Indian Classical Music- Hindustani and Carnatic

Classical Music- What do we mean by music?

All the sounds that beat in our ear-drums are to be called music. Sounds that are symphonized together to produce beauty that shines in front of our eyes through the ears is what defines the expression of music. It is that art form where the medium is sound instead of a pen or brush.

Music is a world in itself. It is a language we all understand without any knowledge of grammar or words as it is usually in the case of languages. Music is known to be the best way to creatively convey our emotions. And for centuries now Indian classical music has been doing just that.

Music is higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy

-Ludwig van Beethoven                                    

Classical music of India- How does India define music?

India is known to be the ‘’largest secular democratic country’’. We have so many religions and cultures. Diversity among people allows variety in art and music also. Indian classical music has shed a profound brilliance on the world of Indian Art. Indian classical music ragas have many aficionados worldwide.

It is said to be a concoction of tunes from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. Of course, along with the wide range of tunes nurtured within the boundaries of India. Indian classical music was born from the spiritual merit of musicians quite characteristic of ancient India.

Classical music demands only two things from a person who is passionate about this art- relentless zeal and constant engagement. The classic nature of the music mainly focuses on melodic development which springs from a devout mind. Whereas, the rhythm of the music is founded on balance, skill, and knowledge.

It is closely connected to the wonders of nature. The different ragas derive their magic from the different seasons, and colours of the natural world. There are fixed compositions that can be altered within the structure of notes, as per the mind of the artist. Thus, this enables the artist to enjoy the freedom of his own.

Geographically, the traditions of Indian classical music are divided into North India and South India. There isn’t much difference as they have the same roots and concepts but the many intricacies involved are north-south apart. In both traditions, different types of instruments are used.

To learn the Indian traditional music one needs to spend years with his ‘Guru’, enabling the student to grasp the morals and principles behind the very music of life. In order to understand classical music thoroughly, a person must learn to observe and imbibe. Listening, memorizing, and contemplating the teachings of his guru, results in a brilliant musician who is capable of inspiring the entire humankind through his art.

Don’t miss our article on Indian Classical Dance, learn the history and unknown facts

History of Indian Music

Indian classical music has thousands of years old roots, originating from the Vedic hymns sung in temples which are considered fundamental to Indian music. Over 6000 years ago, the holy Vedic scriptures developed a system of rhythmic cycles and musical notes. For example, there is a mention of Taal in Samaaved and other ways of singing these Vedic hymns. It originated in South Asia and now has reached every corner of the world.

Classical Music of India- Two distinct forms

Indian classical music has two distinct roots- THE HINDUSTANI STYLE OF MUSIC AND CARNATIC MUSIC. The main difference between the two is that the Hindustani classical music theory is based on raga whereas, Carnatic music is based on Kriti. Hindustani music has a separate collection for vocals and instruments. On the other hand, in Carnatic music, the framework is the same for both instruments and vocals.

Classical Music- Hindustani

The Hindustani music originated in the Delhi Sultanate under Amir Khusrow. A composer in Turkish, Arabic, Persian, along with BrajBhasha. He introduced some ragas as in YAMAN KALYAN, ZEELAF, and SARPADA. He created a qawali genre which is a combination of Persian melody and dhrupad. Hindustani music is quite popular in North India.

The exact answer to ‘How many ragas in Hindustani classical music?’ still remains a mystery because there are said to be around 4 lakh ragas, with many of them repeating under different names.

Features of Hindustani style of Classical Music

  1. This music throws light on the arrangement of the song{nadi and samvadiswars}
  2. Addition of swars
  3. The singers narrate the clap at a fast pace which is called to be a ‘joda’
  4. Taals are really normal
  5. Classical music Hindustani vocal- Drupad, khyal, and tarana
  6. Hindustani classical music ragas are based on gender
  7. We notice flexibility and mixture in the swars
  8. ‘Tilawal’ is the thaat of pure swars
  9. There are 6 major RAGAS
  10. The Hindustani classical music instruments used are Tabla, Sitar, Sarangi, and Santoor

What is the Classical Music of South India called?

One of the oldest forms of Indian classical music of South India is Carnatic music. Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala are some of the states that revolve on Carnatic style of music. It is the only form of classical music which is free from Islamic and Persian compositions. Some of the essential components of the Carnatic music theory are Shruti, Swara, Raga and Tala. Carnatic music is inclined more towards tempo, patterns, depth and framework.

A composer and musicologist PURANDARA DASA is known as the grandfather of Carnatic music. He was a true follower of Lord Krishna and is also held as an inspiration for musicians in South India and Maharashtra.

Shyama Shastri, Tyagraja, and MuthuswamiDikshitar are credited for enrichening the Carnatic style of music. They are also known as ‘Triratna of Carnatic music’. From 1700 AD to 1850 AD is considered to be their reign on the world of classical music. Apart from these three artists Kshetra Rajan, Swati Tirunal, and Subramaniyam Bharathi are also known to be pioneers of Carnatic music. Some of the famous musicians of this style are:-

Sumanguddi, Mallikarjun Mansur, GangubaiHangal, RamanujaIyengar, ShrinivasAyyar, and M S Subbulakshmi.The most vital instrument connected with the Carnatic music is LAYA.

Features of Carnatic Classical music

  1. This style can control the potency of sound
  2. Helical swaras has a noticeable use in the style
  3. The singers recite Taanam and alaap
  4. Swaras are named in agreement to shrutis
  5. The main focus has been given to duration, Madhya is synonymous to ‘vilamba’, and ‘dhruta’ is synonymous to Madhya
  6. This music has purity of swars
  7. Mukhari is the thaat of pure swars
  8. Instruments used are Veena, Mridangam, and Mandolin
  9. It gives equal importance to vocal as well as instruments and provides the freedom for improvisation
  10. In total Carnatic music, ragas add up to 72

Similarities between South Indian and Hindustani Music

Both musical styles emphasize the beauty of the melody. They have one main Swara in each raga. Tanpura with one to two notes to identify pitch and base. The middle notion in these two styles is of melodic mode to a rhythmic cycle.  Both styles have a deep connection with religion. They have a history of 1000 years. Also known as Monophonic because the two use the Taanpura to maintain shruthi.  However, the Carnatic form is the same all over, whereas Hindustani changes frequently.

Structure of Indian Classical Music

Mainly, there are four types of structures in Indian classical music. Alap, Jhor, Jhala, and Gat or bandish. Each of them is essential to Indian music. 

The Harbinger of Indian Classical music

Ramtanu Pandey or TANSEN during the 16thcentury innovated a crescendo of sweet melodies in his sixty years of life. At the beginning of his career, he was under the patronage of the Hindu King Ram Chand of Gwalior and later was promoted to perform at the court of Akbar. He is known to be the founder of Hindustani music.

Classical music- Some essential instruments

The ‘Indian classical music instruments’ whose breath, keys, beats and strings together constitute the rich music are- Sitar, Flute, Sarangi, Sarod, Veena, Tanpura, Shehnai, Violin, Santoor, Tabla, Tambura, Harmonium, Jaltarangam, Algoza, Ravanahatha, Mridangam, and Panchavadyam.

Famous artists of Indian Classical music

These famous artists whose love for music reverberates in their work are- Ravi Shankar Subraminayam, Bhimsen Joshi, Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar,  Zakir Hussain, Ustad Ali Akbar khan, Bismillah khan, and the list goes on as countless as the very numbers.

Classical music of India- Beyond boundaries

Warren Senders is a true devotee of Indian classical music since his teenage. For the last 40 years he has been inspiring hearts as a vocalist, composer and performer. He is also the member of the New England Conservatory Faculty. He was once the renowned leader of the Indo-jazz ensemble.

First school of Indian Classical Music

The first school of classical music was established in Lahore [which was a part of India at that time]  ‘’GandharvaMahavidyalaya’’. It was inaugurated on 5th May 1901 by ‘’ Pandit Vishnu DigambarPaluskar’’. The school was later shifted to Mumbai after Independence.

Some fascinating facts on the Indian Classical Music

  1. Indian classical music has been passed for more than 3000 years from generation to generation
  2. Sharan Rani was the first woman who played the SAROD
  3. Hemendra Mohan Bose was the first Indian who made the first gramophone record in 1898 in Kolkata
  4. Enthusiasts from all over the nation and the world gather in the city of Goa to celebrate the ‘Sunburn Music Festival’
  5. Asha Bhosle received ‘The Guinness World Record’ to record approximately 11000 solos, duets, and choruses.
  6. The first folk album of India was ‘’Banjaran’’ sung by ‘’IllaArun’’
  7. Gwalior Gharana is the oldest of the Hindustani classical music gharanas
  8. Initially, Harmonium was not considered an Indian instrument
  9. BageshwariQamar was the first Indian woman who was Shenaiwadak
  10. There are two genres of music Gandharva and Gana

Sunburn Music Festival


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