Music in India

Music has always been an important part of Indian life. The range of musical phenomenon in India extends from simple melodies to what is one of the most well- developed "systems" of classical music in the world. There are references to various string and wind instruments, as well as several kinds of drums and cymbals, in the Vedas. Some date the advent of the system of classical Indian music to Amir Khusro. Muslim rulers and noblemen freely extended their patronage to music. In the courts of the Mughal emperors, music is said to have flourished, and the Tansen was one of the jewels of Akbar's court.
The great poet-saints who chose to communicate in the vernacular tongues brought forth a great upheaval in north India and the Bhakti or devotional movements they led gained many adherents. The lyrics of Surdas, Tulsidas, and most particularly Kabir and Mirabai continue to be immensely popular. By the sixteenth century, the division between North Indian (Hindustani) and South Indian (Carnatic) music was also being more sharply delineated. Classical music, both Hindustani and Carnatic, may be either instrumental or vocal.

Carnatic Music
Carnatic music or Carnatic sangeet is the south Indian classical music. Carnatic music has a rich history and tradition and is one of the gems of world music. Carnatic Sangeet has developed in the south Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. These states are known for their strong presentation of Dravidian culture. Purandardas (1480-1564) is considered to be the father of Carnatic music. To him goes the credit of codification of the method of Carnatic music. He is also credited with creation of several thousand songs. Another great name associated with Carnatic music is that of Venkat Mukhi Swami. He is regarded as the grand theorist of Carnatic music. He also developed "Melankara", the system for classifying south Indian ragas.

Indian Film Music
One of the most popular Indian music forms is the Filmi music. Hindi film industry, popularly known as Bollywood, along with Indian regional film industries, produces thousands of films a year, most of which are musicals and feature elaborate song and dance numbers. It is interesting to note that some of the movies become successful because of their music only. Movie soundtracks are released as tapes and CDs much before the movie is released. Earlier, radio was the main media of Film music but with the coming of satellite TV and FM radio the scenario has completely changed.

Indian Fusion Music
Fusion is not a very old trend in Indian music. Fusion trend is said to have begun with Ali Akbar Khan's 1955 performance in the United States. Indian fusion music came into being with rock and roll fusions with Indian music in the 1960s and 1970s. But it was limited to Europe and Europe and North America. For some time the stage of Indian fusion music was taken by Pt Ravi Shankar, the Sitar maestro.

Pt Ravi Shankar began fusing jazz with Indian traditions along with Bud Shank, a jazz musician. Soon the trend was imitated by many popular European and American music exponents. In the year 1965, George Harrison played the song, "Norwegian wood" on the Sitar. Another famous Jazz expert, Miles Davis recorded and performed with the likes of Khalil Bal Krishna, Bihari Sharma, and Badal Roy. Some other prominent Western artists like the Grateful Dead, Incredible String Band, the Rolling Stones, the Move and Traffic soon integrated Indian influences and instruments and developed the trend of fusion.

Ghazal is a common and popular form of music in Indian and Pakistan. Strictly speaking, it is not a musical form at all but a poetic recitation. However, today it is commonly conceived of as an Urdu song whose prime importance is given to the lyrics. Ghazal traces its roots in classical Arabic poetry. Ghazal grew from the Persian qasida (a verse form that had come to Iran from Arabia around the 10th century A.D).The qasida was usually a eulogy composed in praise of the emperors or their noblemen. Many a times the Qasida often had 100 couplets or more. With the coming of the Muslims, Ghazal got introduced in the 12th century. Thus Ghazal was imported into India from the 12th to the 18th centuries. Slowly and gradually Ghazal acquired local color and form. The most notable contributor to Ghazal music in India was the famous poet Amir Khusro. Soon Ghazal came to enjoy widespread popularity among Indian Muslims and rulers for many centuries.

Folk Music of India
India is a land of cultural diversities. Every region in India has its own form of folk music. This rich tradition of folk music is very much alive in not just rural India, but also in some metros. Though one may say that music has acquired a totally different definition with the arrival of pop culture and new age cinema, there are many who would beg to differ. The realm of traditional folk music in India is very large and it is basically a countryside representation of the urban Indian society. Many people tend to mix up Indian folk music with tribal music. There is a huge difference between thee two genres of music. Read on to know about folk music of India.

Folk music is very different from classical music as well. To begin with, it is not taught in the same way as classical music is taught. Classical music usually requires a student devoting their entire life perfecting the forms of this music. Folk music is more like a daily ritual without affecting the daily lives of people. People learn it since their childhood and grow up on these songs. One can always carry on with their daily life routine while listening to or singing folk music. Most of the songs are sung in small village functions like weddings, births, etc.

Indian Music Instruments

Sitar is of the most popular music instruments of North India. The Sitar has a long neck with twenty metal frets and six to seven main cords. Below the frets of Sitar are thirteen sympathetic strings which are tuned to the notes of the Raga. A gourd, which acts as a resonator for the strings is at the lower end of the neck of the Sitar. The frets are moved up and down to adjust the notes. Some famous Sitar players are Ustad Vilayat Khan, Pt. Ravishankar, Ustad Imrat Khan, Ustad Abdul Halim Zaffar Khan, Ustad Rais Khan and Pt Debu Chowdhury.

Sarod has a small wooden body covered with skin and a fingerboard that is covered with steel. Sarod does not have a fret and has twenty-five strings of which fifteen are sympathetic strings. A metal gourd acts as a resonator. The strings are plucked with a triangular plectrum. Some notable exponents of Sarod are Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Pt. Buddhadev Das Gupta, Zarin Daruwalla and Brij Narayan.

Sarangi is one of the most popular and oldest bowed instruments in India. The body of Sarangi is hollow and made of teak wood adorned with ivory inlays. Sarangi has forty strings of which thirty seven are sympathetic. The Sarangi is held in a vertical position and played with a bow. To play the Sarangi one has to press the fingernails of the left hand against the strings. Famous Sarangi maestros are Rehman Bakhs, Pt Ram Narayan, Ghulam Sabir and Ustad Sultan Khan.

Flute is a simple cylindrical tube of uniform bore and associated with Indian music since time immemorial. Flutes vary in size. Flute is held horizontally and is inclined downwards when it is played. To produce sound or melody one has to cover the finger holes with the fingers of the left and right hand. Variations in pitch are produced by altering the effective length of the air column. Notable flute exponents are Pt Pannalal Ghosh and Pt Hari Prashad Chaurasia.

Shehnai is a traditional musical instrument, associated with auspicious occasions like marriages and temple processions. Shehnai is a double reed instrument with a tapering bore which progressively increases towards the lower side. The Shehnai has finger-holes to produce semi, quarter and micro-tones. Ustad Bismillah Khan is the unrivalled maestro of the Shehnai.

The most popular musical instrument used in North India is the Tabla. The Tabla consists of a pair of drums- the Tabla and the Bayan. The Tabla is made of wood and whereas its head is made of stretched animal skin. Finer tuning of Tabla is done by striking the rim of the Tabla with a small hammer. The Bayan is the bass drum and is usually made of metal with a stretched skin head. Both drums have a black spot in the center made of manganese or iron dust.

It is believed that the Tabla was derived from Pakhawaj. Pakhawaj usually accompanies Dhrupad style of singing. Pakhawaj is a barrel-shaped drum with two heads which are made of layers of skin. The heads of Pakhawaj are expanded by leather straps which run along the sides of the body over small cylindrical wooden blocks that are used for tuning.

The harmonium is a traditional and popular musical instrument of India. The harmonium has a keyboard of over two and one-half octaves and works on a system of bellows. The keyboard is played with the right hand while the left hand is used to operate the bellows. Harmonium is more popular in North India than in the South.

Jaltarangam consists of a set of eighteen porcelain cups of varying sizes. The cups are arranged in a semi-circle before the performer, in decreasing order of size. The largest cup is to the left of the performer whereas the smallest to his right. Water is poured into the cups and the pitch is changed by adjusting the amount of water in the cup. The cups are struck with two thin bamboo sticks.

The mridangam is one of the most popular classical instruments of South India. Mridangam accompanies vocal, instrumental and dance performances. The present day mridangam is made of a single block of wood. It is a barrel-shaped double-headed drum, the right head being smaller than the left. The two heads are made of layers of skin. The mridangam is played with hands, palms and fingers.

The Ghatam is one oldest percussion instruments of South India. The Ghatam is a mud pan with a narrow mouth. From its mouth, it slopes outwards to form a ridge. Ghatam is made mainly of clay baked with brass or copper filings with a small amount of iron filings. The Ghatam produces fast rhythmic patterns. Ghatam is generally a secondary percussion instrument accompanying mridangam.