Hindustani and Carnatic Classical Music

Hindustani and Carnatic Classical Music

The two major traditions of Indian Classical Music are

  1. Hindustani Classical Music – North Indian and Central Indian Classical Music
  2. Carnatic (Karnataka samgita) Classical Music – South Indian Classical Music.

Hindustani Classical Music

Hindustani Classical Music or Hindustani Shastriya Music or North Indian Classical Music is the classical music from North India.

The Hindustani Classical music is very old. The dhrupad (dhruvapada) is an ancient form, probably developed from the Prabandha. Scholars differ on who actually invented it. It is agreed that Raja Man Singh Tomar of Gwalior and Emperor Akbar played a distinguished part in the growth and development of the dhrupad Swami Haridas and his disciple Tansen, besides Baiju Bawra are also credited with having done much to develop this form. Dhrupad is a serious and sober composition which demands effort from the vocal chords and lungs. It starts with an alap followed by jod and then the four composed sections—sthayi, antara, sanchari and abhog. The lyrics are generally in Braj Bhasha and involve veera and sringar rasas. The Daggar family in modern times has done much to revive and popularize the dhrupad.

Dhamar describes the play of Lord Krishna, especially ‘Holi’ (festival of colors) of Radha and Krishna and the gopies. (Hence some call it ‘Hori Dhamar’).

Khayal is a word derived from Persian, and implies ‘idea’ or ‘imagination’. Though its origin is attributed Amir Khusrau, it is agreed that the form came into prominence due to the efforts of Sultan Mohammed Sharqui in the 15th century and gained classical status from the time of ‘Sadarang’ Nyamat Khan and ‘Adarang’ at the court of Mohammad Shah ‘Rangeela’ (18th century). Unlike the dhrupad, the khayal is more delicate and romantic, and has more freedom in structure and form.

There are four major gharanas or schools of khayal music. The Gwalior gharana is the oldest and most elaborate in technique; its most famous exponents were Nathan Khan and Peer Baksh. Haji Sujan Khan is said to have begun the Agra gharana. Faiyyaz Khan gave it a fresh lyrical touch so that it has come to be better known as the Rangeela gharana. The Jaipur Atroli gharana is associated with Alladiya Khan. The Kirana gharana is a recent school which has been developed by Abdul Wahid Khan and Abdul Karim Khan.

The thumri is a light form based on the romantic-religious literature inspired by the bhakti movement. It employs folk scales, and the text of the songs is of primary Importance. It was very famous in the 19th century under the patronage of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah. Of the two styles the Poorab or eastern style has slow and subdued exposition while the Punjab style is fast and lively.

The tappa is said to have developed from the songs of camel drivers of the North-West. Usually in Punjabi, the tappa is noted for its quick turns of phrase.

In tarana there are no meaningful words; syllables-teem, tarana dere, tere, tome, nadir, etc. are strung together in a rhythmic piece set to a raga. It is generally composed in a fast tempo. It is said that the syllables are “adaptations of mnemonic signatures of the tabla and sitar strokes”, or perhaps “mutilations of Persian and Arabic words”.

The songs of the poet-saints of the Medieval Age bhakti movement have had an immense impact on Indian music. Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda has provided songs and themes, especially to the thumri. Specific ragas have been named after Surdas and Mirabai – Surdasi Malhar, Mira ki Malhar. A new type of song developed under the influence of these saint-poets, variously called bhajan, kirtan, or abhang; these form an intermediate stage between classical and folk music—less abstract than the former and more sophisticated than the latter. Kirtans are special features of Bengal, their best known com­posers being Chandidas and Chaitanya. The abhangs of Eknath, Dnyaneshwar and Tukaram have enriched the Marathi repertoire. The sabads of the Sikhs come in the same category of devotional music. The Indo-Muslim repertoire of religious songs, called Qawwali, may be sung by individuals or in groups—as they are at the urs at various shrines. The form is said to have begun with Amir Khusrau. It may be in praise of Allah, or the prophet Muhammed and his descendants, or in praise of the patron saint of the singer. Many a time the quwwal sings on the basic theme of one God—whatever be the name—and that all mystic paths lead to the realization of the one.

The ghazal is yet another product of the Persian Influence on Hindustani music. Derived from the Urdu poetic form of the same name, ghazals are composed of independent couplets. Though essentially love or erotic poetry, there is an underlying Sufi element, with God as the beloved. The verses of ghazals may be interpreted in several ways—secular, mystical and philosophical. The ghazal has achieved great popularity in the north, some of its famous composers being Mirza Ghalib and Bahadur Shah Zafar.

Karnataka (Carnatic) Classical Music

Carnatic Music or Karnataka Samgita is the classical Music of South India, main from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerela.

The vocal form, ragam‑tanam-pallavi, is generally the main item in Karnataka music concerts. The ragam is an elaborately improvised alapana in completely free time, and the tanam, though rhythmic, is still unmeasured. It is the final section – ­pallavi- that is a composition of words and melody set to a tala. The statement of the composition is followed by elaborate rhythmic and melodic variations still using the pallavi.

The kriti is, perhaps, the most popular form in Karnataka music. Krill means a ‘creation’; kritanai, ‘to sing’. Though used interchangeably, there is a subtle difference between the two—the kirtanai refers more particularly to a devotional song, with the poetic beauty of the song dominating; in the kriti it is the music which is more important. The major part of the modern repertoire of kritis comes from the three composers, Thyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama Shastri, who lived in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. However, the Tallapakam composers (14th-15th centuries) are credited with the earliest kritis which were mostly in Telugu and arranged into three sections—pallavi, anupallavi, and charanam. Purandharadasa (1480-1564) contributed much to the development of the kriti. The kriti is embellished by decorative phrases such as sangati, a built-in variation of a phrase; niraval, improvised melodic variations of text; svara kalpana, improvisation based on the sargam passages; chittasvara, a set of svara in the raga and tala of the kriti.

The varnam is a completely composed piece, designed to show the characteristic phrases and melodic movements of a raga, and is usually performed at the beginning of a concert.

The padam and javali are generally love songs, more lyrical than the kriti, using poetic imagery characteristic of the bhakti movement. Padams are, however, of a slower tempo and graver import with the love-terms referring to the human yearning for the adored godhead. Javalis are not quite as allegoric as padams; they are direct descriptions of human love, and faster in tempo than padams.

The tillana is the south Indian musical counterpart of the north Indian tarana—rhythmic and fast in tempo. Sometimes a passage of meaningful words is interspersed in the tillana which is otherwise composed of a variety of meaningless syllables.

As in Hindustani music, in Karnataka music too, bhakti influenced the development, though as early as 7th-9th centuries A.D. Some of the earliest known hymns were the tevaram, which, indeed, formed the foundations of the musical culture of the Tamil speaking people. Tevararns were sung by a class of singers known as oduvars. The Tiruvachakam of Manikkavachakar and the Tirupugazh of Arunagirinathar were other devotionals. Kirtanais, as already mentioned, were more sophisticated devotionals. A great composer of Kirtanais was Bhadrachala Ramadas (17th century) who sang in Telugu.

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