
Sri Rama in Telugu and Dikshitar paid obeisance to Devi in Sanskrit. Subbarama
Dikshitar (1859-1906) did great service to Carnatic music through various
publications. In the same time other musicians like Veenai Dhanammal, Mahavaidyantha
Iyer and Arryakudi Ramanuja Aiyangar contributed in great measure to the systematization
and popularization of music in the South.
Aryakudi Ramanuja Iyer was responsible
for bringing South Indian music concepts to the precise and concise "Cutcheri"
format which is widely prevalent today in many temples. Other famous
musicians-lyricist composers of the South are Maharaja Swati Tirunal of
Travancore, Mysore Vasudevachar, Patnam Subramania Aiyar and Papanasam
Sivan of the erstwhile Madras Presidency.
North India has also seen several
stalwarts appearing on the scene in the 19th and 20th century. Ustad Faiyaz
Khan of the Gaikwad court probably made the first attempt
at fusion. The minstrels, Sufis and other wandering groups have also been responsible
for promoting music like Baiju Bawara, Jeyadeva, Kabir, Surdas and Meera.
In Hindustani music, the major stringed
instrument is usually the sitar, a long necked fretted lute, or
the sarod, a plucked lute without frets and with a considerable
shorter neck than the sitar. Other major stringed instruments include
the Sarong, a short-necked bowed lute and the Surbahar,
which is much like the sitar but is larger. Wind instruments include the
Shehnai, which has no keys and the Bansuri, a Bamboo flute
blown from the side and with six or seven holes. Rhythmic accompaniment is provided
by the Tabla, a pair of small drums played with the fingers and
the Tampura provides the Drone.
In Carnatic Music, the
Veena, a long necked
and fretted plucked lute with seven strings is commonly used. The veena
takes the place of the Bansuri and the Nagaswaram, an oboe-like,
double reed instrument with finger holes takes the place of the shehnai.
The principal secondary instrument is the Violin. Several
Percussion instruments are used to provide rhythmic accompaniment, most
notably the Mridangam, a double conical two headed drum.
The Sarong is associated with
almost solely with Ram Narayan and the Shehnai with
Bismillah Khan. One of the notable Tabla players is Zakir
Hussain who has combined with many Western musicians to
produce many fusion recordings. Shiv Kumar Sharma brought
the Santoor into Classical Indian music. In the West, the most known Indian
musical Instrument is the Sitar being famed by Pandit Ravi Shankar.
The richness of musical tradition
remains undimmed in India down the ages. Foreign invasions and cultural impositions
only helped expand the horizon of Indian music.