Last but not the least,I would like to talk about one of the greatest musicians of all times. I am deliberately not using ‘one of the greatest Indian musicians’ because he was a world musician. He was the one who presented Indian classical on the world scene. Its because of him that Indian classical is so popular in the West. I would like to quote what other people had to say about him. George Harrison called him ”the godfather if World Music.” Harrison learned sitar from the maestro. Ravi Shankar even collaborated with the great violinist Yehudi Menuhin. Menuhin compared his genius to the likes of Mozart. Musicians of such a high level are rarely born and he was one of them. I am posting one of his videos where he explains about Indian classical music. He passed away a couple of days back at the age of 92 and the whole musical world will bear his loss. There is another video which gives tribute to the great master.
Even though,Hindustani music is a very old musical tradition,it is quite new when it comes to being performed on a concert platform. It was always restricted to the courts of Kings. As far as my knowledge goes,it is only since the independence of India that it started being played in concert halls to the public. One performance used to last for 4-5 hours while now one performance lasts for maximum 2 hours. I am posting a full program by two of the greatest Indian classical artists in the present era. The melodic instrument is known as the santoor. It was always a folk instrument but the maestro who is playing it made a place for it in the classical world and got it on the concert stage.
Rajan and Sajan Mishra are brothers,renowned singers of the ‘khayal’ genre of Hindustani classical vocal.Rajan and Sajan Mishra are part of a 300-year old lineage of khyal singing of the Benaras gharana(school). Just like in tabla,there are also gharanas in the Hindustani vocal music. I am posting this video so that one can get some kind of an exposure to the vocal music of North India. Vocal is considered to be the highest form of music in Indian classical music. Once a person starts feeling Hindustani music,he/she would be in a totally different place because it is a music which has an immense amount of depth. The tabla player is also of the Benaras gharana and is a direct descendant of the founder of the Benaras gharana. He is playing the rhythmic cycle of 16 beats which is the teen taal like I said in one of my earlier posts.
Shakti is a band which plays Indian music combined with elements of jazz. Its leading member was the English guitar player John Mclaughlin but it also featured the Indian violinist L.Shankar. It also had Zakir Hussain(tabla), Ramnad Raghavan(mridamgham,percussion from South India), and Vikku Vinayakram on the ghatam(percussion from South India). This means that it was also a fusion of Hindustani and Carnatic(South Indian) music traditions. The song that I am posting is a very beautiful song by Remember Shakti. Remember Shakti doesn’t have L.Shankar and the other two people from the South of India. It has U.Srinivas on the mandolin and Vikku’s son Selvaganesh on the kanjira(South Indian percussion). The singer performs sometimes with the band. I find the fusion very interesting that is why I am posting it.
I mentioned in the previous post that there are 6 schools of tabla playing. The Delhi gharana(school) is the oldest. I am going to talk about the two popular schools of tabla playing in the present era which are Benaras and Punjab. The Benaras gharana was developed a little over 200 years ago by Pandit Ram Sahai. There is a lot of versatility in this school of playing in the sense that it could be played delicately as well as powerfully. Kishan Maharaj was the most popular representative of the gharana. Initially a pakhawaj-playing gharana,the Punjab school was created in the 19th century. Like I mentioned earlier, all these gharanas have their repertoires. The compositions of both Benaras and Punjab are totally different from each other.I am posting a couple of videos which would make it clear how different they are one another.
The rhythmic aspects of Hindustani music are as intricate and complex as the melodic aspects. ‘Tabla’ is the most popular and important percussion instrument in Hindustani music. According to a popular legend, the poet-musician Amir Khusrau invented the tabla by cutting the ‘pakhawaj’ in half. Pakhawaj is another percussion instrument which is older than the tabla. The term tabla derives from an Arabic word for drum,tabl. The treble drum is called the tabla while the bass drum is called the bahya. The most fascinating aspect of this instrument is that even though its a percussion instrument, it sounds melodic. There are 6 schools of tabla playing and each school has its own style,repertoire. I am posting a couple of videos of the most famous tabla player in the world.
I am going to talk about the most popular melodic instrument of India in this post. It is called the ‘sitar’.The sitar is one of the premier concert instruments of Hindustani music. It has a half-gourd body, wooden face, and long, hollow wooden neck which is a structure similar to that of the drone instrument called tanpura. The standard sitar has twenty arched metal frets tied to the neck with nylon thread. These are movable to different scale positions. The sitar has six or seven main strings that run over the main platform bridge and thirteen sympathetic strings running under the frets and resting on a small bridge of their own. Sitars are made in various centers of North India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, but two styles of concert sitar, developed in Calcutta, have now become the most common. Both the styles represent the two stylistic schools that dominate professional sitar playing. Ravi Shankar’s sitar is bigger and more ornamentally decorated than Vilayat Khan’s sitar. These two were the greats of sitar playing. I will post a video of Vilayat Khan playing a very popular raga on his sitar and then I will post a video of Ravi Shankar playing on his sitar. This would show us the difference in the structure of the two sitars and also given an exposure to this beautiful instruments played by two of the greatest sitar maestros.
Tala is the rhythm aspect of Hindustani music. Tala is a rhythmic cycle consisting of several beats. There are many talas in Hindustani music and the most common taal is called the teen taal. It consists of 16 beats. So basically,it is a 16 beat cycle. All talas have their own names just like teen taal. The most fascinating aspect about Indian rhythm is that it is like a language. There are hundreds of rhythmic phrases and you play what you actually recite. The instrument ‘tabla’ is the most popular rhythmic instrument in Hindustani music. The 1st beat(sam) is the most important beat and every time a person ends his musical piece,he/she would take a ‘tihai'(a musical phrase repeated thrice) and land on the 1st beat. So,a person could take a ‘tihai’ even from 7.5 and come on the 1st beat. This means,there is a lot of maths too going on in Indian rhythm. I am posting a video of a person explaining teen taal on the tabla.
A simple definition of raga is some combination of notes which charms the mind and produces the moods of love, joy, pathos, heroism, and peace. Such a definition actually belongs to no particular culture. However, a North Indian classical raga is a musical complex with a great history and significant spiritual implications,with extramusical implications regarding time,personality, and mood. Basically, it is not simply a scale or a mode. It is like a face of a person. Every raga has its own face,its own personality like I mentioned earlier. A raga uses a series of 5 or more musical notes upon which a melody is constructed. However, the importance lies in how the notes are rendered or approached to convey a feeling rather than the notes themselves. There is a structure for every raga with regards to its ascending and descending. Some of the notes are more important than the others depending on the raga. There are ragas for morning,afternoon,evening and night. There are ragas for even different seasons. This is just a basic overview of what a Hindustani raga is. Now,I am going to post a video explaining what is a raga.