Rohit's nukkad

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Basics of Indian Classical music

Couple of days back I had the opportunity to explore a wonderful music software - Swarshala.
The software is complete tool for learning Indian classical music, it not only gives theoretical knowledge about learning various raagas and taal, but provides means to practice it too. One of the best and probably the most widely used feature of the software is creating your own music piece by using the various instruments provided in the software database. Though I am novice to music, my idea of exploring the software was to get some basic information about Indian classical music. Let me share some of my learning.
First and foremost Indian classical music is one of the most complex and complete music system ever developed. It consists of basic notes - Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ne Sa which is similar to Western classical music notes - Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Si Do.
There are two streams of Indian classical music
1. Hindustani music -North Indian music
2. Carnatic music - South Indian music also known as Karnataka Sangeet
Both are similar in a lot of ways they use one raaga and one tala in one song. Usually not always songs are preceeded by improvised prelude called alap. But Carnatic music lays more emphasis on vocals, raagas are much faster and shorter in tempo as compared to Hindustani music. On the other hand Hindustani music is more influenced by Persian music with instruments like tabla, sitar, sarod, basuri, shenai more prominently use. In Hindustani music the tabla provides the rhythm while the tanpura is played with a steady tone throughout the performance of a raaga.In Carnatic music veena (similar to sitar), mridangam (similar to tabla), kanjira and violin are the commonly used instruments.
Raaga in Indian classical music is the equivalent to what Western music would call a scale or mode. However, in ragas, the actual tonal distance between the notes may be completely different than "Do, Re, Mi". Taal which means "clap", is a rhythmical pattern which determines the rhythmical structure of a composition. It is similar to metre in Western music.

Useful resources for Indian classical music:
  • Musical Nirvana is a great website giving complete information about Indian classical music.
  • Music india online, a music website has a great collection for Indian classical music.
  • Sunil Mukhi, a physicist at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and an Indian classical music lover gives some wonderful information about Indian classical music and good list of commercial and non-commercial websites.