Hindustani Classical Music has its roots traced back to Bharata’s Natyashastra, it evolved into two distinct branches around the 14th century. Hindustani music, in particular, has flourished in its exploration of musical structures and the art of improvisation.
The Foundation: Shuddha Swar Saptak
Hindustani Classical Music embraces a scale known as Shudha Swara Saptaka or the ‘Octave of Natural Notes.’ This scale forms the basis for the intricate and emotive melodies that characterize this tradition. Within this framework, ten primary styles of singing and compositions have flourished, each with its unique character and significance.
Derived from ‘Dhruva’ (fixed) and ‘pada’ (words), Dhrupad is the oldest and most majestic form of Hindustani vocal music. It is inherently devotional and reached its zenith during Akbar’s reign, with stalwarts like Tansen and Baiju Bawra. Dhrupad features precise elaboration of ragas, often beginning with an Alap (wordless introduction) to set the mood. It typically involves two male vocalists, accompanied by Tanpura and Pakhawaj. Dhrupad is practiced in various Banis or styles, including Dagar Bani, Khandaar Bani, Nauhar Bani, and Gauhar Bani.
Khayal, meaning ‘a stray thought’ or ‘imagination,’ is a romantic style of singing that traces its roots to Amir Khusrau and gained significant patronage during the reign of Hussain Shah. Khayal is characterized by its use of ‘Tans’ (running glides over notes) and ‘Bol-tans,’ distinguishing it from Dhrupad. It focuses on short songs or bandishes, usually exploring themes of love, devotion, and praise. A typical Khayal performance comprises ‘Bada Khyal’ (slow tempo) and ‘Chhota Khyal’ (fast tempo).
Tappa is a style of singing that evolved from the folk songs of camel riders in North-West India. Known for its intricate and quick note patterns, Tappa features jumpy and zig-zag taans called Zamzama. The compositions are characterized by love and passion, often set to Thumri ragas like Bhairavi, Khamaja, and Kafi.
Dhamar and Hori compositions are similar to Dhrupad but are associated with specific festivals like Holi. They praise Lord Krishna and often describe the spring season or love pranks of Radha-Krishna.
Tarana is a style consisting of rhythmic patterns woven with peculiar syllables. Sung at a faster tempo, it relies on rhythm, tabla Bols, and rhythmic sets of ‘meaningless ‘ Bols to develop a raga. Tarana showcases the singer’s virtuosity in creating intricate patterns. The World’s fastest Tarana singer is Pandit Rattan Mohan Sharma.
Hindustani music also features semi-classical styles that deviate slightly from the classical structure, emphasizing lighter versions of ragas and faster tempos. These include Thumri, Bhajan, Ghazal, Tappa, Dadra, and Chaturang.
- Thumri is known for its lyrical and romantic content, often revolving around the love of Radha-Krishna. It features two types: Purbi Thumri (slow tempo) and Punjabi Thumri (fast tempo).
- Bhajan focuses on devotional content and spirituality, often sung with harmonium, tambourine, tabla, and dholak accompaniments.
- Ghazal, originally a poetic form, is known for its unattainable love theme and is celebrated for its association with Urdu poetry. Prominent figures in Ghazal include Mirza Ghalib and Kazi Nazrul Islam.
Gharanas in Hindustani music serve as systems of social organization, connecting musicians through lineage and adherence to specific musical styles. Some renowned Gharanas include:
- Gwalior Gharana: Known for its simplicity, emphasis on melody and rhythm, and use of traditional ragas.
- Kirana Gharana: Famed for its precise tuning, expression of notes, and mastery over slow-tempo ragas. It emphasizes melody and clarity in pronunciation.
- Agra Gharana: Blends Khayal with Dhrupad-Dhamar style, focusing on Bandish in the composition.
- Patiala Gharana: Celebrated for its focus on rhythm, use of intricate taans, and sensuous aesthetic touch.
- Jaipur-Atrauli Gharana: Known for its unique laykari, rich repertoire of ragas, and complex note patterns.
- Bhendi Bazaar Gharana: Recognized for breath control and unique techniques, including the use of some Carnatic ragas.
- Other Gharanas: Several other Gharanas like the Darbhanga Gharana and Talwandi Gharana have contributed to the diversity of Hindustani music.
Hindustani Classical Music, with its multitude of styles and Gharanas, is a testament to the depth and versatility of Indian musical traditions. From the majestic Dhrupad to the poetic Khayal, and the intricate patterns of Tarana to the devotional melodies of Bhajan, this musical heritage continues to captivate hearts and souls worldwide. The Gharanas, each with its unique philosophy and approach, have shaped the evolution of this timeless art, preserving its essence while allowing it to adapt and flourish through the ages.
FAQs about Hindustani Classical Music
1. What is Hindustani Classical Music?
A: Hindustani Classical Music is one of the two major traditions of classical music in India, the other being Carnatic music. It has its roots in the ancient Vedic scriptures and has evolved over centuries. This musical tradition is characterized by intricate melodies, complex rhythmic patterns, and a rich framework of ragas (melodic scales) and taals (rhythmic cycles).
2. How is Hindustani Classical Music different from Western classical music?
A: While both traditions share the term “classical,” there are significant differences between Hindustani and Western classical music. Hindustani music is primarily improvisational, with a strong emphasis on the performer’s creativity within the established framework of ragas and taals. In contrast, Western classical music often involves more written compositions and adherence to a strict musical notation system.
3. What are the key elements of Hindustani Classical Music?
A: Hindustani Classical Music is characterized by several key elements, including ragas (melodic scales), taals (rhythmic cycles), improvisation, and the use of intricate ornamentation known as gamak. The performance typically involves a soloist, accompanied by instruments such as the tabla, sitar, sarod, or flute. The interplay between the vocalist or instrumentalist and the accompanying musicians is a crucial aspect of the performance.
4. How are ragas and taals structured in Hindustani Classical Music?
A: Ragas are the melodic frameworks in Hindustani music, each associated with a specific mood, time of day, and season. Taals, on the other hand, are rhythmic cycles that provide the structure for the performance. Ragas are further divided into ascending (Arohana) and descending (Avarohana) sequences of notes. Taals dictate the rhythmic pattern, including the number of beats and divisions within a cycle.
5. Can anyone learn and appreciate Hindustani Classical Music, or is it reserved for a specific cultural context?
A: Hindustani Classical Music is open to anyone interested in learning and appreciating its intricacies. While it has deep roots in Indian culture, individuals from diverse backgrounds and cultures can study and perform Hindustani music. Many music schools and teachers offer training to students worldwide. Appreciation often grows with exposure, and a genuine interest in understanding the nuances of this art form can lead to a rich and fulfilling musical journey.
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