Every country in the world has some form of classical music. The basis of all classical music, globally, is tied to the standard notes of ‘do re me fa so la ti do’ and their variations. This is mirrored by ‘sa re ga ma pa dha ni sa’ in the Indian system. Although “Classical” is now-a-days associated with the archaic and old, classical music, in reality, has evolved phenomenally and continues to evolve across the globe. Indian Classical Music is an astonishing gift from god given to us. Indian classical music has tradition, which took silhouette in northern India in 13th & 14th centuries from the spiritual, Folk and melodramatic recital performs. Hindustani Classical Music found from several sources of the oldest scriptures in civilization and from the Vedas of Hindu custom. As we talk about the description of music, the Samaveda (one of four Vedas) itself tells the details in length. North Indian Classical Music has its derivation as a form of meditation in front of influential spectators.
Hindustani Classical Music is based on Raag and Taal. They are considered to affect various “chakras” (moods or energy center) in the path of “Kundalini”. With these centers activation, Vedic practice traces the exact corporeal, psychological, natural and religious results. The music system developed by Indian Classical is the most difficult system. It has the similar features of Western Classical Music. The notes which are similar to Western Classical Music are Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni, Sa, and they come in the same order.
Types of compositions
The major vocal forms-cum-styles associated with Hindustani classical music are Dhrupad, Khayal, And Thumri. Other forms include the Dhamar, Tarana, Trivat, Chaiti, Kajari, Tappa, Tap Khayal, Ashtapadi, Ghazal and Bhajans. Some of the forms are taken from folk or semi-classical music. We call semi-classical as light music also.
This article covers the mind-boggling beauty, challenges, and creativity that are present aplenty in any form of Classical music and specifically in Indian Classical music. We have two extremely powerful styles of Classical Music – North Indian and South Indian Style.
The fundamental fact is that Indian Classical Music is a very vast discipline. We have touched just the beginning here but absolutely none can define what is the end. I do not mean vast by sheer volume, but that
- There are strict rules you must adhere to (e.g. raag, taal, pronunciation, etc)You have to understand certain fine technical details (e.g. frequency ratios, relative frequencies of various notes (ICM has lots of concepts that can be explained from basic principles of Physics and Mathematics!)
- You must demonstrate your own creativity. You must be able to show your extempore skills when you reach the stage of public performance.
- All this requires a huge effort to learn the art – like the IIT JEE that we all underwent.
While presenting a song (singing or playing), it has to be structured in terms of the notes that the item is based on. You have to start with the correct tempo, evolve the composition properly, show your own creativity while rendering, ensure that accompanying artists are with you all through and maintain eye to eye contact with the audience. All of this has to happen within a certain time frame i.e. the cells in your mind should ‘recollect’ the ‘text’, ‘the notes’, ‘the tempo’ etc in nanoseconds – pass that to your vocal chords (while singing) or to your fingertips (for instrumentalist) and produce the sound when you are at the precise beat (called ‘taal’ in Hindustani and ‘Tantalum’ in the South). Then you have to manage your breathing – if you are playing a wind instrument like flute or shehnai. Each song has it’s own unique beat (taal) and a combination of notes (referred to as ‘raag’). While delivering a public concert – all of the above has to happen like clockwork for 2 or 3 hours, while the pundits and vidwans, seasoned listeners keep watching every step that you deliver. As a performer, it is scary but the sheer pleasure when you see the listeners enjoying is phenomenal – like getting quality music has the power to ‘oscillate’ you – as in metronome – without ever physically touching you even a nano-inch.
The first and second longest compositions ever made across any system of classical music across the globe comes from two great composers of South Indian Classical Music – Sri Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan and Sri Mutthu Swamy Dixitar. Both the songs are composed in pristine Sanskrit, highly structured from a grammar (vyakaran) perspective and impossible to replicate. The Longest composition runs to 80 lines and takes about 60 minutes to sing and the 2nd longest is around 58 lines and takes about 45 minutes to sing.
As a journey in South ICM, you need to learn several taals and several compositions in different ragas and remember each one of them to the finest possible detail. But, please do not get me wrong, not all compositions are difficult to learn or listen and enjoy. The structural beauty of even learning ICM is a lesson in itself and a topic for an article. It is mind boggling to realize how our ancestors developed ICM over so many decades that has aspects of religion, nature, basic physics, basic maths, vyakaran of various languages, kundalini, brain cells, chaos theory – all within the confines of just 7 basic notes (well, 12 or 22 depending on how pedantic you want to be). Yet even to this day that very ‘tradition’, that framework and that structure of ICM is 100% intact.
You can treat classical songs as a combination of bhakti (devotional) + raag or just a raag. South Indian classical songs are mostly linked to Indian gods/goddesses and mythological events, while songs and compositions in the North Indian System are probably more towards nature.
I believe Bhajans, Indian classical music songs will go on forever. In fact, revered South Indian Classical compositions that are considered the very backbone of South Indian Classical Music, the ‘perform or perish’ litmus test that performers need to undergo every day to stay above the waters in the field, were all composed some 300+ years ago.
They are fresh even to this day. Thanks to the Internet era, there is a huge surge of youngsters with M. Tech, M E, Ph.D. MBAs, etc qualifications learning classical music. What is even more surprising is a very tiny percentage take the path of being professional musicians even though there is no quick money to be made unless you are saying Bhimsen Joshi or Parveen Sultana or Dr. Balamurali Krishna or Smt M S Subbulakshmi.