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Indian Classical Music

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    Indian Classical Music

    There are two main schools of Indian Classic Music: Hindustani (North Indian) and Carnatic (South Indian). Though similar in concept, they are nonetheless entirely different forms of musical presentation. There was a time when a single system preponderated throughout India, but as early as the 12th century a division had already begun. Successive waves of Muslim invaders profoundly influenced Indian life and culture in the North, whereas South remained relatively untouched and was left in peace to continue its cultural development. While the Hindustani music is played in most of India, Carnatic music belongs to mainly four states of South India: Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala.

    Let’s talk a little about each. Carnatic, as well as Hindustani system, use tonal system, which resembles that of the Western Classical music. It divided the octave into twelve semitones of approximately equal length (although there are minute microtonal pitch differences). Through this sophisticated structure (rag or raga) and its relation to the rhythmic structure (tal or tala) a vast range of music possibility is explored.

    I would like to invite my musically knowledgeable friends to discuss this aspect of our Culture. Later we can take the discussion a little further to explore how Indian Classic music has such soothing value.

    I would always remember a concert where Ravi Shankar was late for about ˝ an hour, and he spent an additional ˝ hour to tune his Sitar. One irritated person asked him why such a delay, and Shankar replied: “I want to be in tune with my audience”.

    Please share whatever you know about Indian Classical Music. It is one important part of our Culture.

    While south indian music is compact, almost mathematical, north indian music is relatively flexible.

    south india continues to have more tradition of music. almost all of them get some training in music at an early age and have an ear for music. so if not 'tansen', there are enough number of 'kansen'. in north, it is only pockets like pune, lacknow, benares, gwaliar, calcutta that have elite and knowlegeble audience. But in south, even a small town offers a good audience.

    kishori amonkar keeps claiming that indian music comes from bharat's 'natyashastra'. though there are few doubts on kishori's mastery on music, very few will take her to be an authority on bharat's book.

    there is also a role of accidents in music. people tend to imitate kumar gandharva's style though kumarji sang in that style since he lost one of kidneys. gwaliar singer tend to open up the voice with 'aaaa' with fully open mouth which was started by one of masters since he lost his voice when young and regained it by this vocal exercise. but even those who have not lost voice continue the exercise. so certain styles could emerge out of influential singers of the time and conmtinue.


      "But in south, even a small town offers a good audience."

      Yes, I have noticed that too. One reason why a lot of artists like to perform in the South. If you noticed in most South Indian families (mostly in Tamilnadu), at least one kid is learning some form of dance or music. Unfortunately my knowledge is limited. I used to play the tabla and a little bit of harmonium, but I haven't really kept up.

      But from a layman's point of view, Hindustani Classical music seems so much less complicated. I personally did not find Carnatic music all that appealing (specially vocal). people in Pakistan listen to Carnatic music ?

      [This message has been edited by BombayKid (edited September 24, 2000).]


        >>>>But from a layman's point of view, Hindustani Classical music seems so much less complicated.<<<

        BK, not so, my friend.

        >>do people in Pakistan listen to Carnatic music ?<<

        Although not a mainstream audience, but a very small group of Pakistanis listen to Carnatic. I know a few of them for myself. Most of these people are music enthusiasts, and want to revive Indian Classical music, which is (sad to say) becoming instinct in Pakistan. I know a couple of guys who are experimenting with fusionary percussion, who are heavily into Carnatic. One of the thing that is distinctly different between the Hindustani and the Carnatic is that there is only (usually) one percussion (Tabla), by contrast, there could be two or more in Carnatic and when you add that to the Morsing, it just makes magic.

        One more difference is the introduction of Violin (not just for solo concerts) in South India, whereas the Hindustani still uses Sarangi.

        It is good to know that you play Tabla. I also try a little. One day the two of us can give a concert to other Guppos. How's dat?

        ZZ, You seem very knowledgeable about ICM. Perhaps you could tell us if there are other regional variations (apart from the 2 main). I know that Bengali musicians tend to separate themselves as purely homegrown, given the fact that Hindustani made into Bengal only about 200 years ago.


          Do you all like ghazals? Whose?


            Well I like Mehndi Hassan and Jagjit Singh. But I think Ghazals would still be considered "semi-classical" at best wouldn't it ? A true lover of classical music is the one who listens to classical vocal.



              Guru Granth Sahib is written in a lyric form, in the beginning of each Pauri (verse)the raag (classical music) it should be sung is given. If sung in a perscribed raag the music and wording combination is absolutely wonderful, it is always accompanied by Tabla and harmonium. There are lot of good classical musicians, who regularly sing hymns in Gurdawaras from Granth Sahib. Their music is also available on CD's. The other day I found some on Napster. Some of the music is just heavenly.

              P.S. Guru Granth sahib is written in the language spoken in 16 and 17 century India, which includes sanskrit, brij basha, Palli, and persian etc.


                I love Ghazals also, but there are only a few singers/musicians that do justice. I am not a big fan of e.g., Munni-Begum's monotonic style (although, I like the ghazals she has sung). I appreciate good tonic, dominant, tonic (octave higher), dominant (octave higher). Some of Mehdi Hasan’s stuff is of acceptable quality, other is too commercial. I think Punkaj Uddas is pretty good at times. I do like Chitra/Jagjeet, but only their live recordings and not the stuff recorded at studios.

                Rani, could you please recommend a couple of Guru Granth Sahib CDs. I am very interested in listening to that. Must be magical.



                  I will recommend some as soon as I do little research. My favorites ones are pirated and are on my computer. Another option is...if you can provide me with your e-mail address, I can arrange to send you a cassette.

                  [This message has been edited by Rani (edited September 26, 2000).]


                    There has been outstanding bengali musicians in indian classical like ustan alldiankhan sahib, pt. ravishankar, ustad ali akbar khan etc.

                    however, like other states in india, bengal has its own folk. bauls are quite known for their devotional sons. when i visited shantiniketan, i heard bauls and the variety in the rhythms is really amazing. There are kirtans. there must be other forms that are not devotional, but i am not aware of them.

                    then bengalis have rabindo-sangeet which is more or less a part of bengali life, not just culture. there is rabindra song on whether it is death or birth or marriage whatever. rabindro is influenced by indian, western, folk watever and had his own ideas on music. a few songs which are based on rabindro sangeet would be 'chookar mere man ko kiya tune kya ishara', ' tere mere milan ki ye raina' (in fact, if u are listening any such stolen song and a bengali is around, it is difficult to stop him/her from telling everyone about the original and sing it) and then there is a singer sandhya mukhopadhyay whom i like very much. in fact there was singing called 'aadhunik' (modern) by hamanto, manna, sandhya, lata in bangla that is quite interesting.

                    now what can i recommend on rabindro or bauls or whatever. hemanto has sung some of them.

                    rubiya nur or some bangla person will be better equipped to tell more. i had many bengali friends. so most of bangla songs i have heard were due to that. i just have one cd of bangla songs by debabrata biswas which is tagore songs.



                      In one of your ealier post you mentioned Shubah Mudgal..I got a few of her songs through Napster. I particularly like the 'Dolna'. I am waiting for someone to put her recent CD on Napter.



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                          ustaad shafa-at ali khan teaches at Penn and has a music center around philly area. he is from the famous Khan family which has impacted sitar over centuries. You may want to hook up with him. He is a young guy and its such an experience just sitting and listening to him and his students, from voice, raag, bhajans to sitar and tabla work.
                          The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist. And like that... he is gone.


                            i like munni begum's ghazals


                              Originally posted by Rani:

                              In one of your ealier post you mentioned Shubah Mudgal..I got a few of her songs through Napster. I particularly like the 'Dolna'. I am waiting for someone to put her recent CD on Napter.
                              Shubha Mudgal was a disappointment when I heard her classical. But I am no authority on classical and I do not know how experts rate her.

                              Munni Begum, I recently heard. I think she will do well if she works with a good music diector. She has voice, tunes suck. Why not with Ghulam Ali, Asha Bhosale-Ghulam Ali's 'meraj-e-ghazal' was wonderful.

                              Of Pakistani singers, I love Tina Sani and Mehdi Hasan in ghazals. NYA, which are the ones u would recommend in classical, i mean among those who still perform?

                              Punjab has a great tradition of folk music too, in fact one of the richest in country, except perhaps bengal. Folk music in our Maharashtra is very limited. Malwa, Awadh have their own. But still Punjab is great.