An important aspect of the Indian culture is obviously the Indian music. You can’t even imagine what important Indian music is to Hinduism. Music and dance has even a religious importance in Hinduism. In fact the beginning of the Indian music is based on religion. The first songs in Indian were in fact religious hymns and ballads. They were called “bhajans” and were based on religious facts, legends and myths. They used few musical instruments, such as the sitar or a table.
Due to the fact that there are many languages spoken in India, and not just one as in the case of most of the countries, India has more than one Indian music entity. In fact, there is no such a single entity as Indian music at all. You might think that since the India is in its majority predominantly rural, such music categories form the majority. But, due to the development of television, communications and mass media, Indian music is nowadays based on a pan-Indian popular style, recorded electronically. This is popular to us with the Indian films. The Indian film industry was the one that made Indian music word wide popular.
Original Indian music actually refers to an old music, a traditional one based on raga and a rhythmic system called “tala”. Raga is considered to be the melodic basis of Indian classical music. The word comes from Sanskrit and means color. Raga is not only a musical idea. It inspired painters, poets, architects and art in general. So we can say that raga influences the Indian culture.
This genre appeared for the first time thousands of years ago, and comes from the early Hindu settlers. It was different then, and reached the form we all know today about five hundred years ago. It was called “sangit” and it described a vocal music accompanied by instrumental music and dance.
The Muslim invasion in the 13th and 16th century played the most important roles into the bifurcation of the Indian music into a northern and southern tradition: a Hindustani music and Carnatic music. They keep the traditional influences of raga and “tala” but borrowed other influences too. As we all know it, India is made of several ethnic groups, each with their own languages, dialects and traditions. So, the Indian music has Persian, Arab and even British music influences. Yet, the traditional Indian music, Hindustani and Carnatic music remain the fundament of the Indian music we listen today, and also sources of cultural expression, religious inspiration and pure entertainment. The first texts of Indian music were Sangita-Ratnakara, Natya shastra and Brihaddeshi.
But here is how Indian music made it to the open. It all began with Bangladesh-born Ali Akbar Khan’s 1955 concert in New York. After that, the demand for Indian music leads to the hippy ethos, and “raga-rock” became the trend of the 60’s. Byrd’s album “Morning and evening ragas” was the first Indian music album to appear in the western world. It became so popular in the Sixties than he reached more than 10 albums. More, in 1967 the
Ali Akbar College of Music in the San Francisco Bay Area was founded by Khan.
Indian musical instruments can be mainly classified into three categories: classical, western and folk instruments. There are wind, percussion and string instruments. The win d instruments are: bansuri (one of the oldest instruments in India), nadaswaram, pungi, shehnai and pullanguzhal. The percussion ones are : chanda, dhol, dholak, ghatam, idakka, kanjira, tabla, mridangham, pakhavaj, and thavil. The string ones are: ektara, tanpura, esraj, sarangi, sarod, sitar, santoor, and gottuvadhyam. But these are not all. There are other native Indian music instruments that I can mention.