Welcome to the wide world-web of Hindustani Classical Music, also known as North Indian Music.
It all began with the Vedas, the Samaveda to be precise, 2000 years ago, which for the first time used all the seven notes of the octave. The earliest Raga of Indian music is speculated to be 'Sama Raga'.
The 13th century Saranga Deva in his famous work Sangeeta Ratnakara defined 264 Ragas, both Dravidian and North Indian ones while Sangeeta Makaranda (11th century) written by Narada had enumerated 93 Ragas. Sangita Makarandha is the earliest text where rules similar to that of the current Hindustani classical music can be found. Jayadeva's Gita Govinda from the 12th century was perhaps the earliest musical composition sung in the classical Hindustani musical tradition of Ashtapadi.
The Sangita Ratnakara mentions Raga turushka todi (Turkish todi), revealing the influence of Islamic music on Hindustani music. This text is the last to be mentioned by both Carnatic and Hindustani traditions and is thought to be the time of parting of ways of the two.
The path tread by Hindustani music:
Hindustani music meandered its way to its present form over a long period. During the late Vedic period, a form of music called Samagana, which involved the chanting of the verses and hymns set to musical patterns, was prevalent. Jatigan was evolved to narrate the epics. Between 2-7 AD a form of music called Prabandh Sangeet, which was written in Sanskrit, became very popular. This gave way to a simpler form known as dhruvapad, which used Hindi as the medium for the first time.
Persian music Musiqi-e-Assil has had a great influence on Hindustani Music. The advent of Islamic rule under the Delhi Sultanate and later the Mughal Empire led to the fusion of Hindu and Muslim thoughts to produce new forms of musical expression.
The most significant musician of the Delhi Sultanate was Amir Khusrau (1253-1325), regarded as the father of modern Hindustani classical music. He was a prolific composer in Persian, Turkish, Arabic and Brajbhasha. He is credited with systematizing many aspects of Hindustani music and introducing several ragas such as Yaman Kalyan, Zeelaf and Sarparda. He also created the qawwali and khayal (meaning thought or imagination) genre. However, Niyamat Khan (Sadarang) from the court of Muhammad Shah 'Rangiley' is regarded as the father of modern day khayal. Amir Khusrau created the sitar and the tabla.
Legendary musician Tansen, who adorned Akbar’s court, is recognized as having introduced a number of innovations, ragas and compositions.
At the royal house of Gwalior, Raja Mansingh Tomar (1486-1516) encouraged the shift from Sanskrit to the local idiom Hindi as the language for classical songs. Dhrupad as rendered today too developed in his court. Dhrupad singing was the strong point of Gwalior gharana, the oldest of the five major schools of music, including Agra, Delhi, Jaipur and Kirana. The Dhrupad became almost extinct in the first half of the 20th century till it was revived by the Dagar Brothers.
Simultaneously, the bhakti and Sufi movemenst led by Meerabai, Kabir, Tulsidas and Surdas also had an impact on Hindustani music, so did folk songs of different regions.
After the dissolution of the Mughal Empire, the patronage of music continued in smaller princely kingdoms like Lucknow, Patiala and Banaras, giving rise to the diversity of styles that is known as gharanas.
In the early 20th century, Vishnu Digambar Paluskar emerged as a torchbearer of Hindustani music. His books on music as well as the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya that he opened in Lahore in 1901 helped foster a movement away from the closed gharana system.
Paluskar's contemporary 'Chaturpandit' Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande recognized the many rifts that had appeared in the structure of North Indian classical music. He undertook extensive research visits to a large number of gharanas, collecting and comparing compositions. Between 1909 and 1932, he brought out the monumental Hindustani Sangeetha Padhathi (4 volumes), which provided a transcription and notation for Hindustani music for the first time.The ragas as we know them today were classified and consolidated into 10 thaats in this landmark work.
Alauddin Khan’s Gurukul at Maihar in no small measure contributed to the making of some topnotch instrumentalists of our times like Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan.
In the 20th century, Hindustani classical music was put on the world map, particularly the U.S., by renowned sitar player Ravi Shankar, sarod maestro Ali Akbar Khan and tabla wizard Alla Rakha.
The ‘how’ of Hindustani music recital:
Historical roots of both Hindustani and Carnatic classical music stem from Bharata's 3rd century treaties Natyashastra. Of the two streams Hindustani music emphasizes musical structure and improvisation while Carnatic music is kriti (composition) based and gives great importance to sahitya (lyrics).
A typical vocal rendition of Hindustani raga consists of Alap in akaar-a rhythmically free improvisation of the raga-followed by vilambit (slow) and drut (fast) or madhyalaya (medium tempo) khayals set to the rhythmic cycle of Teentaal,Ektaal,Jhaptaal,Rupak etc. with tabla accompaniment. The alap is followed by jod and jhala and vilambit,drut and atidrut (super-fast) gats or compositions in instrumental music.
The bandish or composition is generally in two parts-sthaye and antara-in both vocal and instrumental music. The compositions are embellished with rhythmic alaps, sargams, bol-alaps, tans and bol-tans in vocal and with rhythmic alaps, tans and jhala in instrumental music.
Dhrupad singers render a longish and elaborate nom-tom alap followed by jod and jhala and a Dhrupad composition with mathematical permutation combination of the bandish set to Chautaal, etc. with pakhawaj support. Dhrupad instrumentalists use the rudra veena or the surbahar.
The major forms of Hindustani classical music are Dhrupad, Khayal and Tarana (Tillana in Carnatic music). Other forms include Dhamar, Trivat, Chaiti, Kajari, Tappa, Tap-Khayal, Ashtapadis, Thumri, Dadra, Ghazal and Bhajan. Of these, some forms fall within the ambit of folk, semi-classical or light classical and light music.
A typical Hindustani classical music concert begins with a couple of khayals followed by the light classicalthumri, dadra and bhajan.
The living vocal and instrumental legends of Hindustani music are Bhimsen Joshi (Kirana gharana), Kishori Amonkar (Jaipur-Atrauli gharana), Jasraj (Mewati gharana) Amjad Ali Khan (sarod), Zakir Hussain (tabla), Hari Prasad Chaurasia (flute), Ram Narayan (sarangi) and Shiv Kumar Sharma (hundred-stringed santoor) and the dead but remembered are Bade Ghulam Ali Khan (Patiala gharana), Bismillah Khan (shehnai), Amir Khan (Indore gharana) and Begum Akhtar (thumri and dadra).
And now enter the world wide web of Hindustani classical music.
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