Indian music

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Indian music


Indian music as we know it today is the result of a cultural and artistic tradition thousands of years old and transmitted from generation to generation.

The vicissitudes of history make Indian "classical" music divided into two great schools: Hindustanic music (from the north) and Carnatic music (from the south). This geographical separation, located at the level of the city of Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh), originated from the implantation of the various conquerors, notably the Mughals, who influenced the Indian arts. Nevertheless, they have many common features, including two main ones that form the basis of Indian music: raga (melody) and tala (rhythm).


The Basics of Indian Music

A raga is a short melodic plot of five to seven notes of music (called sa, re, ga, ma, pa, dha and ni). Apart from sa and pa, notes can be played on two or three different tones. There is an upward movement and a downward movement, the whole being quite complex in its structure. In Carnatic music there are 72 basic ragas (the melas) on which are built the others, in Hindustanic music there are 10.

The musician must follow this mode to establish his interpretation and composition. It is important to note that improvisation plays a major role in Indian music and that the skill of the musician to improvise on a raga shows his mastery and his creativity.

The raga is therefore more than a simple succession of notes. It indicates how the notes will be played and the musician's mood. The raga is linked to an emotion, a season or a time of day.

A tala is a rhythmic cycle that sustains a raga. This rhythm, from 3 to 108 beats, is given by a percussionist. Several talas may have the same number of beats, only their divisions vary. For example a tala of 14 beats can be played 5 + 5 + 4 or 2 + 4 + 4 + 4, etc. Talas bear names (Adi, Dhamar, Chanchar ...). The first time of a rhythmic cycle is called Sum. It serves as a reference point.


Carnatic music

Carnatic music was unified at the turn of the century. The course of a concert follows a fairly precise development. It often begins with a varnam that will somehow present the raga. It is played in two parts: the purvanga and the uttaranga. Next comes the kriti, played on a raga and a fixed tala. The kriti is also composed of several parts: the pallavi, the anupallavi and the charanam. The end of a concert is usually composed by a ragam (improvisation on a raga without percussion), a tanam (another improvisation) then a pallavi (pre-composed melody with percussion).

Some great musicians and composers of carnatic music: Tyagaraja, Shyama Sastri, Muthuswamy Dikshitar, Swati Tirunal, Uttukadu Venkatasubbaiar, Mysore Vasudevachar, Narayana Teertha, Gopala Krishna Bharati.


Hindustanic music

Conversely, Hindustanic music is not unified. It is crossed by many genres (the gharanas). Each of them has a name (Dhrupad, Khyal, Thumri, Tappa, etc ...) and they have a different styles and compositions. The concert starts with an alap on a slow rhythm, then comes a jhod and a jhala whose rhythm increases every time. The second part of the concert is made up of a gat where the percussions come into play on a chosen tala. The artist can improvise his melody but remains attached to the tala.

Some of the great masters of Hindustanic music and their instruments: Ustad Bismillah Khan (shennai), Pandit Ravi Shankar (sitar), Ustad Ali Akbar Khan (sarod), Pandit Shivkumar Sharma (santoor), Pandit Ram Narayan (sarangi), VGJog ), and Ustad Alla Rakha (tabla).


Musical instruments


Sitar

Sitar

Sitar

Stringed instrument derived from the vina, it is probably the most popular in India. It is made with teak wood and it has six or seven main strings and twenty strings vibrating by resonance. The player uses a picker to play. Ravi Shankar revolutionized the sitar game and popularized Indian music worldwide.



Sarod

Sarod

Sarod

The body of the sarod, made of teak, is curved and the body is covered by a goat skin. The player uses a pick to pick up the metal strings. There are four main and fifteen secondary.



Tanpura

Tanpura

Tanpura

This instrument is called tanpura in northern india and tambura in south india. It has four to six strings. It is used mainly to ensure the drone in a recital.



Sarangi

Sarangi

Sarangi

This instrument is used with a bow. The player uses three or four main natural strings to play the melody and several tens of metal as resonant strings. He is often used as an accompanying instrument alongside a singer. It is a very popular instrument because it adapts to many musical styles and can produce a wide range of sounds and tones. Unlike the violin, the player does not pinch the strings with the fingertips but with the nail or with the skin that is above the nail! It is used in North India.



Santoor

Santoor

Santoor

It is a percussion instrument in the shape of a cauldron, about 60 cm in diameter. The player hits the nagara with two chopsticks. It is often found as an accompaniment to shennai.



Nagara

Nagara

Santoor

It is a percussion instrument in the shape of a cauldron, about 60 cm in diameter. The player hits the nagara with two chopsticks. It is often found as an accompaniment to shennai.



Tabla

Tabla

Tabla

The tabla consists of two small drums about 25 cm high. The player strikes them with the base of the palm and with the tips of the fingers. It can thus create a wide variety of sounds. The small drum is called dayan and is played with the right hand. It has a conical shape, almost cylindrical and is made of wood. The big drum is called bayan and is played with the left hand. It has a cauldron shape and is made of metal.



Pakhawaj

Pakhawaj

Pakhawaj

It is a long wooden drum held horizontally and struck at both ends of different diameter. It is mainly used in North India.



Mridangam

Mridangam

Mridangam

Very similar to the pakhawaj, it is played in South India. It is also the most widely used percussion instrument in Carnatic music.



Dholak

Dholak

Dholak

A large cylindrical wood drum, the dholak is used in Northern India as an accompanying instrument.



Tavil

Tavil

Tavil

It is a drum beaten on both sides which often accompanies the nagaswaram. The player holds it horizontally. The right side is struck with fingers covered with metal die, the left side is struck with a wand. Leather strips surround the drum in the middle and adjust the pitch of the sound produced.



Shennai

Shennai

Shennai

The shennai is a kind of popular oboe with two reeds. There are eight or nine holes. The first seven serve to play and the others are there for the tuning fork. It is mainly used in North India and the sound it produces is considered auspicious. This is why it is often found for weddings. In South India, it is a bit longer and is called nagaswaram.



Harmonium

Harmonium

harmonium

It is not a native instrument of Indian musical culture. Brought from Europe in the 19th century, it nevertheless quickly found its place in Hindustanic music. Rarely seated, Indian musicians use a harmonium with a hand-operated bellows.



See also:

Indian dances

History of India




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