Presented - East
Transcript Presented - East
Three Species of
South Asian Music
Robert Katz, Ph.D.
to the Infusing Institute of the
July 29, 2010
Music and Language
• Music is the universal language of mankind — Longfellow
• I consider that music is, by its very nature, powerless to express
anything at all, whether a feeling, an attitude of mind, a
psychological mood, a phenomenon of nature, etc....If, as is nearly
always the case, music appears to express something, this is only
an illusion, and not a reality.... --Igor Stravinsky
• Talking about music is like dancing about architecture. --Stravinsky
Significant points of
• Music is a product of culture
• Music is manifested in a variety of ways in a
Classical vs. folk vs. popular
Integrated vs. independent
Oral vs. written tradition
Literal vs. extemporaneous
Universals of Musical Sound
• Durational Elements
Process or Formal Definition
Three Examples of South
• Hindustani Classical Music
Geography & History
Hindustani Classical Music
• Hindustani refers to the music of N. India
differentiated from Karnatak, the classical
musical tradition of S. India
– Blend of Hindu and Muslim cultural
– Originates in vocal style, but is
dominated by musical rather than
– Earliest history dates to 5th-7th c. CE.
– Extensive written commentaries
Hindustani Classical Music
• Three broad historical periods
Natysastra (4-5th c.)
Bhrad-desi (8-9th c.)
Sangita Ratnakara (1210-1247)
– Medieval (1300-1550):
Patronage of the Delhi Sultanate and Vijayanagar
– Modern (1550-)
Proliferation of writings about music
I shall now tell thee the different kinds of sound. They are the seven
original notes called Shadja, Rishabha, Gandhara, Mahdhyama,
Panchama, Dhaivata and Nishada. These are the seven kinds of the
property that appertains to space. Sound inheres like the Supreme Being in
all space though attached especially to drums and other instruments.
Whatever sound is heard from drums small and large, and conchs, and
clouds, and cars, and animate and inanimate creatures, are all included in
these seven kinds of sound already enumerated. Thus sound, which is the
property of space, is of various kinds. The learned have said sound to be
born of space. When raised by the different kinds of touch, which is the
property of the wind, it may be heard.
Mahabharata, Book 12 Santi Parva, Mokshadharma Parva CLXXXIV
Raga, Raag, Rag
• The word Raga literally translates as color or mood. In
musical terms ragas are the structural framework for
songs and improvisation. In this sense it is a
combination of the Western concept of scale, key, and
melody, but raga also connotes and affective character.
• Notes of a raga roughly correspond to the seven pitches
of a major scale:
The rhythmic/metric organization of Hindustani music.
Tala is the cyclic patterning of beats and rhythms that
organize musical time. Length of patterns are organized
into groupings described as binary (8 or 16), ternary (6
or 12), quintuple (10), etc., with up to 28 beats.
Basic Structure of a Raga
Vocal and Instrumental types.
Each has its own particular categories of compositions
Vocal: Dhrupad, Kyal, Thumri
Gat is in two large sections
Alap – no tala
Gat – tala is present
• Geographically centered in N. India and Pakistan
• Specifically Islamic musical style associated with the mystic tradition
• Sufism and Qawwali are not universally accepted practices in all of
• Emphasis on group participation as opposed to solo performer;
vocal rather than instrumental; text rather than tones
• Zikr – “remembrance” (of God) expressed vocally through word
• Musically employs elements of pitch organization found in Raga
• Common instruments include: Tabla, Harmonium, Sarangi, Dholak
• Performances are held in shrines to Sufi saints in India and Pakistan
• Qawwals traditionally associated themselves with Amir Khusrau,
13th c. poet and musician. Khusrau was connected to the Chisti
order of Sufism
• Vocal soloist leads performance but group involvement is common
including responsorial chanting and hand clapping.
• Religious function is to help devotees achieve ecstatic state of
religious intensity and draw closer to God.
• Qawwali music has been popularized through concert performances
that have adapted the melodies and style for non-religious
Qawwali at Shrine of Nizamuddin Auliya at Night
• Folk musicians found in the state of Rajasthan in northwestern India
bordering on Pakistan.
• The Manganiyars are a Muslim caste of professional musicians who
served Hindu patrons, Rajputs and lower caste Hindus.
• Manganiyars use a variety of instruments including drums
• Patron-musician relationship was passed from one generation to the
• Perform at weddings and other celebrations
• Musical style is believed to derive from Hindustani classical music
• Like many traditional musical styles, the
Manganiyar practice is a complex of singing,
instrumental accompaniment, and dance/gesture.
• The film Latcho Drom (1993) is a documentary
attempting to trace the history of gypsy/Romani
musical culture from its supposed origins in the
desert of western India through Persia, N. Africa,
eastern Europe, to Spain where their musical
influence is found in Flamenco song and dance.
• Modern Manganiyars may be the descendents of
these early singer, dancer, entertainers from
whom the Romani originated.
• Contemporary Manganiyar musicians have
gained a degree of popularity in the West through
exuberant performances including, song, dance,
colorful traditional costumery
• Performances blend elements of classical,
qawwali, folk, and popular song
• All three of the examples of S. Asian music presented have been adapted
to suit contemporary audiences in a variety of ways.
– Popular music of the 1960s borrowed aspects of the sound and philosophy of
– Classical Hindustani and Qawwali musical styles have been appropriated for
the soundtrack of Bollywood films and to suit wide, secularized audiences
– Manganiyar and other Indian folk styles have found a place in the World Music
genre of popular culture
– Rajasthani musicians themselves have adapted a wide variety of Indian
musical styles for their own World Music repertoires
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Clayton, Martin. Time in Indian music: rhythm, metre, and form in North Indian
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