India - Hindustani Music

by V.A.Ponmelil (All rights reserved by the author)

Hindustani Music

Hindustani classical music has a great influence in Indian life by pervading in all the big and small events of Indian life. It has the classical music tradition. It was evolved in the northern Indian subcontinent between 13th and 14th centuries.

The courts of Delhi Sultanate turned the religious, folk, and theatrical performance practices of Hindustani music into today’s classical status. The traditional integrity of the Hindustani classical music is maintained through imparting this orally from the master to the pupil through the Guru-Shishya tradition in the gurukul.

The Hindustani classical music has contemporary traditions established in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It is a fine mixture of both Hindu and Muslim cultures. It was not only influenced by the ancient Hindu musical traditions, the Vedic philosophy and the native Indian music, but also by the Persian performance practices of the Mughals.

The Hindustani classical music is organized by Ragas which are characterized, by specific ascent called the Arohana) and descent called the Avarohana. The ascent notes may not be identical to the descent notes. It also has the King or the Vadi, the Queen or the Samvadi notes and a unique note phrase called the Pakad. In addition each raga has its natural register (Ambit) and glisando (Meend) rules, and many other specific features.

Hindustani music was structurally organized into the current Thaat scale by Pt. Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande in the early part of the 20th century. Prior to this, the ragas were classified as the Male (raag), the female (Ragini) and the Putra (children) ragas. When artists, reach a distinguished level of achievement, titles of respect are added to their names. Hindus are referred to as the Pandits and Muslims as the Ustads.

The Hindustani musical scale is said to have evolved from 3 notes to a scale of 7 primary notes, on the basis of 22 intervals. A scale is divided into 22 intervals, and these are the basis of the musical notes. The 7 notes of the scale are known to musicians as Sa - Re - Ga - Ma - Pa - Dha - Ni - sa. These 7 (Sur') notes of the scale do not have equal intervals between them. There are many major vocal forms associated with the Hindustani classical music. They are the khyal, the ghazal, the thumri, the dhrupad, the dhamar, the tarana, the trivat, the tappa, the ashtapadi and the bhajan.

• Khyal

The Khyal is a form of vocal music which is almost entirely improvised and very emotional in nature. It consists of around 4-8 lines of lyrics set to a tune which is then used by the singer for improvisation. Its origin is traced back to 15th century under the reign of Mohammed Shah. The best-known composer of the period was Niamat Khan who was also known as Sadarang.

• Ghazal

A ghazal is a series of couplets with each couplet being an independent poem. It is basically the Persian form of poetry, but in India it is popular as the Urdu form of poetry. It was popularized by the classical poets like Mir Taqi Mir, Ghalib and Sauda. Even though Ghazal exists in multiple variations, including folk and pop forms but the artists sing it in a semi-classical style. It has a wide range of themes. The popular artists of the category include Jagjit Singh and Pankaj Udhas.

• Thumri

The Thumri is a semiclassical vocal form which has its origin in the court of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah. The three types of thumri are the Punjabi thumri, the Lucknavi thumri and the Poorabang thumri. The lyrics are mainly romantic and are in a proto-Hindi language called Braj bhasha. The popular performers include Siddheshwari Devi, Shobha Gurtu, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Girija Devi and Purnima Choudhuri.

• Dhrupad

The Dhrupad is a traditional singing by men with a tanpura and pakhawaj accompanying. The lyrics are in Braj Bhasha and the themes are usually heroic in nature. Now the Dhrupad style is declining. The Dagar brothers, particularly Fahimuddin Dagar are the popular singers of the Dhrupad.

• Dhamar

The Dhamar style of singing is a more ornamented form than the Dhrupad. It is an ancient form of composition sung on a 14 beats rhythm (Taal).

• Tarana

The Tarana songs are used to convey a mood of elation. They are usually performed towards the end of a concert. They usually consist of a few lines of rhythmic sounds or bols set to a tune and are compared to the Tillana of the Carnatic music.

• Trivat

The Trivat singing is similar to the tarana but composed with the pakhawaj bols.

• Tappa
The Tappa is a semi classical and rare form of music sung in fast tempo. It is improvised with a typical style of fast movements of notes.

• Ashtapadi
Ashtapadi or Gitagovinda is a rhyme of eternal love and supreme devotion. Gitagovinda was composed in the 12th century by poet Jayadeva. His extreme devotion for Lord Krishna led to the creation of one of the most beautiful poetic works in Sanskrit. The songs in Gitagovinda symbolize the eternal love of Lord Krishna and his beloved Radha, which is equally significant for its supreme devotion to God.

• Bhajan
The Bhajan is the Hindu religious vocal music, which is very popular form of music in northern India. It rose out of the Bhakti Movement. The famous composers of Bhajan include Kabir, Tulsidas and Mirabai.
The Hindustani music is represented by a number of more or less stylistically different schools called the Gharanas. These schools have their own basis of features in the traditional mode of musical training and education. The various gharanas associated with the Hindustani music are as follows.

The Gwalior gharana is the oldest among all the styles. The singing notes in this style have lucidity and simplicity. It is also characterized by serious mien and slow singing pace.

The popular ragas of this gharana are Alakya Bilawal, Yaman, Bhairav, Sarang, Multani, Sri, Bhoop, Kamod, Hamir, Basant, etc. It also pays importance to singing Khayals using traditional Bandishes. It is also noted for its straight and simple tans, and stresses on the use of Meendh and Gamak in its Dhrupad-style khayals.

The popular artistes of this Gharana are Balkrishna BaIchal Karanjikar, Vishnu Digambar Paluskar, Pandit Omkarnath Thakur, Veena Sahasrabuddhe and Malini Rajurkar.

The Kirana Gharana derives its name from the birthplace of Abdul Kharim Khan, called Kirana near Kurukshetra. It has a distinctive style of playing music on the Bin (Vina), with emphasis on the resonance of notes and maintaining note continuity through Meendh and Gamak. Also Alap and Vilambit laya are important with the stress on the role of individual notes and swar-sadhana.

The swara helps to create an emotional mood by means of elongation and use of Kana-s accompanied by tuning the Tanpura for certain ragas to the seventh note, the Nishad, rather than Pancham. The popular ragas of this gharana are Shuddha Kalyan, Darbari, Malkauns, Bhimplasi, Todi etc. It also includes Thumri style. The well known singers of this Gharana are Abdul Karim Khan, Hirabhai Barodekar, Begum Akhtar, Bhimsen Joshi, Gangubai Hangal and Prabha Atre.

Atrauli – Jaipur
This gharana is associated with Alladiya Khan, the great singer of the late 19th and early 20th century. It has complexities of Vakra (twisted/crooked) turns.

The Badhat is very clear and is done in short sequences, each lasting for an Avartan and the Tans are very intricate. It also has a slow tempo, which continues uncharged from the beginning to the end with the duration of its cycle being kept constant.

It uses the traditional Bandishes and shuns the creation of new compositions. The Badhat is sung using the bols of the Bandish instead of the Akar. The Tans are also full of spiral shaped fast passages or Vakra passages.

The popular ragas of this gharana are Sampoorna-Malkauns, Basant Kedar, Basant-Bahar, Kaunsi-Kanada and Nat-Kamod. The well known artists are Alladiya Khan, Mallikarjun Mansur, Kesarbhai Kerkar, Kishori Amonkar, Shruti Sadolikar, Padma Talwalkar and Ashwini Bhide Deshpande.

The Agra gharana is associated with Faiyaz khan. Originally the Dhrupad was the main style and later Dhamar and Khayal singing came to be adopted in this Gharana. It gives great importance on developing forcefulness and deepness in the voice so that the notes are powerful and resonant.

The special attention is given to ragas like Megh and Darbarikanada. In the Alap, the shape of the raga is broadly outlined through key phrases and structures, rather than in a note by note manner. The purity of the Bandish is stressed and the entire Bandish forms the central point of the performance.

The use of the Meendh in order to make the presentation effective is stressed.

The important artists of this gharana are C R Vyas, S N Ratanjankar and of late, Jitendra Abhisheki, Vijay Kitchlu and Sumati Mutatkar.

The Patiala Gharana is an offshoot of the Delhi Gharana and the famous duo Allu-Fattu or Ali Baksh and Fateh Ali Khan are founders of this style.

It gives pride of place to speed in execution of Tans, with slow Tans, which are akin to the Gamak. It is characterized by the use of greater rhythm play and by Layakari with the abundant use of Bols, particularly Bol-tans. This style focusses more on emotion and sensuality.

Ek-tal and Teen-tal are widely used. Even Thumri style of singing is given importance.

The ragas popular with this gharana are Malkauns, Bhoopali, Gunakali, Megh Malhar, etc.

The major singers include Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Ajoy Chakravarti, and Parveen Sultana.

The Rampur-Sahaswan Gharana was established by Ustad Inayat Hussain Khan. It stresses on the clarity of swara with the development and elaboration of the raga is done through a stepwise progression.

The development of the Alap adheres closely to the structure of the Bandish that is being sung and is not sung as a free exposition before the Bandish. It is presented in the form of a Bol-alap.

Singing in Akar is also given great importance in training along with the use of natural voice. It uses Madhya laya or the medium tempo. The literary content of the Bandish is also important.

The Tans cover a much larger range and are marked by their speed of execution.

The popular ragas used are Bhupali-Todi, Bahaduri-Todi, Gaudsarang, Yaman, Kedar, Chhaya Nat, Bihag, etc.

The well known singers are Ghulam Mustafa Khan, Ustad Nissar Hussain Khan and Ustad Rashid Khan.

The Mewati gharana is founded by Ghagge Nazir Khan. It adopts the Sapat Tan and Merkhand in its ornamentation.

It gives importance to developing the mood of the raga through the notes forming it along with the meaning of the text and its style is Bhava Pradhan. It resorts to Tans and Sargams in case the words fall short.

The Meendh is a prominent ornament. It also presents semi-classical music in the form of Bhajans and there is a strong Vaishnavite influence on this style.

The popular artists are Pandit Jasraj, Sanjeev Abhyankar and Rattan Sharma.

Bhundi Bazar Gharana
The Bhundi Bazar Gharana is not a very popular gharana. The presentations of Khayals are open voice, using Akar with a stress on breath-control and singing of long passages in one breath.

Importance is given to the intricate method of Sargam singing in which permutations and combinations of a given set of notes are made to give rise to complex note and Tan patterns. Also, the Sapat-tans and Gamak-tans are given precedence along with the use of Meendh.

The well known singers are Ustad Aman Ali Khan and Anjanibai Malpekar.


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