Music in terms of science is just change of sound frequencies but not just that, music is something beyond just frequencies. It is the inner language of a person. Music is not just an art but a FINE ART and can be classified as a performing art with other arts like dance. This is one of the most IN DEMAND subject in modern times and is also classified as a field of study. In modern times we cannot even expect an advertisement without music. We experience and listen to music in many situations let it be a saddest moment or a happiest moment. This is a language where one can show his creativity. This is a very vast subject without any end to it. Music is usually played on an instrument or sung by a vocalist.

Music has been categorised into many forms referred as genres like EUROPEAN, RUSSIAN, CONTINENTAL, ARABIC, POP, WESTERN CLASSICAL, ROCK etc. One such form  is THE INDIAN CLASSICAL MUSIC. The name itself suggests that this form is from India. Indian Classical is one of the most popular forms of music found all around the world especially in India, Sri Lanka, United Kingdom, etc. This form of music is the most difficult ones and one who learns, masters this music can perform any type of music without any training. Unlike other forms of music, the Indian classical music is not something that anyone can learn and master it. This is one of the most wonderful forms of music.

Under INDIAN CLASSICAL MUSIC, there are many sub-genres and two main genres are THE HINDUSTHANI CLASSICAL MUSIC(or the North Indian Music) and THE CARNATIC CLASSICAL MUSIC( the South Indian Classical  Music).These both forms have not been different until 15th – 16th century and  during Islamic rule in India, the traditions separated and made improvisations and distinctions in own aspect. However, both the forms have more similarities than differences. Hindustani music is originated from northern part of India, Pakistan and has a touch of Arab and Persian countries whereas Carnatic is from southern part of India mainly Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu(Though all were a single country when this has evolved). In both the forms, Shruti, Laya and Raaga are the most important and similar features. Shruti is the scale or range in between some notes that helps in composition of Music. Raaga is a set of notes where the music is extracted from those particular notes and create melody and Laya is primarily the Rhythm. Indian Music is not only on notes but is also between the notes. Indian Music primarily revolves around praying god in musical form.

Indian Classical musicians are given some prefixes before their name as a honour to them, their skill and their knowledge. For instance, male artistes belonging to Carnatic are often referred to as Vidwans(as the prefix of their name) whereas in Hindustani, Pandit or Ustad are the prefixes for male. Vidushi is the prefix given to the female artistes of both the styles. If the artiste holds a doctorate, he is he/she is prefixed with the same (Dr.).

Carnatic  is more of Manodharma or the inner creativity which is done on some compositions like Keerthanas, Krithis, Tarangas , to name a few.  However, Hindustani , emphasises on elaboration of raaga to its fullest, and is more of creativity and less on compositions. Students undergo rigorous training and practice while learning. There are more ragas in Carnatic when compared to Hindustani. There are thousands of ragas in Carnatic, and each raga gives its own feel, every raga is unique from the other. Single note difference between two or more ragas can make a lot of impact on listener’s mood.  Moreover, there are some rhythmic patterns through which the music is produced. Like ragas, Carnatic has even more rhythmic patterns than Hindustani. Although both Carnatic, Hindustani styles are creative in nature, Hindustani is observed to be more creative as they give a higher place to self-creativity rather than creativity on compositions.

Since compositions play a vital role in Carnatic music, it would be insulting music without mentioning composers like Tyagaraja, Syama Sastry, Muthuswami Dikshitar(Above three are worshipped as Carnatic Trinity), Patnam  Subramaniam Iyer, Mysore Vasudeva Charya, Maharaja Swathi Thirunal of Travancore and Dr M Balamuralikrishna and their compositions are named as Krithis (of Tyagaraja, Purandaradasa),Keerthanas(of Annamacharya, Ramadasu), Thillanas(Musical compositions with rhythmical patterns and syllables). Purandara Dasa, a Kannada saint is considered as one of the most important composers and is often referred to as Sangita Pitamaha or Father of Carnatic Music as he was the one who gave the basic lessons i.e Sarali swaras to Gitas . He was the one who initiated the teaching method through his compositions which is being followed for over 3 centuries. Though Hindustani is more of creativity, there are some compositions  even for Hindustani like Drupad, Ghazals, Tarana,etc which add beauty to the concert. And there are some compositions which are common for both styles like Abhangas, Astapadis which were composed by Jayadeva, Namdev, Gyandev, Tukaram, etc.

Musicians of both the styles perform by sitting down as the concerts are performed for long hours and have different techniques to get good music which is not possible while standing. It is also believed that sitting down and performing is a way of their gratitude towards their gurus or teachers as their whole learning process is done by sitting down.

Dr M Balamuralikrishna, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, M S Subbulakshmi, M S Gopalakrishnan, Dr K J Yesudas, Ustad Amjadh Ali Khan, Maharajapuram Santhanam, DK Pattammal, Pandit Jasraj , Mandolin U Srinivas, Dr Kadiri Gopalanath are some of the greatest of great mucisians in Indian Classical Music.

Indian classical music is both elaborative and expressive. Like Western classical music, it divides the octave into 12 semitones of which the 7 basic notes are, in ascending tonal order, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni for Hindustani music and Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni for Carnatic music, equivalent to Western music’s Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti . Also, unlike modern Western classical music, Indian classical music places great emphasis on improvisation. These seven degrees are shared by both major raga system, that is the North Indian (Hindustani) and South Indian (Carnatic). The solfege (sargam) is learnt in abbreviated form: sa, ri (Carnatic) or re (Hindustani), ga, ma, pa, dha, ni, sa. Of these, the first that is “sa”, and the fifth that is “pa”, are considered anchors that are unalterable, while the remaining have flavours that differ between the two major systems. For example, Carnatic has 3 different types of ri,ga,dha and ni.

Usually the main musicians or the lead performer (mostly a vocalist  sometimes an instrument) is accompanied both, melodically and rhythmically by some instrumentalists . Both the styles have different instruments as accompaniments. In Carnatic style, the main performer is accompanied mostly by a Violin for melody and Mridangam for percussion and sometimes also a clay pot referred as Ghatam. A main performer in Hindustani is accompanied by Harmonium and Tabla for melody and percussion respectively. Brief information about some instruments used in Indian Music is given below:

Tanpura or Tambura: The tanpura is a long-necked plucked string instrument found in various forms in Indian music. It does not play melody but rather supports and sustains the melody of another instrument or singer by providing a continuous harmonic bourdon or drone. A tanpura is not played in rhythm with the soloist or percussionist: as the precise timing of plucking a cycle of four strings in a continuous loop is a determinant factor in the resultant sound, it is played unchangingly during the complete performance. The repeated cycle of plucking all strings creates the sonic canvas on which the melody of the raga is drawn. The combined sound of all strings, each string a fundamental tone with its own spectrum of overtones, is a rich and vibrant, dynamic-yet-static tone-conglomerate, due to interactive harmonic resonances that will support and blend with the external tones sung or played by the soloist.

Violin: Violin is primarily a western instrument which has been introduced to Indian Music in early 16th century by Baluswami Dikshitar popularly known as elder brother of versatile saint composer of Carnatic trinity, Muthuswami Dikshitar. Though both the styles have violin, Carnatic uses it more. Though earlier a violinist  was only used as an accompany main artiste, from early 1940s, violinists also started being recognised as main artistes(During solo concerts ) under influence of eminent Violin Maestro Dwaram Venkata Swami Naidu. It is a string instrument. This instrument is played by bowing on the upper part of violin by simultaneously moving fingers on the fingerboard. This instrument produces a soft and smooth sound. This instrument gives oscillation in between notes which is the primary aspect in Indian music especially Carnatic music and hence has become an important part in every concert. These days we cannot imagine a Carnatic concert without a Violin. M S Gopalakrishnan, Lalgudi Jayaraman, TN Krishnan(above three are referred to as violin trinity), Dr L Subramaniam, M Satyanarayana Sarma, A Kanyakumari to name a few are some of the eminent violinists in Indian Classical Music.

Harmonium: Harmonium is one of the most important instruments in Hindustani. This is a key instrument where keys have to be pressed to change the note and the bellow has to be pulled to produce music. Though this instrument does not produce an oscillating sound, this instrument gives a kind of melody which is required in a Hindustani performance. Although Harmonium is not used in Carnatic music, it is a key instrument in Sampradaya bhajans which is another part of Carnatic. Though there is no proper evidence of its origin, some musicians claim that it is from Persian origin, while some believe that it is from Italy while others believe that it is from Northern Part of India.

Mridangam: Mridangam is a barrel shaped percussion instrument from South India. Musicians believe this instrument as Deva Vadya or divine instrument as this is believed to be played by Hindu Deity Narayana and Nandi and is also believed that another Deity Shiva dances while this is played. This is an ancient instrument and is believed to have originated some 1000s of years ago. Mridangam is found in some sculptures in some of the most important ancient Hindu temples. This instrument is mostly made of Jack tree wood. It is covered with dried and processed goat and buffalo skin. The upper side of Mridangam has a black layer in centre which is made very technically and is called KARINI. The upper part  which is a smaller produces a sharp sound whereas the lower part which is the large membrane produces bass sound making it a single instrument producing multiple sounds. Mridangam is the only instrument which can produce so many kinds of sounds with each and every touch giving different tones. This instrument has to be played very technically and is cannot be mastered very easily. Some great Mridangam artistes are Partri Satish Kumar, Umayalapuram Sivaraman, Guru Karaikudi Mani, T V Gopalakrishnan, M L N Raju to name a few.

Tabla: Tabla is a popular percussion instrument primarily used in Hindustani music. This instrument is believed to be originated from India and Pakistan. It is played not only in India, but also in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Arab countries and some parts of Europe. This is an instrument having two separate parts one for bass and the other one for sharp tone. The part producing sharp tone is smaller one and part producing bass tone is larger one. Zakir Hussain, Shafaat Ahmed Khan, Ustad Alla Rakha, Rajendra Nakod ane some of the world famous Tabla artistes.

Not only the above mentioned instruments, other instruments like Mandolin,Flute, Nadaswaram, Thavil, Saxophone, Ghatam, Kanjeera, Sitar, Keyboard, Sarod, Santoor , Sarangi are some of the most important Indian Classical instruments which have international acclamation and appreciation.

Musicians of both the styles perform some Jugalbandi concerts in which artistes of both the styles perform on a single stage giving the full taste of Indian Classical music. These happen between two vocalists or two instrumentalists or a vocalist and an instrumentalist. In these concerts, accompanying instruments of both the sides are present. Artistes of both the styles perform common songs and at a point each artiste performs individually and shows off his/her skills. These are more like competition.

Irrespective of what the style, Indian Classical music is one of the most beautiful forms of music in the world. Musicians of this style can perform at any stage without a single rehearsal and can present any music by just listening it once in the most beautiful way.

This article is a small overview of Indian Classical Music and to be practical, one can understand it better if he learns it or at least listen to it….and Digital Cutlet encourages Art.



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