Indian Classical Music: Indian Classical Music is the Hindustani or North Indian style of Indian classical music found throughout North India. The style is sometimes called North Indian classical music or Shastriya Sangit. It is a tradition that originated in Vedic ritual chants and has been evolving since the 12th century CE. Today, it is one of the two subgenres of Indian classical music, the other being Carnatic music, the classical tradition of South India.

 Concepts of Indian Classical Music: Concepts of Indian Classical Music consist of Shruti, Swara, Alankar, Raga, Tala, Thaat, Gharana etc.

 Shruti: The shruti or sruti (pronounced śruti) is a Sanskrit term used in several contexts throughout the history of Indian music. A shruti is considered the smallest interval of pitch that the human ear can detect. There are several shrutis based on their swara sthaan such as Kṣobhini, Tivra,Kumudvati,Manda,Chandovati,Dayavati, Ranjani, Raktika, Raudri, Krodha, Vajrika, Prasariṇi, Priti, Marjani, Kṣiti, Rakta, Sandipani, Alapini, Madanti, Rohiṇi, Ramya, Ugra.

Swara: Swara is a Sanskrit word that means a note in the octave. The seven basic swaras of the scale are named shadaj, rishabh, gaandhaar, madhyam, pancham, dhaivat and nishaad, and are shortened to Sa, Ri (Carnatic) or Re (Hindustani), Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, and Ni and written S, R, G, M, P, D, N. Collectively these notes are known as the sargaam.

Sargam: The sargam word is an acronym of the consonants of the first four swaras sa, re, ga, and ma.

 Alankaar: Alankaar in Sanskrit means “ornament” and is used in the context of Hindustani classical music to collectively refer to the various embellishment techniques used in both vocal and instrumental music. Some common types of alankaar used in classical music are Meend, Kan-swar, Andolan, Gamaka, Khatka/Gitkaari, Murki, etc.

Meend: Meend is a technique of singing notes in a fluid manner with one note merging into the next. Meend is represented by Arc like sign to suggest sliding from on note to other. There are many different kinds of meend.

Kan-swar: It represents grace notes – the use of grace-notes depends on the raga being performed.

Andolan: It means a gentle swing on specific notes, used selectively.

Gamaka: Gamaka is a heavy to-and-fro fluctuation/ movement involving two or three distinct notes.

Khatka/Gitkari: It is a rapid rendition of a cluster of notes distinctly yet lightly.

Murki: Murki is an even lighter and more subtle rendition of a cluster of notes.

 Raga: A raga literally means “colour” or “beauty” or “melody”. It is also spelled raag, raaga, ragam and pronounced rāga, rāg or rāgam. It is one of the melodic modes used in Indian classical music. “Raag” is the modern Hindi pronunciation used by Hindustani musicians and “ragam” is the pronunciation in Tamil. A raga uses a series of five or more musical notes upon which a melody is constructed. However, the way the notes are approached and rendered in musical phrases and the mood they convey are more important in defining a raga than the notes themselves. In the Indian musical tradition, rāgas are associated with different times of the day, or with seasons. Indian classical music is always set in a rāga. A Raga may be defined as a specified combination, decorated with Varnas (embellishments) and graceful consonances of notes within a Thaat (mode) which has the power of evoking a unique feeling distinct from all other joys and sorrows and which possesses something of a transcendental element.

 Taal: Tala, Taal or Tal (Sanskrit tāla Telugu tāḷaṁ, literally a “clap”), is the term used in Indian classical music for the rhythmic pattern of any composition and for the entire subject of rhythm.

 Thaat: A thaat is a mode in northern Indian or Hindustani music. Thaats always have seven different pitches (called swara) and are a basis for the organization and classification of ragas in North Indian classical music. According to Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande (1860-1936), one of the most influential musicologists in the field of North Indian classical music in the twentieth century, each one of the several traditional ragas is based on, or is a variation of, ten basic thaats, or musical scales or frameworks. The ten thaats are Bilawal, Kalyan, Khamaj, Bhairav, Poorvi, Marwa, Kafi, Asavari, Bhairavi and Todi; if one were to pick a raga at random, it should be possible to find that it is based on one or the other of these thaats. For instance, the ragas Shree and Puriya Dhanashri are based on the Poorvi thaat, Malkauns on the Bhairavi, and Darbari Kanada on the Asavari thaat.

 Gharana: In Hindustani music, a gharana is a system of social organization linking musicians or dancers by lineage or apprenticeship, and by adherence to a particular musical style. A gharana also indicates a comprehensive musicological ideology. This ideology sometimes changes substantially from one gharana to another. It directly affects the thinking, teaching, performance and appreciation of music. The word gharana comes from the Hindi word ‘ghar’, which means ‘family’ or ‘house’. It typically refers to the place where the musical ideology originated. Thus a gharaanaa is a ‘school of music’.

Khayal gharana: Some of the gharanas well known for singing khayals are: Agra, Gwalior, Patiala, Kirana, Indore, Mewati, Sahaswan, Bhendibazar and Jaipur.

Dhrupad gharana: It includes Dagarvani Gharana; founded by the Dagar familyBishnupur Gharana; founded by Kirtankars in West Bengal (13th Century), Darbhanga Mallik Gharana;DarbhangaBihar – known for style known as Gaurhar Vani and also has good command on Khandar VaniBettiah gharana; founded in BettiahBihar.

Thumri gharana: There are also gharanas for thumris – like Banaras. Lucknow, Patiala though another school of thought opines that thumris are devoid of gharana divisions and are only to be associated with certain styles or Baj. The concept of hereditary musicians was not confined to vocal music alone. Hence there are also gharanas in instrumental music – sitar, sarode, tabla etc.

Tabla gharana: It includes Delhi gharana (the oldest of the Tabla Gharanas), Ajrara gharana (an offshoot of and closely associated with the Delhi Gharana), Lucknow gharana (revived by Late Pandit Anil Bhattacharjee), Benares gharanaPunjab gharanaFarukhabad gharana ( the youngest accepted Tabla Gharana).

Sitar gharana: Imdadkhani gharana, Senia Gharana, Indore Gharana, Maihar gharana, Jaipur Gharana, Bishnupur Gharana.


 Forms of Compositions: There are various forms of compositions which include DhrupadKhayalTarana,TappaThumriGhazal etc.

Dhrupad: Dhrupad is the most ancient style of Hindustani classical music that has survived until today in its original form. The Dhrupad tradition is a major tradition of Indian culture.

The nature of Dhrupad music is spiritual, seeking not to typically entertain, but to induce feelings of peace and contemplation in the listener. The word Dhrupad is derived from DHRUVA the steadfast evening star that moves through our galaxy and PADA meaning poetry.

Dhrupad is traditionally performed by male singers. It is performed with a Tampura and a Pakhawaj as instrumental accompaniments. The lyrics, some of which were written in Sanskrit centuries ago, are presently often sung in khayal-bhasha, a medieval form of North and East Indian languages that was spoken in Eastern India. The rudra veena, an ancient string instrument, is used in instrumental music in dhrupad.

Dhrupad music is primarily devotional in theme and content. It contains recitals in praise of particular deities. Dhrupad compositions begin with a relatively long and acyclic aalaap.

The aalaap gradually unfolds into more rhythmic jod and jhala sections. These sections are followed by a rendition of bandish, with the pakhawaj as rhythm 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.

Khayal: Khayal is a Hindustani form of vocal music, adopted from medieval Persian music and based on Dhrupad. khayal, also spelled khyal or kayal,  in Hindustani music, a musical form based on a Hindi song in two parts that recur between expanding cycles of melodic and rhythmic improvisation. In a standard performance a slow (vilambit) khayal is followed by a shorter, fast (drut) khayal in the same raga.

Khayal, literally meaning “thought” or “imagination” in Hindustani, is unusual as it is based on improvising and expressing emotion. A Khayal is a two- to eight-line lyric set to a melody. The lyric is of an emotional account possibly from poetic observation. Khayals are also popular for depicting the emotions between two lovers, situations of ethological significance in Hinduism and Islam, or other situations evoking intense feelings. Khayal contains a greater variety embellishments and ornamentations compared to dhrupadKhayal‘s romanticism has led to it becoming to most popular genre of Hindustani classical music.

The importance of the Khayal’s content is for the singer to depict, through music in the set raga, the emotional significance of the Khayal. The singer improvises and finds inspiration within the raga to depict the Khayal.

The origination of Khayal is controversial, although it is accepted that this style was based on Dhrupad and influenced by Persian music. Many argue that Amir Khusrau created the style in the late 16th century. This form was popularized by Mughal Emperor Mohammad Shah, through his court musicians. Some well-known composers of this period were SadarangAdarang, and Manrang.

Tarana: Another vocal form, taranas are medium to fast paced 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 poetry with soft syllables or bols (e.g. “odani”, “todani”, “tadeem” and “yalali”) set to a tune. The singer uses these few lines as a basis for fast improvisation. The tillana of Carnatic music is based on the tarana, although the former is primarily associated with dance.

Tappa: Tappa is a form of Indian semi-classical vocal music whose specialty is its rolling pace based on fast, subtle, knotty construction. It originated from the folk songs of the camel riders of Punjab in late 18the century AD and was developed as a form of classical music by Mian Ghulam Nabi Shorey or Shorey Mian, a court singer for Asaf-Ud-Dowlah, the Nawab of Awadh. Its beauty lies in various permutations and combinations of notes. The compositions are short and based on shringara rasa. Though tappa lyrics are written in Panjabi language, it’s not sung in punjub. Baranasi and Gwalior are the strongholds of tappa. “Nidhubabur Tappa”, or tappas sung by Nidhu Babu were very popular in 18th and 19th-century Bengal. Among the living performers of this style are Laxmanrao Pandit, Shanno Khurana, Manvalkar, Girija Devi, Ishwarchandra Karkare, and Jayant Khot.

Thumri: Thumri is a semi-classical vocal form said to have begun in Uttar Pradesh mainly in lucknow and benares with the court of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of lucknow, (r. 1847–1856). There are three types of thumri: poorab ang, Lucknavi and Punjabi thumri. The lyrics are typically in a proto-Hindi language called Braj Bhasha, Khari boli and Urdu.It is believed to have been influenced by hori, kajri and dadra. It is supposed to be a romantic and erotic style of singing. The distict feature of thumri is portraying various episodes of lord Krishna and radha. They are usually sung in lower tempo, giving more importance in lyrics and shorter alaps.

Some recent performers of this genre are Abdul Karim Khan, the brothers Barkat Ali Khan and Bade Ghulam Ali KhanBegum AkhtarGirija DeviBeauty Sharma Barua, Nazakat-Salamat Ali Khan, Pt Ajoy Chakrabarty, Prabha AtreSiddheshwari DeviShobha Gurtu and so on.

Ghazal: Ghazal is mainly a poetic form than a musical form. It is originally the Persian form of poetry. In the Indian sub-continent, Ghazal became the most common form of poetry in the Urdu language and described as the pride of urdu poetry. The ghazal never exceeds 12 shers or couplets and on an average ghazals usually have about 7 shers. It was popularized by classical poets like Mir Taqi  MirGhalibDaaghZauq and Sauda amongst the North Indian literary elite. Vocal music set to this mode of poetry is popular with multiple variations across IranAfghanistanCentral AsiaTurkeyIndiaBangladesh and Pakistan. Ghazal exists in multiple variations, including semi-classical, folk and pop forms. The 18th and 19th centuries are regarded as the golden period of the ghazal with Delhi and Lucknow being its main centres.




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