Kamal Music Center

Category: Indian Classical Music

An overview of Instrumental Music

Instrumental music occupies an important position in Indian music.  It is one of the threefold aspects of “sangeet” (vocal music, instrumental music, and dance), and has a very ancient history.  Instrumental music is known as “vadhya sangeet”. Continue Reading →

June 25, 2010     0 Comments

Fundamentals of Rag

The rag is the most important concept that any student of Indian music should understand.  The Hindi/Urdu word “rag” is derived from the Sanskrit “raga” which means “colour, or passion” (Apte 1987).  It is linked to the Sanskrit word “ranj” which means “to colour” (Apte 1987).  Therefore rag may be thought of as an acoustic method of colouring the mind of the listener with an emotion.  This is fine as a general concept but what is it musically?  It is not a tune, melody, scale, mode, or any concept for which an English word exists.  It is instead a combination of different characteristics.  It is these characteristics which define the rag.  Here are the characteristics.

There must be the notes of the rag. They are called the swar.  This concept is similar to the Western solfege.

There must also be a modal structure.  This is called that in North Indian music and mela in carnatic music.

There is also the jati. Jati is the number of notes used in the rag.

There must also be the ascending and descending structure.  This is called arohana /avarohana.

Another characteristic is that the various notes do not have the same level of significance.  Some are important and others less so.  The important notes are called vadi and samavadi

There are often characteristic movements to the rag. This is called either pakad or swarup.

In addition to the main characteristics of rag, there are some other less important ones.  For instance rags have traditionally been attributed to particular times of the day.  They have also been anthropomorphize into families of male and female rags (raga, ragini, putra raga, etc.).  There is a tendency to downgrade the importance of these aspects due to their irrational and unscientific nature.

(Remember to check out the Index of Rags)

INSTRUMENTS USED TO PLAY RAGS

  • Bansuri
  • Dilruba
  • Esraj
  • Gottuvadyam
  • Harmonium
  • Jal Tarang
  • Mayuri Vina
  • Nadaswaram
  • Rabab
  • Rudra Vina
  • Santur
  • Sarangi
  • Sarod
  • Sitar
  • Surbahar
  • Tabla Tarang
  • Vichitra Vina
  • Violin

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Overview

The music of India is said to be one of the oldest unbroken musical traditions in the world.  It is said that the origins of this system go back to the Vedas (ancient scripts of the Hindus).  Many different legends have grown up concerning the origins and development of Indian classical music.  Such legends go a long way in showing the importance that music has in defining Indian culture.

However the advent of modern historical and cultural research has also given us a good perspective on the field.  This has shown that Indian music has developed within a very complex interaction between different peoples of different races and cultures.  It appears that the ethnic diversity of present day India has been there from the earliest of times.

The basis for Indian music is “sangeet”.  Sangeet is a combination of three artforms: vocal music, instrumental music and dance.  Although these three artforms were originally derived from the single field of stagecraft.  Today these three forms have differentiated into complex and highly refined individual artforms.

The present system of Indian music is based upon two important pillars: rag and tal.  Rag is the melodic form while tal is the rhythmic.

Rag may be roughly equated with the Western term mode or scale.  There is a system of seven notes which are arranged in a means not unlike Western scales.  However when we look closely we see that it is quite different what we are familiar with.

The tal (rhythmic forms) are also very complex.  Many common rhythmic patterns exist.  They revolve around repeating patterns of beats.

The interpretation of the rag and the tal is not the same all over India.  Today there are two major traditions of classical music.  There is thenorth Indian and the south Indian tradition.  The North Indian tradition is known as Hindustani sangeet and the south Indian is called Carnatic sangeet.  Both systems are fundamentally similar but differ in nomenclature and performance practice.

Many musical instruments are peculiar to India.  The most famous are the sitar and tabla.  However there are many more that the average person may not be familiar with.

All of this makes up the complex and exciting field of Indian classical music.  Its understanding easily consumes an entire lifetime.

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Raag Durga

Description

Durga is a very popular late evening rag.  However there is sometimes confusion.  The confusion stems from the fact that an unrelated rag known as Madhuradhwani is also sometimes called Durga.  In this page we will only be concerning ourself with the common form, and leave any discussion of Madhuradhwani for another time.

The name Durga is derived from the name of the goddess Amba or Parvati.  She is the wife of Shiva, and is associated with great power.  She is also referred to as “Ma Durga” or “Durga Mata”, which means “Mother Durga“.  She is said to represent patience and fearlessness.

The origin of rag Durga is obscure.  It has been suggested that this rag is derived from the south Indian Shuddha Saveri.  This is certainly possible, for it is very common for North Indians to “borrow” rags from the South.  But in such cases, they usually retain their south Indian names (e.g., CharukesiKalavati).  Why would Durga acquire a new name?

We must be open to the possibility that this scale may simply be a basic part of the larger South Asian musical culture.  It could have been circulating for a long time, and when I mean long time, I mean millennia.  As such, it is possible that it was only recently formalised by North Indian classical musicians.  The close relationship that Durga has to other pentatonic rags (e.g., MalkaunsBhupali), coupled with the almost world-wide presence of these scales, certainly means that it is a possibility.  The structure is so simple, and the harmonic relationship is so fundamental, that scales with these intervals show up internationally, apparently with independent origins.

Rag Durga is based upon Bilaval that.  From this that, the Ga and Ni are omitted, therefore this is an audav rag.

Identification of this rag in lighter songs is sometimes difficult.  This is because Durga is linked to other common rags such as Malkauns andBhupali by a process known as murchchana.  Although this is not the time to go into the details of murchchanana, let it suffice to say that if you take Durga and start the scale from Ma you get Bhupali.  Furthermore, if you take Durga and start the scale from Dha, you get Malkauns.  The best way to keep these rags separate is with a good clear drone; this may be provided by the tanpura or a similar source.  Since such dronestend to be missing in the lighter forms of music, the distinction between these rags is occasionally obscured.  One well known film song in Durga is“Geet Gaya Pattharon Ne”.

It is fairly easy to perform and compose in rag Durga, because it does not share its modality with any other north Indian rag.  Unlike theBhupaliDeshakar mode which is very cramped and crowded, you do not have to worry too much about Durga spilling over into a different rag.  That being said, there are some common phrases and a pakad which makes Durga’s the character more identifiable.

Here is the basic form of Durga:

Arohana

Avarohana

Jati

Audav

Time

Late Night

That

Bilawal that

Pakad

Drone

Sa – Pa

June 26, 2010     0 Comments

Raag Gujari Todi

Gujari Todi is a very common morning rag in Todi That.  There are a number of popular film songs in Gujari Todi, including Ik Tha Bachapan.

There are fundamental differences between Mian Ki Todi and Gujari Todi.  Where Mian-ki-Todi has a Pa that is very weak, Gujari Todi has no Pa at all, therefore they sound very similar.  The absence of Pa makes this rag shadav – shadav jati.  As is typical of the vadi / samvadi theory there are differences of opinion concerning the vadi and samvadiDha, Ga, and Re have variously been declared to occupy these positions.

Arohana

Avarohana

Jati

Shadav – Shadav

Time

morning

That

Todi That

Pakad

Drone

Sa – Komal Dha

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Raag Kafi

Description

Raag Kafi is the primary rag in Kafi That.  There are many popular film songs in Kafi rag including “Biraj Me, Holi Khelat Nand Lal”.  It is asampurna-sampurna rag that is very straightforward in its execution. Continue Reading →

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Raag Kalingada

Rag Kalingada is very similar to Bhairav.  Unlike Bhairav, this rag is performed in the last part of the night.  There has been a strong tendency over the last few decades to take lighter interpretations of both Kalingada as well as Bhairav.  The result is that the two rags have begun to converge.  Whenever there is such a convergence, the general tendency is for rags to asume the name of Bhairav. If this tendency continues, we can expect Kalingada to completely merge with Bhairav and to lose its identity in the process.

The structure of Kalingada is very simple.  It is a sampurna – sampurna rag performed in a very straight manner.

The problems of the vadi / samvadi theory are clearly seen here.  Some say that Pa and Sa are the vadi and samvadi.  Unfortunately, there is no agreement on this point.  Ga, Dha, and Ma have also been declared to be the vadi and samvadi (in various combinations).  Kalingada’scharacteristics are:

Arohana

Avarohana

Jati

Sampurna – Sampurna

Time

Last part of night

That

Bhairav That –

Drone

Sa – Pa –

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Raag Kalyan

This rag is known by several names; Kalyan, Iman, Eman, or Yaman.  Strangely enough, Yaman Kalyan is a different rag.  Kalyan is very popular and some commonly known examples of songs in this rag are “Ansu Bhari Hai Jai Jivan Ki Rahen”, “Ja Re Badara Bairi Ja Re” and“Jiya Le Gayo Re Mora Sanvariaya”.  Yaman is a sampurna rag which is performed in the first part of the night.  The vadi is Ga and the samvadiis Ni.  Typically Sa and Pa are weak in the arohana.  However their omission is not obligatory.

Arohana

Avarohana

Jati

Sampurna – Sampurna

Time

First part of the night

That

Kalyan That

Drone

Sa – Pa

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Raag Khammaj

Description

This rag is one of the most common in Indian music.  Although it is used in the classical styles, its romantic character makes it much more appropriate to the semi-classical and lighter styles.  It is traditionally ascribed to the second part of the night.  “Kuch To Log Lahenge” and “Nazar Lagi Raja Tore Bungal Par”, are two well known examples of common songs in this rag.  There are many other popular film songs in Khammajas well.

Rag Khammaj has a clear musical structure.  It is a shadav-sampurna rag due to the ommission of the Re in the arohana.  Even in theavarohana, the Re is durbal (weak).  The vadi is Ga and the samvadi is Ni.  Undoubtedly its method of using Nishad is one of its most defining characteristics; it is shuddha (i.e., natural 7th) in the arohana but it is komal (i.e., minor 7th) in the avarohana.

Arohana

Avarohana

Jati

Shadav – Sampurna –

Time

Second Part of Night

That

Khammaj That

Pakad


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Raag Lalit

Lalit (sometimes transliterated as Lalith) is a moderately common rag.  One well known song in this rag is “Tu Hai Mere Prema Devata“.  There is some disagreement concerning the Dha; some suggest that Lalit uses shuddha Dha and others say that it uses komal Dha.  It has Panchamabsent in both the ascending and the descending structures, therefore it is shadav – shadav jati. Continue Reading →

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