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An Introduction to Hindustani music (part 1)

Discussion in 'Carnatic and Hindustani tutorials' started by Jimsweb, Dec 5, 2009.

  1. Jimsweb

    Jimsweb Super Moderator

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    Hindustani Classical Music (Hindi: हिन्दुस्तानी शास्त्रीय संगीत, Urdu: ہندوستانی شاستریہ سنگیت) is the Hindustani or erstwhile North Indian style of Indian classical music. Originating in the Vedic period, it is a tradition that has been evolving from the 12th century AD, in what is now northern India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, and also Nepal and Afghanistan, and is today one of the two parts of Indian classical music, with the other one being Carnatic music, which represents the music of South India.

    The tradition was born out of a cultural synthesis from several musical streams: the vedic chant tradition dating back to approximately one thousand BCE, the equally ancient Persian tradition of Musiqi-e assil, and also existent folk traditions prevalent in the region. The terms North Indian Classical Music or Shāstriya Sangeet are also occasionally used.

    It is traditional for performers who have reached a distinguished level of achievement to be awarded titles of respect; Hindus are usually referred to as Pandit and Muslims as Ustad. An interesting aspect of Hindustani music going back to sufi times is the tradition of religious neutrality: Muslim ustads singing Hindu bhajans, or vice versa.

    Around the 12th century, Hindustani classical music diverged from what eventually came to be identified as Carnatic classical music. The central notions in both these systems is that of a melodic mode or raga, sung to a rhythmic cycle or tala. The tradition dates back to the ancient Samaveda, (lit. sāma=ritual chant), which deals with the norms for chanting of srutis or hymns such as the Rig Veda. These principles were refined in the Natyashastra by Bharata (2nd-3d c. CE) and the Dattilam (probably 3d-4th c. AD).

    In medieval times, many of the melodic systems were fused with ideas from Persian music, particularly through the influence of sufi composers like Amir Khusro, and later in the Moghul courts. Noted composers such as Tansen flourished, along with religious groups like the Vaishnavites. After the 16th century, the singing styles diversified into different gharanas patronized in different princely courts. Around 1900, Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande consolidated the musical structures of Hindustani classical music into a number of thaats. In the 20th century, Hindustani classical music has become popular across the world through the influence of artistes like Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan and many others.

    Indian classical music has seven basic notes, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni, with five interspersed half-notes, resulting in a 12-note scale. Unlike the 12-note scale in Western music, the base frequency of the scale is not fixed, and intertonal gaps (temper) may also vary; however, with the gradual replacement of the sarangi by the harmonium, an equal tempered scale is increasingly used. The performance is set to a melodic pattern called a raga (also spelled as raag) characterized in part by specific ascent (Aroha) and descent (Avaroha) sequences, which may not be identical. Other characteristics include King (Vadi) and Queen (Samavadi) notes and characteristic phrases (Pakad). In addition each raga has its natural register (Ambit) and glissando (Meend) rules, as well as features specific to different styles and compositions within the raga structure. Performances are usually marked by considerable improvisation within these norms.


    Music was first formalized in India in connection with preserving the sruti texts, primarily the four vedas, which are seen as apaurasheya (lit. un-created by man). Not only was the text important, but also the manner in which they had been enunciated by the immortals. Prosody and chanting were thus of great importance, and were enshrined in the two vedangas (bodies of knowledge) called Shiksha (pronunciation, chants) and Chhandas (prosody); these remained a key part of the brahminic educational system till modern times. The formal aspects of the chant are delineated in the Samaveda, with certain aspects, e.g. the relation of chanting to meditation, elaborated in the Chandogya Upanishad (ca. 8th c. BC). Priests involved in these ritual chants were called Samans and a number of ancient musical instruments such as the conch (shankh), lute (veena), flute (bansuri), trumpets and horns were associated with this and later practices of ritual singing.

    Sanskritic Tradition

    The Samaveda outlined the ritual chants for singing the verses of the Rigveda, particularly for offerings of Soma. It proposed a tonal structure consisting of seven notes, which were named, in descending order, as Krusht, Pratham, Dwitiya, Tritiya, Chaturth, Mandra and Atiswār. These refer to the notes of a flute, which was the only fixed frequency instrument. This is why the second note is called pratham (lit. first, i.e. note when only first hole is closed).

    Music is dealt with extensively in the Valmiki Ramayana; Narada is an accomplished musician, as is Ravana; Saraswati with her veena is the goddess of music. Gandharvas are presented as spirits who are musical masters, and the gandharva style looks to music primarily for pleasure, accompanied by the soma rasa. In the Vishnudharmottara Purana, the Naga king Ashvatara asks to know the svaras from Saraswati.

    The most important text on music in the ancient canon is Bharata's Natya Shastra, composed around the 3rd c. CE. The Natya Shastra deals with the different modes of music, dance, and drama, and also the emotional responses (rasa) they are expected to evoke. The scale is described in terms of 22 micro-tones, which can be combined in clusters of 4, 3, or two to form an octave.

    While the term raga is articulated in the Natya Shastra (where its meaning is more literal, colour, as in the mood), it finds a clearer expression in what is called jati in the Dattilam, a text composed shortly after or around the same time as Natya Shastra. The Dattilam is focused on gandharva music, and discusses scales (swara), defining a tonal framework called grama in terms of 22 micro-tonal intervals (sruti[3]) comprising one octave. It also discusses various arrangements of the notes (murchhana), the permutations and combinations of note-sequences (tanas), and alankara or elaboration. Dattilam categorizes melodic structure into 18 groups called jati, which are the fundamental melodic structures similar to the raga. The names of the jatis reflect regional origins, e.g. andhri, oudichya.

    Music also finds mention in a number of texts from the Gupta period; Kalidasa mentions several kinds of veena (Parivadini, Vipanchi), as well as percussion instruments (Mridang), the flute (Vamshi) and conch (Shankha). Music also finds mention in Buddhist and Jaina texts from the earliest periods of the Christian era.

    Narada's Sangita Makarandha treatise circa 1100 CE is the earliest text where rules similar to the current Hindustani classical music can be found. Narada actually names and classifies the system in its earlier form before the advent of changes as a result of Persian influences. Jayadeva's Gita Govinda from the 12th century was perhaps the earliest musical composition presently known sung in the classical tradition called Ashtapadi music.

    In the 13th century, Sharngadeva composed the Sangita Ratnakara, which has names such as the turushka todi (Turkish todi), revealing an influx of ideas from the Islamic influx. This text is the last to be mentioned by both the Carnatic and the Hindustani traditions, and is often thought to date the divergence between the two.

    Medieval Period: Persian influence

    The advent of Islamic rule under the Delhi Sultanate and later the Mughal Empire over northern India caused considerable cultural interchange. Increasingly, musicians received patronage in the courts of the new rulers, who in their turn, started taking increasing interest in local music forms. While the initial generations may have been rooted in cultural traditions outside India, they gradually adopted many aspects from their kingdoms which retained the traditional Hindu culture. This helped spur the fusion of Hindu and Muslim ideas to bring forth new forms of musical synthesis like qawwali and khayal.

    The most influential musician from the Delhi Sultanate period was Amir Khusrau (1253-1325), sometimes called the father of modern Hindustani classical music[4]. A prolific composer in Persian, Turkish, Arabic, as well as Braj Bhasha, he is credited with systematizing many aspects of Hindustani music, and also introducing several ragas such as Yaman Kalyan, Zeelaf and Sarparda. He created the qawwali genre, which fuses Persian melody and beat on a dhrupad like structure. A number of instruments (such as the sitar and tabla) were also introduced in his time.

    Amir Khusrau is sometimes credited with the origins of the khayal form, but the record of his compositions do not appear to support this. The compositions by the court musician Niyamat Khan (Sadarang) in the court of Muhammad Shah 'Rangiley' bear a closer affinity to the modern khyal, and suggests that while khyal already existed in some form, 'Sadarang' may have been the father of modern day khyal.

    Much of the musical forms innovated by these pioneers merged with the Hindu tradition, composed in the popular language of the people (as opposed to Sanskrit) in the work of composers like Kabir or Nanak. This can be seen as part of a larger Bhakti tradition, (strongly related to the Vaishnavite movement) which remained influential across several centuries; notable figures include Jayadeva (11th century), Vidyapati (1375 AD), Chandidas (14th-15th century), and Meerabai (1555-1603 AD).
    Note: The article has been compiled from different internet based encyclopedia

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