Before we start with Indian Classical Music let’s talk about music in general. Music is a part of our life, whether we are singers or not, we still prefer to listen to music. As we all know, Music has a power that impacts our emotions.
In a busy life, all we get is music that helps us relax. The mesmerizing and soothing sound produced by the musical instruments can touch your soul. There are many types of music: Folk, Pop, Classical, Hip Hop and many more. Not only for relaxation, music has a power that can also help to cure mental health issues like anxiety, stress, etc. It helps people with depression most because of its soothing nature. That is why people prefer music therapy for many health-based issues.
Now, coming back to our topic: INDIAN CLASSICAL MUSIC
You may think Indian Classical Music is a complicated subject, but it is not like that. Let’s demystify Indian Classical Music today.
Indian Classical Music has been with us from the ancient period. The traces can be found in The Vedas, scriptures, and traditions. It is said to be the base of many music genres and is most of the time is dedicated to Hindu God and Goddesses. Great musicians and singers have a lot of reverence towards Indian Classical Music because of its profound and revealing nature. It has spiritual power and is articulated in such a way that it just helps the listeners to visualize the entire situation as it is that deep and imaginative. That is why learning Indian Classical Music is not an easy task, it requires lifelong devotion, rigorous training, and spending time on riyaz(practice) is one of the most important things you have to deal with.
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The two main sub-classes are: Hindustani Classical Music & Carnatic Classical Music
Both the tradition have the same origin but have grown apart and developed individually throughout the ages. It became very distinct but still has a lot of common things.
Let’s discuss both of them.
Hindustani Classical Music
Hindustani Classical Music is related to the northern region of the Indian subcontinent and was originated around the 13th and 14th centuries. It is also known as North Indian Classical Music or Shastriya Sangit and is highly influenced by Islamic and Persian culture. The musical instruments used in Hindustani Classical Music are very similar to instruments in a foreign country and is based on the raga system.
The main forms are Khyal/Khayal, Dhrupad, Tappa, Tarana, Ghazal, and Thumri.
It is the most dominant form of North Indian Classical music.
The word Khayl means imagination and it came from the Persian/Arabic language as it gives the performer more freedom to articulate his/her words with the help of his imagination. Normally Khayal is based on song texts called composition or bandish.
It is the oldest surviving classical form of Shashtria Sangit. A very heavy masculine style performed with pakhawaj (an ancient mridang), it is mostly known for its close bond with the taal. It does not seek to entertain as its nature is more of a spiritual one.
Dhrupad and khyal were popular, out of them Dhrupad is the oldest one that has been flourished in the medieval era.
It is based on fast, subtle, and complex construction. It is believed that Tappa has been derived from The folk song of Punjab and Sindh and is mostly sung by camel riders. The way words are used in Tappa depicts the love and partition of lovers. Its bounce and re-bounce of the musical notes are very much attractive to the ears.
It is a type of composition in which certain words based on Persian and Arabic phonemes are expressed at a medium or madhya laya, fast or drut laya, and very fast or maha drut laya. Tarana was invented by Amir Khusro and is mainly consists of melody, usually short, and repeated many times with variations. In South Indian Music, it is known as tilana or thillana and is mainly used for the dance performance.
It is a form of ode that was originated in Arabic poetry.
A beautiful poetic expression, combining two intense emotions, Love and Pain. Ghazal has a charm that can make you feel vulnerable and resilient at the same time. It is written in a poetic manner that epitomizes the elegance of painful love. A poetical expression that shows both the pain of loss and grieving from love despite the pain. It is the pride of Urdu poetry.
It is a romantic and devotional kind of composition that is, most of the time, is based on a girl’s love for Krishna. The language used in it is called the Brij Bhasha.
It is just the basic which will give you an idea about Hindustani Classical Music. Now, let us start with Carnatic music.
Carnatic Music is also known as Karnataka Sangitam and is associated with the southern part of India including the modern states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Telengana, and Tamil Nadu, Sri Lanka can be included as well.
Most compositions in Carnatic music are written to be sung and when it is played on the instrument they are meant to be performed in a singing style.
Carnatic music is the amalgamation of the main vocalist, a melodic instrument such as violin, a mridangam or mridang, and a tambura. Flute, Veena, Chitraveena are other instruments that are used in Carnatic music.
As Carnatic music is based on composition, it helps in encoding the intricate details of the compositions and provide scope for improvisation.
Carnatic music is different as it involves the elements of the composer’s vision and the musician’s interpretation. The musicians play a great role as it is important for them to first understand what was conveyed by the composer and then they have to prepare musical notes in such a way that will help to enhance the composer’s imagination and gives it a proper effect.
The two most common and important forms of Carnatic music are Kirtanam or Kriti and Varanam.
Kriti/Kirtanam: The three important things which come under Kriti are:
Pallavi, Anupallavi, and Charana.
It is the line of the song which is usually one cycle long and repeated twice. Pallavi word is the combination of three other words:
PA- Padam; means Phrase; LLA- Layam, means tempo; VI- Vinyasam, means variations.
It mainly comes after the Pallavi and is the second section of the composition. Anupallavi is optional, it is not necessary to use Anupallvi instead Samrashtri Charanam is used which is the combination of Anupallavi and charanam of the compositions which directly follows the Pallavi.
These are the fundamental form of Carnatic music and is known for its intricate nature. All varnams consist of Ragas and Swara passage including a Pallavi, an anupallavi, a charanam, and chittaswaras.
Musicians mostly sing varnam at the opening of the performance, as a warm-up and to grab the attention of the audience.
Even though there is quite a difference in both the sub-genres but the foundation of both the Hindustani and Carnatic music is the same which is Sruti-the musical pitch, Swara-musical sound of the single note, Raag- the melodic formula, and Taal-the rhythmic cycle.
Learning Classical music is honestly not an overnight thing, it requires a lot of hard work and patience, but it does not mean it is something impossible to achieve. Indian music has a special attraction not only in India but it is also popular in other parts of the world.
The basic styles of Indian music are the same.
Indian music has a great influence on other genres of music as well. The Afghani music, The Persian music, Russian music, and even western music carry the impression of Indian music.
Even ‘The Beatles’ has incorporated Indian music to their music style, they have used many Indian instruments and the lead guitarist George Harrison was the student of Pandit Ravi Shankar. This is just one of the examples to show how precious is our Indian Classical Music.