Music & Dance

The word 'music' in India has an all-round meaning. It is not merely restricted to singing or playing an instrument. The word 'Sangit' or music in India encompasses all, viz: singing (Gayana), playing instrument (Vadana) and dancing (Nritya) as well. Though this is true, due to the vast scope of the subject, in this topic, music will be first dealt as styles of Indian classical singing. Dance, as a part of music, has been dealt with separately .

The origin of Indian music is said to be rooted in the Vedas. Brahma is said to be the author of the four Vedas, of which the SamaVeda was chanted in definite musical patterns. Vedic hymns were sung in plain melody, using only 3 notes. It took a long time for music to come to the form found in present-day India. In Indian music, the period of Aryans had ritualistic importance. As a form of entertainment, it developed much later. Also, the folk music in India has a rich tradition that hails from much before the Aryans.

Music of India as seen and heard today is said to be the development (during the 14th and 18th centuries). The two popular schools of Indian classical music, Hindustani and Carnatic are the outcome of the cultural mix during this period. It was during this period that the music sung in the north came in contact with Persian music and assimilated it, through the Pathans and the Mughals. Hindustani music adopted a scale of Shuddha Swara Saptaka(octave of natural notes) and Carnatic music retained the traditional octave.

During this period, different styles of classical compositions such as Dhrupad, Dhamar, Khayal,etc. were contributed to Hindustani music, along with many exquisite hymns, bhajans, kirtans, etc. The Indian musical scale is said to have evolved from 3 notes to a scale of 7 primary notes on the basis of 22 intervals. A scale is divided into 22 shrutis or intervals, and these are the basis of the musical notes. The 7 notes of the scale are known to musicians as Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha ,Ni and Sa. These 7 notes of the scale do not have equal intervals between them. Raga is the basis or the soul of Indian Classical music.

The combination of several notes woven into a composition in a way which is pleasing to the ear is called a Raga. Any stray combination of notes cannot be called a Raga. All the ragas are divided into two groups -- Poorva Ragas and Uttar Ragas. The Poorva Ragas are sung between 12 noon and 12 midnight. The Uttar Ragas are sung between 12 midnight and 12 noon. The three most important genres of Hindustani vocal music are: Dhrupad, Khayaal, and Thumree(ThumRee).

Dhrupad is the oldest and perhaps the grandest form of Hindustani vocal music. It is said to have descended from an older form called the prabandha (nonexistant today) and adapted for court performance during the reign of Raja Man Singh Tomar of Gwalior. Dhrupad has been on the decline since the 18th century.

Khayal is the most prominent genre of Hindustani (vocal) music. Its origins are a mystery. Some people trace its origins to "Sadarang" Nyaamat Khan - a beenkaar in the Mughal court of Muhammad Shah "Rangila".

Thumree originated from Lucknow and Benares in the 19th century. This genre is considered to be "light classical" music. Thumrees are composed in lighter raagas and have simpler taalas. There is no aalaap-type improvisation in this genre.

Daadra is another genre of "light classical" music. It bears a close resemblance to the Thumree. Carnatic music is based not on logarithmic division but on rational division. An octave is based on the ratio 1:2; Pa is located through the ratio 2:3; similar definitions exist for all the twelve swara sthanas. A few centuries ago, Western classical music too was based on rational division (the resulting scale was called as the natural scale), but this has given way to the equally tempered (also called chromatic) scale produced by logarithmic division.

Carnatic music is one of the very few musical forms in the world that have not lost their traditional character due to the influence of Western culture. On the contrary, Carnatic music has enhanced its traditional characterby borrowing good things from other systems of music. The introduction of the violin is a very good example of a positive influence. Apart from classical music,


Indian Music also has a very rich tradition of Folk Music.

Folk music has different forms depending on the region it belongs to. With flexibility in its expression, it is not bound by laws or any set pattern. Folk music has its peculiarity expressions and emotions and has established a tradition of its own. Unlike the Classical Music, the musical notes in Folk Music have less value and the poetic content has greater impact, and rythm plays a very important role. Songs and lyrics of folk music portray the common life of the villagers. Indian classical music has a peculiarity as far as expression of each Swara with respect to its scale or saptaka is concerned. Hence the constant playing of the drone is necessary. A singer is always accompanied by an instrument called "Tanpura" which is tuned to suit his key note.

Amongst the popular instruments in India, Sitar has a distinct value and has been in use for about 700 years. Sitar has a long and complex heritage; its origin goes back to the ancient Veena. In the 13th century, Amir Khusru, in order to make the instrument more flexible, reversed the order of the strings and made the frets movable. Ravi Shankar, the great musician-artist brought changes and a new perspective. Sarod is another popular stringed instrument.

Sarod has been found in carvings of the 1st century in Champa temple and also in paintings in the Ajanta caves. It also has a similarity with the Rabab of Afghanistan and Kashmir. The instrument was modified by Amir Khusru in the 13th century. A definite change was made by Ustad Ali Akbar Khan in the shape of the instrument for improving the tonal quality.
Sarangi is the next instrument. The name is derived from "Sau Rangi" meaning 100 colours. Sarangi is played with a bow and has four main strings and as many as forty resonant strings. It is generally
used to accompany singers but can also be a solo instrument.
Tanpura is a four or five stringed instrument which gives the essential drone background to all Indian music. Esraj is played with a bow and has many strings. It is one of the major instruments of North India.

Santoor is a North Indian instrument originating from Kashmir. It has more than a hundred strings which run across a hollow rectangular box and the strings are struck by a pair of slim carved walnut mallets.
Vichitra Veena is a comparatively recent addition to the Veena family. It is a fretless stringed instrument with four main strings, three drone and rhythm strings and eleven to thirteen resonating strings. The strings are plucked by a plectrum on the index or middle finger of the right hand.
Violin was introduced to India about 300 years ago and is a very important string instrument in the South of India. It is played in a sitting position and is held between the right foot and the left shoulder. Tabla is the overall term for two drums, which are played as an accompaniment to North Indian music and dance. The musician uses the base of the palm as well as the fingers to produce great variations in sounds. The right hand drum is tuned to the tonic dominant or sub-dominant and the left-hand drum acts as the base.

Pakhawaj is a long bodied wooden drum with both ends covered in skin and is the most traditional drum of North India. Played horizontally with the fingers and palms of both hands, the right hand surface is tuned to the pitch required and the left hand surface provides the base. Mridangam is similar in appearance to the Pakhawaj but the ends have a different texture. It is the most used drum in South Indian music.
Dholak is a side drum, cylindrical in shape, bored out of solid wood. Its pitch is variable and is an essential accompaniment for folk music of North India.
Jal Tarang is essentially a water-xylophone. It is made up of a series of china bowls of varying sizes and they are filled with varying levels of water. These are then played with two light sticks.

Pung is a long bodied drum with both ends covered in skin and plays an important role in Manipuri dancing when it is played by men and women, either in a sitting position or standing position.
Flute is found in every part of India Carved from bamboo it is made in every possible size. It is usually played in a vertical position.
Shehnai is a double-reeded wind instrument with a widening tube towards the lower end. There are eight or nine holes, the upper seven for playing, the lower ones for tuning. The Shehnai is considered auspicious and is played on all festive occasions in India.