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Indian music is a very varied type of music which ranges from classical to film, more commonly known as pop. Both types are extremely popular throughout the Indian society in all classes. Music is apparent in Indian culture as a way of expression.
The history of Indian music extends back many centuries. Traditionally in that period, there were various kingdoms, in which the power was held equally by the king and the temples. This was the division of music. The temples presented religious music to all that wanted it while the kings patronized the separate artists. Music also formed a major part of the theatre. It was very famous as nearly all of India's people had access to it. There were full scale musicals in the ancient Indian theatres. This tradition has been carried into till the recent days, where Bollywood (the Indian Hollywood) films are very music-friendly. Music is an integral part of the movies that are being made. But many movies are now being targeted at the Western society, movies with less music. This is killing India's musical background.
Indian music is a mix of many different types of music. Five hundred years ago, India was ruled Muslims, when it had been influenced by local territories such as the recent Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. Classical music is a very prominent feature in most Indian people's lives. It is heard for pleasure. The term "Indian Classical Music" refers to two different, but related, age old, traditions. Both of them are very popular and come from two very different areas in India.
The North Indian style is called "Hindustani", which translates to India, and South Indian tradition, also known as "Carnatic". Indian music is different from Western music in two major ways:
1. All of Indian classical music is melody, and
2. Indian music is never written down, and cannot be played off a written score.
If it was played off the score, it would lose its authenticity. Over centuries, the artists learn to play or sing by listening to the song. As the artist learns the song and plays it, he adds his own authenticity to the song. In this way, the work of numerous generations has been put together to make a singular song that has been made seamless over the years. This is how Indian music has survived over the years.
Hindustani classical music is based upon the 12 note scale.
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The notes themselves have different names. The Western convention of Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti, while in Indian classical music, they are called Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni. These represent the seven white keys on the keyboard. Then there are also five more notes. These are Komal Re, Komal Ga, Tivra Ma, Komal Dha and Komal Ni. These notes would correspond to the black keys on a keyboard.
This correspondence would be correct if the Indian scale was based upon the standard Cmaj scale as Western music is, but Indian music is common to be placed in the G#maj. This makes translation between Indian and Western much difficult.
The combinations of these notes are call ragas. A Raga is a subset of notes ranging in number from five to eight with a set of rules that are made to create a certain mood. How the performer uses this is what separates some artists from other, better artists. Each Raga has a name. A Raga also has a time of day at which it will be best performed. These ragas also work just as well with instrumentals.
Vocal Hindustani music is referred to as "khayal", and literally means imagination". It is the most common classical music in Northern India. It is much less popular in Western cultures than instrumentals. It is a style which contains many surprises and personal touches. Khayal is based upon nonsensical phrases, relying upon the universal feel of the instrument and voice. This makes the knowledge of the language much less important.
Classical music is much more spiritual than band music. To appreciate Indian music, you have to spend time with. It is an acquired taste. Many people do not appreciate Indian classical music for the feeling it conveys. This is why it is not too popular among the Western society. The performance is a very interactive activity. The performance is a dialogue between the artist and the listener. The intensity of the artist's performance depends on the response he is getting. He will not perform well if the people listening do not respond.
Instrumentals are very much like khayals, focusing one setting a mood and delivering a seeming sense of perfection. They use the same raga notes and rules as khayals.
There is one main difference between Hindustani and Carnatic classical music. Carnatic music is much shorter in length than Hindustani music. This does not give the artist enough time to create a mood, so he concentrates on diversity of ragas. Hindustani musicians focus one just one raga, and perform for about two hours at least.
Indian Instruments are extremely diverse in their sound and size. One of the most famous Indian instruments is the Sitar. It is a very popular instrument among women. The Sitar is shaped like a guitar with a long neck, four strings and a short, large body. It has an amazing “buzzing'; resonance that helps create the air required. The Sitar is used as a backup instrument in Khayals.
Another Indian instrument is the harmonium. It is a small hand-powered organ that provides a back-up for the singer. Its keys are in the same format as a standard keyboard and so it has been adopted by Western cultures. The instrument on this tape is a harmonium. (PLAY TAPE)
The main and most popular percussion instrument in India is the tabla. It consists of two small drums with bull skin stretched across the top. It is apparent in nearly every classical piece of Indian Music. There are also some improvised instruments. (PLAY TAPE) This recording is of an artist playing on ceramic bowls filled with water up to a certain depth to create a specific sound.
Pop music, or film music, is a very prominent feature in India. The film songs are very much based around love and are romantic. This is the theme of every recent pop song and film. They are a mix of American jazz and Indian classical creating an interesting product with a capturing theme. (PLAY CD)
There are many more types of music in India. Each state has their style of music, thus making India a very musically diverse area.