CLASSICAL music is an
English term that we use to describe a particular form of music. Indian
Classical Music in the language of its birth, Hindi is referred to as '
Shastriya Sangeet' and that, translated into English means disciplined
music, which is an apt description of the art. 'Discipline', yes; but
discipline that allows the singer ample leeway to develop his voice, to
perfect his technique to express his prowess in the art. But classical music
is not merely exhibiting one's expertise at voice acrobatics. It is much
LEGENDS on the
origins of North Indian classical music abound. The real origin is shrouded
in the hoary past. But we have a few interesting theories to reflect upon.
One legend has it that Brahma the Creator taught classical music to Lord
Shiva, who imparted the same knowledge to Saraswati, the Goddess of
learning. That is why Saraswati, in the ancient texts, is described as Veena
Pustaka Dharini (one who has the musical instrument the veena and a book in
her hands). Thereafter, the art was handed down in succession to the sage
Narada, the celestial Gandharvas and Kinnaras, Bharata and Hanuman, who in
turn propagated it to the people.
There is another legend
that Shiva made a gift of music to Narada as a reward for his penance.
According to yet another legend, Lord Shiva once saw his consort Parvati in
a reposeful pose. The sight inspired him to create the Rudra veena (a
specialised stringed instrument of the veena type). From the five mouths of
Shiva, in the five directions, emanated the five raags -- Bhairav from the
east, Hindol from the west, Megh from the south, Deepak from the north and
Shri from the sky above. Parvati added one to this list: Kaushik.
All the legends have one
fact in common - that music had divine origin.There are, however, a group of
european writers who believe that man learnt to hum and sing in the course
of his evolution and development. He absorbed music naturally, just the way
a child cries or smiles of its own accord.
Modern North Indian
classical music no doubt stems from ancient Indian music. But it seems to
have acquired its present form after the 14th or 15th century A.D. The 'Natyasastra'
is probably the earliest extant treatise on the dramatic arts. It has been
dated variously from the 3rd century B.C. to the 5th century A.D. Musical
theory is expounded in considerable detail in the 'Natyasastra'. Some of the
technical terms in present day musical theory and practice derive their
origin from this ancient source. Yet internal evidence shows that the
musical system as described in the 'Natyasastra' is considerably different
from the music we know today.
The Raag & Emotions
'That which charms is a
raag’. Indian music follows the Arabic and Persian tradition of focusing on
a single emotion. It develops upon, explains, and cultivates the emotion. If
the musician is possessed of sufficient skill, he can lead his audience to a
depth and intensity of feeling undreamt of in other systems.
The essential feature of a raag thus is its power of evoking an emotion that
casts a spell upon the listener. A raag
does imply a certain combination of musical notes. But more important than
this is its capacity to induce the appropriate emotion to the fullest
Apart from the emotion
aspect, there are certain laws which a raag must conform to. The
construction of raag must take into account the following features:
I ) Thata or sequence
of notes. Every raag is derived from a thata or scale.
2) Tatis or classification. Raags are placed under three categories.
(a) Odava or pentatonic: a composition of five notes .
(b) Sadava or hextatonic: a composition of six notes .
(c) Sampoona or heptatonic: a composition of seven notes.
3) Vadi Samvadi relation. The principal note on which the raag is
built is referred to as the vadi note. Its importance is emphasized in
several ways. One stops on the note more frequently, stresses it a little
more, etc. The Samvadi is the second important note in the raag.
4) Ascent and Descent. Every raag possesses an Aaroha (Ascent) and
5) Important cluster of notes. By means of this group of notes, one
is able to differentiate even between similar sounding raags.
6) Pitch. Certain raags move in a certain pitch. If the pitch is
changed the raag does not create the mood and sentiment peculiar to it. The
pitch determines the character of a raag.
7) Speed. Some raagas are sung in a slow tempo (Vilambit), some in a
medium (Madhyani) and some in a fast (Drut).
The rendering of a raag begins with the alaap. The alaap establishes the
basic character of the raag. The upaj is an intermediary stage leading to
the taan. The taan is the use of notes in order to make the rendering
lively. Words are used to express the emotion (khyal) of the raag.
EACH raag is derived
from a particular thata. A thata may be regarded as the parent raag.
ordinary Sargam comprises seven notes (Sa, re, ga, ma, pa, dha, ni).
Every raag has a
fixed number of komal (soft), teevra (sharp) or Shuddha (pure) notes. A
particular arrangement of the seven notes, with a change of the shuddha,
komal, and teevra is referred to as a thata.
According to Pandit V.N. Bhatkhande, there are ten thatas in all. All the
raags have emanated, so to speak, from the ten thatas.The ten thatas are as
1) The Bilawal Thata. All notes are Shuadha (pure).
Some raags which have emanated from this thata are Bihag, Durga and Shankara.
2) The Khamaj Thata. Ni is komal (soft). Some common
raags from this thata are khamaj, Jayajavanti and Des.
3) The KafiThata. Ga and Ni are komal. Some raags from
this thata are Bageshri, Bahar and Miyan ka Malhar.
4) The Asavari Thata. Ga, Dha and Ni are komal. Asavad
(raag), Jaunpuri, Durbari Kanada are some raags from the Asavari thata.
5) The Bhairavi Thata. Re, Ga, Dha and Ni are komal
.Some common raags: Bhairavi (raag), Malkauns.
6)The BhairavThata. Re and Dha are komal, Some common
raags: Bhairav (raag), Kalingada, Ramkali.
7) The Poorvi Thata. Re and Dha are komal, Ma is teevra (sharpJ.
8) The Marva Thata. Re is komal, ma is teevra. Some
common raags from this thata are Sohni, Marva, Puriva and Lalit.
9) TheTodi Thata. Re, ga and dha are komal, ma is
teevra. Some common raags areTodi (raag), and Multani.
IO)The KalyanThata. Ma is teevra. Some common raags are Bhopali, Hamir,
Kedar and Hindol.
Out of each of these ten
thatas, several raags have emerged.Therefore, when the beginner mistakes one
raag for another, chances are that both raags emerge from the same that
A Time For Each Raag
EVERY raag is assigned a
specific time of the day for rendering it. There is a reason for this.
The cycle of sounds is ruled by the same laws as rule all other cycles.
There are natural relationships between particular hours and the moods
evoked by the raags. Further the cycle of the day corresponds to the cycle
of life which also has its dawn, its
noon and its evening. Each hour represents a different stage of
development and is associated with a certain kind of emotion.
There are certain characteristics which indicate the time of rendering the
raag. Raags to be rendered between mid-day and
midnight have their
predominant note (vadi) in the lower tetra chord (purva anga). They are
called purva raags. Raags to be rendered between
midnight and mid-day have their predominant note in the upper
tetrachord (uttara anga). They are referred to as uttara raags.
Lalit, Vabhas, the Bhairavi group, the Todi group - all these raags are
early morning raags. The Bilawal groups of raags are sung in the late
morning. Noon and
afternoon raage include the Saranga group and Shri group. Pilu, Purvi and
Dipak are evening raags. The Kalyan and Khamaj group of raags are raags of
the early night. Malkauns, Bihag, Shankara are raags of midnight and late
night. Besides these, there are also seasonal raags like those of spring and
those of the rainy season; Basant & Malhaar.
THERE are six
principal styles in North Indian classical music. A raag may be rendered in
any of these styles.
1 . Dhrupad -
The peculiarity of original Dhrupad compositions is that they give the
essence of a particular raag in a nutshell. In learning vocal music one has
to memorise these compositions. They give a complete idea of the raag and of
how it should be systematically improvised on.
Dhamar - Usually sung
after a Dhrupad, it generally depicts incidents connected with Holi. Dhamar
compositions usually describe the pranks played by the playmates of Lord
Krishna and his devotee Radha.
Khyal - Khyal is an
Arabic word which means 'thought'.. The Khyal recounts various incidents in
a woman's life: her entreaties to her 'balam', her 'sajan', her 'priya' (all
mean her lover). Also, her conversations with her loving 'sakhi'. The Khyal
is graceful, elegant, and replete with embellishments.
Taranas - Taranas are
said to contain monosyllables like dir, da, na, tun, dar, din, valili, yala,
bum and yalatum. Taranas go to prove that even monosyllables can be
effectively employed for the exposition of a raag. Taranas naturally call
for a great deal of tongue-twisting, and expert tabla accompaniment.
Tappa - This style was
invented by a certain Pt. Shorey Miyan of Lucknow. It is so called because
it abounds in a variety of twists, curves and jumps, all set to a fast
rhythm. The compositions have evolved on the theme of love and romance. Only
persons with a highly flexible voice can aspire to sing a tappa.
Thumri - The art of dancing progressed alongside music.
The thumri came into vogue. The songs in thumri are so modeled that they
synchronise with the actions of the dancer. The poetry of the composition is
interpreted through action.
What are Gharanas ?
ONE often comes across
by this term when exposed to North Indian classical music. Gharanas came
about some time in the eighteenth century. The objective was to preserve the
traditions of music and the compositions of the few great musicians of
Northern India. A gharana has a particular discipline, system and style of
rendering. Liberal thinkers among musicians today are opposed to the system
as it is said to channel or restrict the style of a singer, and prove a
hindrance to further improvisation.
What It takes to Learn Classical Music
If one wants to
learn North Indian classical music in all seriousness there are a few
guidelines one must adhere to. These steps do not guarantee the making of a
maestro, but being a maestro is not so important. Learning and enjoying the
Continuous exposure to classical music is essential. Opportunities to sing,
play, modify and create are important too. A sensitive and creative
companionship with the teacher is an important requisite. And nothing is
better than possessing the ability to develop creative modes of singing.
Indian philosophy stresses the existence of a reality behind the appearance
of all physical objects. The same element lies latent in classical music
too. According to one scholar, the use of ivory, bone and earth colors in
the ornamentation of musical instruments lends the objects a subdued luster
whose beauty belongs to another world, as opposed to the obvious smartness
of mass produced instruments. In this sense therefore, music is meant to
give God to man, make accessible that mysterious reality which evades man in
all worldly, achievements.