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Indian Classical Music: Sound of Tradition

Since ancient times, music has been an integral part of Indian culture. Indian music has always had a rich and diverse tradition, from devotional songs to folk tunes. And at the heart of it, all is classical music. Indian classical music is a genre of South Asian music that has its roots in the Vedic traditions of the Indian subcontinent. The use of Raga characterizes the music. Melodic scales provide the foundation for the composition and improvisation of the music. Indian music is often on a drone, a sustained note offering background harmony. The music is built around Tala, which are rhythmic cycles providing the framework for the composition and performance of the music.

Traditional Indian classical music is a unique and beautiful art form passed down through the generations. Today, this rich musical tradition is still alive and thriving, and we can hear its influence in many different genres of music. With its intricate melodies and beautiful ragas, Indin music is truly the sound of tradition. It’s a genre steeped in history yet still relevant today.q

The History of Indian Classical Music

Indian classical music traces back to the Vedic period, the earliest Hinduism era. The Vedas are a collection of ancient Hindu scriptures that contain hymns, prayers, and rituals. The priests sang these hymns and prayers, often accompanied by music. The concept of Raga was first introduced in the Vedic period. A raga is a melodic framework. To create a piece of music, a musician should know Raga. It typically consists of a scale, a set of notes, and rules.

The earliest Indian music was probably monophonic, consisting of a single melody. As Indian music evolved, it incorporated more complex harmonies and rhythms. Polyphonic music, which consists of multiple melodies played simultaneously, became more common.

In the 12th century, The great Indian musician and poet Amir Khusro developed a new style of music called qawwali. Qawwali is a form of devotional music still popular today in India. In the 16th century, the Mughal emperor Akbar patronized a new style of music called dhrupad. Dhrupad is a form of Hindustani classical music. You can recognize it by its slow tempo and emphasis on melody. The late 18th and early 19th centuries saw the rise of the khyal.

At the end of the 19th century, Indian music was influenced by Western music, particularly the works of Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart. Indian musicians began to experiment with Western scales, harmonies, and rhythms. Today, our music is performed all over the world. It is a popular genre of music in India and has a growing following in the West.

In the 20th century, Indian classical music began to receive international recognition, with musicians such as Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan introducing it to audiences worldwide. Today, this continues to be a vibrant and evolving tradition, with many talented musicians carrying on their rich legacy.

The Different Styles

Indian classical music has two main traditions. One is the North Indian tradition or Hindustani music, and the other is the South Indian tradition or Carnatic music. It encompasses a wide range of styles and genres, each with its unique characteristics and history. The different types are-

  • Hindustani classical music – The music of North India
  • Carnatic classical music – The music of South India
  • Rabindra Sangeet – The theme of Bengal

The type of instrumentation, improvisation, and musical tone distinguishes the different styles. It is characterized by different styles developed over the years, each with its tradition, technique, and repertoire.

Many Indian films and international films use this music. They are used in Indian films like Guide, Pakeezah, Mughal-E-Azam, Aurat, and many others. International films like The Bengali Night, The Darjeeling Limited, The Namesake, Slumdog Millionaire, and many others. Also used in Sufi music, like Qawwali, Sufiana Kalam, and many different forms of Sufi music. Also present in devotional music like Bhajans and many other states.

Indian Classical Instruments

Indian classical music has a rich variety of instruments. Each has its own unique sound and character. Here are some of the most popular and widely used instruments-

  • Sitar: The sitar produces a deep, resonant sound and Hindustani classical musicians commonly use it. It has a long neck and pear-shaped body which makes it an iconic Indian classical instrument.
  • Tabla: Musicians use the tabla widely as a pair of hand drums. The tabla has a smaller drum, the dayan, and a larger drum, the bayan. It has great versatility and the ability to produce a wide range of sounds.
  • Sarod: The sarod is a string instrument with a deep and rich tone. Musicians play it with a pick, known as a Mezrab.
  • Flute: Musicians use the bamboo Indian flute widely in both Hindustani and Carnatic classical music. It produces a haunting, melodious sound when players blow air across the top of the instrument.
  • Violin: The violin is a Western instrument. Musicians adapted this instrument for its bright, crisp sound. It is widely used in the Carnatic style of classical music.
  • Shehnai: The shehnai is a traditional Indian wind instrument. It is commonly used at weddings and other auspicious occasions. It has a bright, piercing sound and is able to create a festive atmosphere.
  • Harmonium: The harmonium is a keyboard instrument. It was introduced to India during the British colonial era. It has since become an integral part of Indian classical music. Vocalists commonly use this instrument.

These are just a few of the many instruments. There are many others also. Each instrument has its own unique sound and playing style, and together they create the rich, vibrant tapestry that is Indian classical music.

Great Masters

Certainly! Indian classical music has produced some of the most remarkable and influential musicians of all time. Here are a few great masters of Indian classical music, known for their exceptional skill and immense contribution to the art form:

  • Tansen: A musician in the court of Mughal Emperor Akbar. Tansen is one of the greatest musicians of all time in India. He was a virtuoso composer and performer, renowned for his unmatched skills in dhrupad and raga music.
  • Amir Khusro: Amir Khusro was a multi-talented 13th-century musician, poet, and scholar. He has credit for creating the genre of Sufi music.
  • Pandit Ravi Shankar: Pandit Ravi Shankar is undoubtedly one of the most iconic Indian classical musicians of modern times. As a sitar virtuoso and composer, he played a pivotal role in popularizing Indian classical music in the West.
  • Ustad Allauddin Khan: Ustad Allauddin Khan was a legendary musician and composer. He is the founder of the Maihar gharana. He was a master of several instruments, including the sarod and the surbahar.
  • Pandit Bhimsen Joshi: Pandit Bhimsen Joshi was a renowned Indian classical vocalist. He belongs to the Kirana gharana. He is one of the greatest singers of all time in India.

These great masters of Indian classical music have left an indelible mark on the genre, shaping its history and evolution. Their extraordinary talent and vision continue to inspire countless musicians and music lovers, making them an inseparable part of the rich cultural heritage of India.

Benefits of Indian Classical Music

Yes, Indian classical music has several benefits. It has both physical and mental benefits. Here are some of them:

  1. Relaxation: It is great for its calming effect on the mind and body. It can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, and promote relaxation.
  2. Improves focus and concentration: Learning to play an instrument or listen to this music requires high focus and concentration. This can improve mental clarity, memory, and cognitive function.
  3. Enhances creativity: It provides a rich source of inspiration for creative endeavors. The complex rhythms and melodies can stimulate the imagination and spark new ideas.
  4. Boosts mood: Listening to this music can enhance mood and uplift spirits. The uplifting and soothing melodies can bring joy and happiness to the listener.
  5. Improves physical health: This kind of music can have a positive impact on physical health. It can lower blood pressure, reduce heart rate, and improve respiratory function.
  6. Cultural enrichment: Indian classical music has a deep root in Indian culture and traditions. Learning about this music can help people better appreciate other cultures and expand their worldview.

Overall, classical music offers a unique set of benefits that can improve both physical and mental health, foster creativity, and enrich cultural understanding.

Indian Classical Music in the Modern World

Indian classical music has a rich cultural heritage. People have been enjoying it around the world for a while. In the modern world, It has continued to evolve and adapt to contemporary trends and technology while still preserving its traditional roots.

With the advent of digital technology and social media, This has become more accessible to people around the world. Platforms like YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Music have made it easy for music lovers to discover and listen to classical Indian music from their homes.

Overall, Indian classical music continues to hold a special place in the hearts of music lovers worldwide, and its timeless beauty and rich cultural heritage are sure to endure for generations to come.

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Mohammad Nahid Parvez

I'm Nahid, An accomplished Violinist and Conductor from Bangladesh. Passionate about sharing classical music through performances, writing, and teaching. Also, an SEO expert, blogging about classical music and instruments.