(Online Course) GS Concepts : Features of Indian Music [Hindustani and Karnataka (Carnatic)]

Subject : Indian Culture
Chapter : Indian Culture

Topic: Features of Indian Music-
Hindustani and Karnataka (Carnatic)

Question : Briefly discuss the features of Indian Music?

Answer. Originally, in India there was only one system
of music, but during the medieval period the North India came under the impact
of the diverse musical influences of the Islamic world-particularly Persian,
which led to the division of the Indian Music into two distinct schools the
Hindustani (North Indian) and Karnataka (South Indian). But the basic features
in both schools of music were common. The Indian music is of two types
Marga-Sangit (mystical) and Desi Sangit (secular). The cause of music is
pleasant sound termed in India “Nada”. Indian music is divided into “Ragas” or
melody-types. There are ten major “Ragas” or parent scales of which the most
important are Yaman,  Bilawata Khamaj,  Bhairava, Purvi, Marwa, Kafi, Asawari,
Bhairavi and Todi. The major Ragas or parent scales are further sub-divided into
Ragas and Raginis so that we have about 200 types of melodies. Each Raga must
have five notes, one principal one (called Vadi), one second important note
(called Samvadi) and the rest assistant notes (called Anuvadi), Ragas are sung
in various speeds and some move in a certain pitch. Music has also its rhythmic
beats which are divided into ‘tala’, ‘laya’ and ‘matra’. ‘Tala is a complete
cycle of a metrical phrase composed of a fixed number of beats. ‘Laya’ is
tempo-slow, medium, fast. ‘Matra’ is the smallest unit of the ‘Tala’.

Thus the gamut of several notes woven into a composition may
be called a ‘Raga’. The Ragas can be sung without any instrumental accompaniment
but generally take ‘Tabla’ (drim) for the purpose besides any stringed
instrument. They are sung at particular seasons and time of the day or night.

Beginning in the 13th century, with the establishment of
Delhi Sultanate Islamic hegemony in the north is commonly believed to be
associated with evolution of two distinct styles of musical practice in India.
The Hindustani of north and the Karnataka of the south. Although the Hindustani
system considered different from the Karnataka by virtue of presence of Persian
and Turkish features in the former- musicians from Persia and central Asia were
associated with courts in the North at least until the late seventeenth century.

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Today the two main classical styles in India correspond
geographically the linguistic areas of Indo-Aryan based languages in the north
and Dravidian based languages in the south. Although analytically both can be
considered two variants of one underlying system, the two systems are considered
in India to distinct constituting separate theory systems, histories,
composition and performers.

Common to both systems are the fundamental concepts of pitch
(svara) melody type (raga known as rag in the north and ragam in the south) and
meter (tala, tal in the north and talam in the south). Both also use similar,
types of performance ensembles with a vocalist or instrumentalist as soloist, a
drummer as rhythmic accompanist and a drone provided by a tanpura. In the case
of vocal soloist, a melodic accompanist on an instrument is also present.

Question : Write short notes on;

  1. Hindustani Musictc “A) Hindustani Music”

  2. Karnataka Musictc “B) Karnataka Music”

  3. Principal Indian Ragastc “C) Principal Indian Ragas”

  4. Indian Musical Instrumentstc “D) Indian Musical

Answer. Hindustani music is usually traced back by its
practitioners to the Delhi Sultanate period with Amir Khusrau (1253-1325 A.D.)
as one of the earliest historical personalities. Although traditionally
considered the inventor of the sitar and tabla, and as well as several ragas and
other musical genres, the actual evidence for these assumptions is not clear.

The Zenith of Hindustani music is associated with the great
Tansen, one of the jewels of the court of the Mughal emperor, Akbar,
(1556-1605). A vocalist and an instrumentalist, most Hindustani today trace
their muscial descent from Tansen.

Hindustani musical performance is based on a composition
which is set to a meter and from which extemporised variations are generated.
The composition is usually a relatively short tune which is said to embody the
essence of the rag (mode or melody type) in which it is composed.

A performance begins with an alap. For dhrupad (four part
composition) and in instrumental genres, the alap is elaborate and characterised
by the absence of any metered accompaniment. Following the alap, pulsed
sections, which are considered subsectors of the alap, are performed in dhrupad
and instrumental genres and are called for (instrumental) or nom-tom (dhrupad).
Sitar and Sarod performance practice also includes a jhala, which is an
alternating pulsed and melodic section often repeated within the composition
itself later in the performance. In the voval khayal the alap is typically
non-existent or short and sometimes extended into the metered section.

Once the alap is ended the composition proper is performed.
The composition is set to a recurring rhythmic cycle (tala).

Hindustani vocal music is performed in three major and
several minor styles. The oldest and most austere is a four part composition
known as dhrupad. The main classical vocal form today is the two part
composition known as khayal (pers, imagination), usually followed at the end of
a concert by a light classical form known as thumri.

Texts of most compositions are devotional, although these can
take on a remarkably wide range of manifestations ranging from abstractly
spiritual to the highly erotic.

Most instrumental compositions in the north (referred to as
gat), although sometimes based on vocal models are a largely separate repertoire
in the north and are performed mainly on either the sitar or the sarod. They
include compositions which are inherited through family lineages along with more
recent compositions. In this century several other instruments including the
flute, sarangi and shahnai have also developed solo performance traditions.

¨ Karnatak Music

What is performed today as Karnatak music is derived most
immediately from three outstanding composers of the eighteenth century, known
collectively as the Trinity: Thyagaraja (1759-1847); Svami Shastri (1763-1827)
and Dikshitar (1775-1835). The Trinity, although not themselves patronized by
the courts, spent most of their lives within a few miles radius of Tanjore,
which became the focal point of musical patronage in the south after the fall of
Vijayanagar (1585). Thyagaraja is revered both as the supreme artist and a
saint, and epitonizes the ideal of musicianship in the south. Most of his
immediate disciples were not professional musicians but devotees and is only
after the succedding generation that professional musicians received
Thavagaraja’s compositions.

Karnataka performance practice tends to give greater emphasis
to the actual composition than is the case for Hindustani music. The fixed and
memorized composition along with its memorized variations are longer and
constitute proportionately much more a given performance than in the north.

Karnataka music include three major performance genres as
well as some minor ones: the varnam as advanced etude-like composition of ten
performed as the first item of a performance. The kriti, which is the classical
compositional form most often associated with the eighteenth century Trinity, is
devotional in its textual material, and the ragam-tangam-pallavi a somewhat more
abstract musical form embodying extensive unmetered sections along with a new or
borrowed compositional line characterized by rhythmic variation in the pallavi
section. The ragamtenam-pallavi is in principle the centerpiece of a Karnatak
performance, although a kriti will often assume this role in actual practice.

Despite the series of contacts one can make between the two
systems they share analogous structural units. For example, the Karnatak alspana
is in many respects equivalent to the Hindustani alap; both function as the
expositional structure of a raga.

¨ Principal Indian Ragas

Indian classical music consists of six principal Ragas and
thirty Raginis. Music is adapted to the season of the year, hours of the day and
mood of the performer. The Indian year is divided into six seasons and each
season has its own Raga. The principal Ragas are Bhairav, Hindol, Megha, Sriraga,
Deepak and Malkaus. According to Indian concept of Music, each Raga is a
demigod, wedded to five Raginis. Thus there are six Ragas and thirty Raginis.
The day is divided into six parts, and each is allotted to a particular Raga.
Thus Bhairavi Raga is usually sung from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. Hindol from 8 a.m. to
12 noon. Megha from 12 noon to 4 p.m. Sriraga from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Deepak from
8 p.m. to 12 midnight and Malkaus from 12 midnight to 4 a.m.

¨Indian Musical Instruments

The principal Indian musical instrument as may be divided
into tour classes : (i) stringed instruments, which have strings made of steel,
copper or brass wires or silken cords. Such instruments are veena, sarod, sitar,
tanpura, rabbad: (ii) instruments played with bow, such as sarangi, dilruba,
mayuri etc., (iii) drum instruments, which are played with bands on sticks, such
as pakhawaj, tabla, naggara, dholak etc., and (iv) wind or mouth instruments,
which are played by blowing full or half breaths, such as, flute, bin, surna

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