Hindustani classical music
|Indian classical music|
|Raga ·Thaat ·Melakarta · Katapayadi sankhya|
|Śruti · Swara · Saptak|
|Tala · Mudra ·Gharana|
Hindustani Classical Music is a North Indian classical music tradition that has been evolving since the twelfth century C.E., in what is now northern India and Pakistan, and also Bangladesh, Nepal and Afghanistan. The tradition was born from a cultural synthesis of several musical streams: the vedic chant tradition dating back to approximately one millennium B.C.E., the equally ancient Persian tradition of Musiqi-e assil, and also folk traditions prevalent in the region. The terms North Indian Classical Music or Shāstriya Sangeet are also occasionally used.
Hindustani musical performance is based on a composition which is set to a meter and from which extemporized variations are generated. The forms of Hindustani classical music were designed primarily for vocal performance, and many instruments were designed and evaluated according to how well they emulate the human voice. The major vocal forms associated with Hindustani classical music are dhrupad, khayal, and thumri. In the twentieth century, as the power of the maharajahs and nawabs waned, their patronage of Hindustani music declined. In modern times, the government-run All India Radio and Radio Pakistan has helped to bring the artistes in front of the public, countering the loss of the patronage system. The advance of the film industry and other public media, has allowed musicians to begin making their living through public performances.
Around the twelfth century, Hindustani classical music began to diverge from what eventually came to be identified as Carnatic classical music of the South. The central concept 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, (sāma= ritual chant), which deals with the norms for the chanting of srutis or hymns such as the Rig Veda. These principles were refined in the Natyashastra by Bharata (second-third century C.E.) and the Dattilam (probably third-fourth century C.E.). During the medieval period, 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 sixteenth century, the singing styles diversified into different gharanas patronized in different princely courts. Around 1900, Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande consolidated the musical structures of Hindustani Classical music into a number of thaats. During the twentieth century, Hindustani classical music has become popular across the world through the influence of artists such as 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 (raga or raag) characterized in part by specific ascent (Arohana) and descent (Avarohana sequences, which may not be identical. Other characteristics include King (Vadi) and Queen (Samvadi) notes and a unique note phrase (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.
Hindustani musical performance is based on a composition which is set to a meter and from which extemporized variations are generated. Musical compositions are transmitted directly from teacher to student; though notation systems exist, they are intended mostly as mnemonic devices. Most musicians are associated with a “gharana,” a musical lineage or group descended through apprenticeship from a particular composer or musician. 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. Going back to Sufi times, Hindustani music has embodied a tradition of religious neutrality; it is common for Muslim Ustads to sing Hindu bhajans, and vice versa.
Origins of Indian Music
Music was first formalized in India in connection with preserving the sruti texts, primarily the four Vedas, which are seen as apaurasheya (eternal, without authorship, un-created by man). Not only were the words of the texts 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 until modern times. The formal aspects of the chant are delineated in the Samaveda, with certain elements, such as the relation of chanting to meditation, elaborated in the Chandogya Upanishad (ca. eighth c. B.C.E.). Priests involved in these ritual chants were called Samans, and a number of ancient musical instruments such as conch (shankh), lute (veena), flute (bansuri), trumpets and horns were associated with these and later practices of ritual singing.
The Samaveda (the Veda of Holy Songs) outlined the ritual chants for singing the verses of the Rigveda, particularly for offerings of Soma, and proposed a tonal structure consisting of seven notes, which were named, in descending order, Krusht, Pratham, Dwitiya, Tritiya, Chaturth, Mandra and Atiswār. These referred to the notes of a flute, which was the only instrument with a fixed tonal frequency. This is why the second note is called pratham (first) the note played when only the first hole is closed.
In the Ramayana there are extensive references to music; Narada is an accomplished musician, as is Ravana; Saraswati with her veena is the goddess of music. In the Mahabharata, music is more secular; the gandharvas are presented as spirits who are musical masters, and who look 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 third century C.E.. 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, “color,” as in “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) comprising one octave. It also discusses various arrangements of the notes (murchhana), the permutations and combinations of note-sequences (tanas), and alankara, or elaboration. The Dattilam categorizes melodic structure into eighteen groups called jati, which are fundamental melodic structures similar to the raga. The names of the jatis, such as andhri and oudichya, reflect regional origins.
Music is also mentioned 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 is also discussed in Buddhist and Jaina texts from the earliest periods of the Christian era.
Narada's Sangita Makarandha treatise, written circa 1100 C.E., is the earliest text where rules similar to those of the current Hindustani classical music can be found. Narada 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 twelfth century, was perhaps the earliest musical composition presently known to have been sung in the classical tradition called Ashtapadi music.
In the thirteenth century, Sharngadeva composed the Sangita Ratnakara, which has terms such as the turushka todi (Turkish todi), revealing an influx of ideas from Islamic music. 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 resulted in considerable cultural interchange. Local musicians received patronage in the courts of the new rulers, who in their turn, took an increasing interest in local music forms. Though the first generations of the Delhi Sultanate may have been rooted in cultural traditions from outside of India, they gradually adopted many aspects of traditional Hindu culture from their kingdoms. This spurred the fusion of Hindu and Muslim and brought 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 Hindustani classical music. 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 the ragas Zeelaf and Sarparda. He created the genre of the qawwali, 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 does not appear to support this. It is possible that the word khayal was a corruption of qawwali, but it is more likely that it has a separate etymolgy (the Arabic word khyal means mood or capriciousness). 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 'Sadarang' may have been the father of modern day Khayal.
Many of the musical forms innovated by these pioneers merged with the Hindu tradition, in the work of composers like Kabir or Nanak, which was composed in the popular language of the people (as opposed to Sanskrit). This was 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), Chandidas (14th-15th century), and Meerabai (1555-1603 ).
As the Mughal Empire came into closer contact with Hindus, especially under Jalal ud-Din Akbar, music and dance also flourished. The legendary musician Tansen is recognized for having introduced a number of innovations, ragas as well as particular compositions. According to legend, upon his rendition of a night-time raga in the morning, the entire city fell under a hush and clouds gathered in the sky, and he could light fires by singing the raga Deepak, which is supposed to be composed of notes in high octaves.
At the royal house of Gwalior, Raja Mansingh Tomar (1486-1516) also participated in the shift from Sanskrit to the local idiom (Hindi) as the language for classical songs. He penned several volumes of compositions on religious and secular themes, and was responsible for the major compilation, the Mankutuhal (Book of Curiosity), which outlined the major forms of music prevalent at the time. In particular, the musical form known as dhrupad saw considerable development in his court and remained a strong point of the Gwalior gharana for many centuries.
After the dissolution of the Mughal empire, the patronage of music continued in smaller princely kingdoms like Lucknow, Patiala, and Banaras, giving rise to the diversity of styles that is today known as gharanas. Many musician families, such as the Sham Chaurasia gharana, obtained large grants of land which made them self-sufficient, at least for a few generations. The Bhakti and Sufi traditions continued to develop, and interact with the different gharanas and groups.
As the power of the maharajahs and nawabs waned in the twentieth century, their patronage declined. The expulsion of Wajid Ali Shah to Calcutta after 1857, brought the influence of Lucknavi musical tradition to the music of renaissance Bengal, giving rise to the tradition of Ragpradhan gan around the turn of the century.
In the early twentieth century, Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar emerged as an extremely talented musician and organizer (despite having been blinded at the age of 12). His books on music, as well as the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya music school that he opened in Lahore in 1901, helped foster a movement away from the closed gharana system.
Paluskar's contemporary and occasional rival, 'Chaturpandit' Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande, recognized the many rifts that had appeared in the structure of Indian classical music. He undertook extensive research visits to a large number of gharanas, Hindustani as well as Carnatic, collecting and comparing compositions. Between 1909 and 1932, he brought out the monumental Hindustani Sangeetha Padhathi (4 vols), which suggested a transcription for Indian music and described the many traditions in this notation. It consolidated the many musical forms of Hindustani Classical music into a number of thaats, a system that had been proposed in the Carnatic tradition in the seventeenth century. The Ragas as we know them today were consolidated in this landmark work.
In modern times, the government-run All India Radio and Radio Pakistan has helped to bring the artistes in front of the public, countering the loss of the patronage system. The first star was Gauhar Jan, whose career was born out of Fred Gaisberg's first recordings of Indian music in 1902. With the advance of films and other public media, musicians began to make their living through public performances. With exposure to Western music, some of these melodies also started merging with classical forms, especially in the stream of popular music. A number of gurukuls, such as that of Alauddin Khan at Maihar, flourished. In more modern times, corporate sponsorship has also helped to support Hindustani music.
Principles of Hindustani Music
The rhythmic organization is based on rhythmic patterns called tala. The melodic foundations are "melodic modes" called thaats; thaats are part of "musical personalities" called ragas. Thaats may consist of up to seven scale degrees, or swara. Hindustani musicians name these pitches using a system called sargam, the equivalent of Western movable do solfege:
sa = do
re = re
ga = mi
ma = fa
pa = sol
ni = ti
sa = do
Both systems repeat at the octave. The difference between sargam and solfege is that re, ga, ma, dha, and ni can refer to either "pure" (shuddh) or altered—"flat/soft" (komal) or "sharp" (tivra)—versions of their respective scale degrees. As with movable do solfege, the notes are heard relative to an arbitrary tonic that varies from performance to performance, rather than to fixed frequencies, as on a xylophone.
The fine intonational differences between different instances of the same swara are sometimes called śruti. The three primary registers of Indian classical music are Mandra, Madhya and Tara. Since the octave location is not fixed, it is also possible to use provenances in mid-register (such as Madra-Madhya or Madhya-Tara) for certain ragas. A typical rendition of Hindustani raga involves two stages:
Alap - a rhythmically free improvisation to the rules for the raag, in order to give life to the raga and sketch out its characteristics; further divisible into alap, jod and jhala.
Bandeesh/Gat: a fixed composition set in a specific raga, performed with rhythmic accompaniment by a tabla or pakhavaj. There are different ways of systematizing the parts of a composition, either:
or lets say:
A slow composition
B variations of the composition
C fast composition
D variations on the fast interpretation
E speeding up, excelling more and more in performance til end
The forms of Hindustani classical music were designed primarily for vocal performance, and many instruments were designed and evaluated according to how well they emulate the human voice.
Types of compositions
The major vocal forms associated with Hindustani classical music are dhrupad, khayal, and thumri. Other forms include the dhamar, tarana, trivat, chaiti, kajari, tappa, tapkhayal, ashtapadi, ghazal and bhajan. Of these, some forms fall within the crossover to folk or semi-classical ('light' classical) music, as they often do not adhere to the rigorous rules and regulations of 'pure' classical music.
Dhrupad is the Hindu sacred style of singing, traditionally performed by male singers. It is performed with a tanpura (long-necked lute) and a pakhawaj (barrel-shaped percussion instrument) as instrumental accompaniments. The lyrics, which were in Sanskrit centuries ago, are presently sung in Brajbhasha, a medieval form of Hindi that was spoken in Mathura. The rudra veena, an ancient string instrument, is used in instrumental music in the style of Dhrupad.
Dhrupad music is primarily devotional in theme and content, containing recitals in praise of particular deities. Dhrupad compositions begin with a relatively long and acyclic Alap, where the syllables of the mantra "Om Anant tam Taran Tarini Twam Hari Om Narayan, Anant Hari Om Narayan" is recited. The alap gradually unfolds into a more rhythmic Jod and Jhala sections. This is followed by a rendition of Bandish, with the pakhawaj as an accompaniment. The great Indian musician Tansen sang in the Dhrupad style. A lighter form of Dhrupad, called Dhamar, is sung primarily during the festival of Holi.
Dhrupad was the main form of northern Indian classical music until two centuries ago, but has since then given way to the somewhat less austere khyal, a more free-form style of singing. After losing its main patrons among the royalty in Indian princely states, Dhrupad ran the risk of becoming extinct in the first half of the twentieth century. Fortunately, the efforts by a few proponents from the Dagar family have led to its revival and eventual popularization in India and in the West.
Some of the best known vocalists who sing in the Dhrupad style are the members of the Dagar lineage, including the late senior Dagar brothers, Us. Nasir Moinuddin Dagar and Us. Nasir Aminuddin Dagar; the late Junior Dagar brothers, Us. Nasir Zahiruddin and Us. Nasir Faiyazuddin Dagar; Us. Wasifuddin Dagar; Us. Fariduddin Dagar; and Us. Sayeeduddin Dagar. Other leading exponents include Dr. Ritwik Sanyal, Pt. Uday Bhawalkar, and the Gundecha brothers, Ramakant and Umakant Gundecha, who have received training from some of the Dagars. Leading vocalists outside the Dagar lineage include the Mallik family.
A form of vocal music, khayal is almost entirely improvised and very emotional in nature. A khyal consists of around 4-8 lines of lyrics set to a tune. The singer then uses these few lines as the basis for improvisation. Though its origins are unknown, it appeared during the fifteenth-century rule of Hussain Shah Sharqi and was popular by the eighteenth-century rule of Mohammed Shah. The best-known composers of the period were Sadarang (a pen name for Niamat Khan), Adarang, Manrang and Nisar Hussain Khan Gwalior.
Later performers include Ustad Alladiya Khan, Abdul Karim Khan, Pt. Dattatreya Vishnu Paluskar, Faiyaz Khan, Pt. Vinayak Rao Patwardhan, Pt. Shankar Rao Vyas, Pt. Narain Rao Vyas, Ut. Nazakat Ali and Ut. Salamat Ali Khan, Pt. Eknath Sarolkar, Pt. Kashinath Pant Marathe, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Kesarbai Kerkar, Mogubai Kurdikar, Krishnarao Shankar Pandit, Amir Khan, Pt. Gajananrao Joashi, Pt. Ram Marathe, Pt. Ratnakar Pai, Kumar Gandharva, Jitendra Abhisheki, Pt. A. Kanan and Mallikarjun Mansur.
Some of the present day vocalists are Bhimsen Joshi, Gangubai Hangal, Pt. Yeshwantbua Joshi, Girija Devi, Kishori Amonkar, Pandit Jasraj, Satyasheel Deshpande, Ustad Iqbal Ahmad Khan, Dr. Rajshekhar Mansur, Pt Ulhas Kashalkar, Pt. Arun Bhaduri, Malini Rajurkar, Prabakar Karekar, Rashid Khan, Aslam Khan, Sanjeev Abhyankar, Shruti Sadolikar, Ashwini Bhide, Ajay Pohankar, Chandrashekar Swami, Pt. Venkatesh Kumar, Mashkoor Ali Khan, Vidushi Subhra Guha, Pt. Parameshwar Hegde, Indrani Choudhury, Pt. Ganapathi Bhat, and Pt. Madhav Gudi.
Another vocal form, Tarana are songs that are used to convey a mood of elation and are usually performed towards the end of a concert. They consist of a few lines of rhythmic sounds or bols set to a tune. The singer uses these few lines as a basis for very fast improvisation. It can be compared to the Tillana of Carnatic music.
Thumri is a semi-classical vocal form said to have begun with the court of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, 1847-1856. There are three types of thumri: Punjabi, Lucknavi and poorab ang thumri. The lyrics are typically in a proto-Hindi language called Braj bhasha and are usually romantic.
Ghazal was originally a Persian form of poetry. In the Indian sub-continent, Ghazal became the most common form of poetry in the Urdu language and was popularized by classical poets like Mir Taqi Mir, Ghalib, Zauq and Sauda among the North Indian literary elite. Vocal music incorporating this mode of poetry is popular with multiple variations across Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia, Turkey, India and Pakistan. Ghazal exists in multiple variations, including folk and pop forms but its greatest exponents sing it in a semi-classical style.
Although Hindustani music clearly is focused on the vocal performance, instrumental forms have existed since ancient times. In recent decades, especially outside South Asia, instrumental Hindustani music has received more attention than vocal music, perhaps because the lyrics in the latter are not easily understood.
A number of musical instruments are associated with Hindustani classical music. The veena, a string instrument, was traditionally regarded as the most important, but few play it today and it has largely been superseded by its cousins the sitar and the sarod, both of which owe their origin to Persian influences. Other plucked or struck string instruments include the surbahar, sursringar, santoor and various versions of the slide guitar. Among bowed instruments, the sarangi, esraj (or dilruba) and violin are popular. The bansuri (bamboo flute), shehnai and harmonium are important wind instruments. In the percussion ensemble, the tabla and the pakhavaj are the most popular. Various other instruments (including the banjo and the piano) have also been used in varying degrees.
Some representative performers are:
- Veena: Dabir Khann, Birendra Kishore Roy Chowdhury, Zia Mohiuddin Dagar, Bahauddin Dagar, Asad Ali Khan, Suvir Misra, Jeff Lewis
- Vichitra Veena: Dr. Lalmani Misra, Pt. Gopal Krishna, Dr. Gopal Shankar Misra, Mrs. Radhika Budhkar
- Sitar: Imdad Khan, Enayet Khan, Wahid Khan, Mushtaq Ali Khan Ravi Shankar, Vilayat Khan, Nikhil Banerjee, Manilal Nag, Purnendu Shekhar Sengupta (Kanu Babu), Rais Khan, Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan, Imrat Khan, Shahid Parvez, Indranil Bhattacharya, Santosh Banerjee, Kalyani Roy, Budhaditya Mukherjee, Sanjoy Bandopadhyay, Kartik Seshadri, Shriram Umdekar.
- Sarod: Allauddin Khan, Brij Narayan, Hafiz Ali Khan, Radhika Mohan Moitra, Timir Baran, Ali Akbar Khan, Jatin Bhattacharya, Buddhadev Das Gupta, Vasant Rai, Sharan Rani, Dhyanesh Khan, Aashish Khan, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Mukesh Sharma, 
- Surbahar: Imdad Khan, Wahid Khan, Enayet Khan, Annapurna Devi, Imrat Khan
- Shehnai: Bismillah Khan, Ali Ahmed Khan
- Bansuri: Pannalal Ghosh, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Raghunath Seth, Bari Siddiqui, Deepak Ram
- Santoor: Shivkumar Sharma, Tarun Bhattachrya, Bhajan Sopori, Omprakash Chaurasiya
- Sarangi: Ram Narayan, Bundu Khan, Ustad Sultan Khan, Abdul Latif Khan
- Esraj: Ashesh Bandopadhyay, Ranadhir Roy
- Violin: Parur Sundaram Iyer,V. G. Jog, Gajananrao Joshi, N. Rajam, Allaudin Khan, L. Shankar, L. Subramaniam,  Sisir Kana Dhar Choudhury
- Harmonium: Pt. Gyan Prakash Gosh, Pt. Manohar Chimote, Ustad Zamir Ahmed Khan, Ustad Bhure Khan
- Tabla: Gyan Prokash Ghosh, Shankar Ghosh, Ahmed Jan Thirakwa, Anindo Chaterjee, Chatur Lal, Shamta Prasad, Kanthe Maharaj, Alla Rakha, Arup Chattopadhyay, Anokhelal Misra, Keramatullah Khan, Kishen Maharaj, Zakir Hussain, Aban E. Mistry, Yogmaya Shukla, Subrata Bhattacharya, Debashis Choudhury.
- Guitar, slide (modified): Brij Bhushan Kabra, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, 
- Lalmani Misra, String Instruments, excerpts from Bharatiya Sangeet Vadya, Second ed. (New Delhi: Bharatiya Jnanpith, 2002). Retrieved August 27, 2020.
- Mukunda Lath (Mukunda Lāṭha, Dattila), A Study of Dattilam: A Treatise on the Sacred Music of Ancient India (1978), 283,
- Francis Robinson, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and the Maldives (Cambridge [England]: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 446.
- The term sruti literally means "that which is heard." One of its senses refers to the "received" texts of the Vedas, here it means notes of a scale.
- Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande, Hindustani Sangeetha Padhathi (4 volumes, (original 1909-1932) reprint ed. Sangeet Karyalaya, 1990, ISBN 8185057354). Originally in Marathi language, this book has been widely translated.
- Rajeev Taranath Retrieved August 27, 2020.
- Kala Ramnath Retrieved August 27, 2020.
- Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya. Retrieved August 27, 2020.
ReferencesISBN links support NWE through referral fees
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- ITC Sangeet Research Academy
- Acharya Vishawanath Rao Ringe 'Tanarang'
- Indian Classical Music for the Subtle system or the chakras
- Comprehensive reference on raagas
- Online Hindustani Music Resources
- Chandra and David Courtney's Indian Music Info Site
- Omenad, A website for Online Indian Music Education
- Biswabrata Chakrabarti
- Music India Online
- An introduction to Hindustani Classical Music by Mrs. Andal Sharma
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