An Introduction to Hindustani music (part 2)


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Sep 21, 2009
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Modern era

In the 20th century, the power of the maharajahs and nawabs declined, and so did their patronage. With the expulsion of Wajid Ali Shah to Calcutta after 1857, the Lucknavi musical tradition came to influence the music of renaissance Bengal, giving rise to the tradition of Ragpradhan gan around the turn of the century.

In the early 20th century Vishnu Digambar Paluskar emerged as an extremely talented musician and organizer (despite having been blinded at age 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. Finally, 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 17th century.

In modern times, the government-run All India Radio, Bangladesh Betar and Radio Pakistan helped to bring the artists 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 started 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.

Principles of Hindustani music

The rhythmic organization is based on rhythmic patterns called Taal. The melodic foundations are "melodic modes", or "Parent Scales", known as Thaats, under which most ragas can be classified based on the notes they use.

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 (Shadaj) = Do
* Re (Rishab) = Re
* Ga (Gandhar) = Mi
* Ma (Madhyam) = Fa
* Pa (Pancham) = So
* Dha (Dhaiwat) = La
* Ni (Nishad) = Ti
* Sa (Shadaj) = 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 "Natural" (Shuddha) or altered "Flat" (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 Mandra-Madhya or Madhya-Tara) for certain ragas. A typical rendition of Hindustani raga involves two stages:

* Alap: a rhythmically free improvisation on the rules for the raga in order to give life to the raga and shape out its characteristics. The alap is followed by the jod and jhala in instrumental music.

* Bandish or Gat: a fixed, melodic 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. For example:
o Sthaayi: The initial, Rondo phrase or line of a fixed, melodic composition.
o Antara: The first body phrase or line of a fixed, melodic composition.
o Sanchaari: The third body phrase or line of a fixed, melodic composition, seen more typically in Dhrupad Bandishes
o Aabhog: The fourth and concluding body phrase or line of a fixed, melodic composition, seen more typically in Dhrupad Bandishes.

There are three variations of Bandish, regarding tempo:

o Vilambit Bandish: A slow and steady melodic composition, usually in Largo to Adagio speeds.

Vocal music

Hindustani classical music is primarily vocal-centric, insofar as the musical forms were designed primarily for vocal performance, and many instruments were designed and evaluated as to how well they emulate the human voice.
[edit] Types of compositions

The major vocal forms-cum-styles associated with Hindustani classical music are Dhrupad, Khayal, and Tarana. Other forms include Dhamar, Trivat, Chaiti, Kajari, Tappa, Tap-Khayal, Ashtapadis, Thumri, Dadra, Ghazal and Bhajan.


Dhrupad is an old style of singing, traditionally performed by male singers. It is performed with a tanpura and a Pakhawaj as instrumental accompaniments. The lyrics, which sometimes were in Sanskrit centuries ago, are presently often sung in Brajbhasha, a medieval form of Hindi that was spoken in the Mathura area. 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. It contains recitals in praise of particular deities. Dhrupad compositions begin with a relatively long and acyclic Alap, where the syllables of the following mantra is recited:

"Om Anant tam Taran Tarini Twam Hari Om Narayan, Anant Hari Om Narayan".

The alap gradually unfolds into 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. Since 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.


Khayal is a form of vocal music in Hindustani music, adopted from medieval Persian music and based on Dhrupad music. Khayal, literally meaning "thought" or "imagination" in Hindi/Urdu originally from Arabic, Khyal, is special as it is based on improvising and expressing emotion. A Khayal is a 2 to 8 lined lyric set to tune. The lyric is of an emotional account possibly from poetic observation.

Th 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, yet it is accepted that this style was based on Dhrupad gayaki 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 Sadarang, Adarang, and Manrang.
“ Kaisku Marwa Jaayal Hamaraa

More darawa nayan ghar kan warahe,

Mohammad Shah ke Sadarangile, Prem Piya la Chapate Apne, Huntara Tana Mana Waarune - Mohammad Shah

This Khayal bandish in raga Bibhas was popularized by D.V. Paluskar. It is interesting how this bandish mentions three names — Mohammad Shah, Sadarang, and Prem Piya.


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 and developed as a form of classical music by Mian Ghulam Nabi Shori or Shori Mian (1742 - 1792), a court singer of Asaf-Ud-Dowlah, Nawab of Awadh. Among the prominent living performers of this style are Pt. Laxmanrao Kr.


Another vocal form, Tarana 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 rhythmic syllables or bols set to a tune. The singer uses these few lines as a basis for fast improvisation. In some sense the tarana can be compared to the Tillana of Carnatic music, although the latter is primarily associated with dance.

Thumri is a semiclassical 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 is an originally 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 amongst the North Indian literary elite. Vocal music set to this mode of poetry is popular with multiple variations across Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia, Turkey, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Ghazal exists in multiple variations, including folk and pop forms.

Note: The source of this article is web encyclopedia.
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