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Cultural Exchange - May 2012 - Hindustani Music

Sunday, May 20, 2012 6:22 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Hindusthani classical music is the north Indian style of classical music. The tradition was born out of a cultural synthesis of several musical traditions namely:

1)      The Vedic ritual chant dating back to approx. 1000 BC (about 3000 yrs ago)

2)      The equally ancient Persian music tradition

3)      Various folk traditions prevalent in the region.

This music has been evolving since the 12th century primarily in North India and Pakistan. Today Hindusthani music  is one of the two sub-genres of Indian classical music. The other being Carnatic music (the classical music of South India).  Each is very different in the style of rendering.

An aspect of Hindusthani  music is  its tradition of religious neutrality. This is because  sufi saints of those areas who were moderate muslims also believed in spirituality, and because of that, to this day you  find muslim singers singing the praises of hindu Indian gods and vice versa.  Some of the greatest hindusthani singers in India are muslim.  The melodic systems were fused with ideas from Persian music through influence of these sufi composers and later in the moghul courts of Moghul emperors. North India was occupied and ruled for centuries by invading Moslem kings from moslem countries.  Some of them were also patrons of music and promoted Hindusthani classical music  in their courts as they came into closer contact with Hindus.

With the dissolution of the Moghul empire, the patronage of Hindusthani music continued in the smaller princely kingdoms of India and thus the music continued to evolve and the “Bhakti” and “Sufi” traditions continued to develop.  Early 20th century also saw the spread of this music and its appreciation to the masses.

Hindusthani classical music (north Indian) has 7 basic notes with 5 interspersed half notes. This makes it a 12 note scale.

Combination of ascending and descending notes of not less than 5 and not more than 7 notes make a Raag. There are hundreds of ragas and they are sung at different  times of day and night and also different seasons of the year. Verses sung within the Raagas are generally in praise of Gods or expressions of human emotions.


Tanpura – 4 stringed instrument that produces an accompanying drone to vocals.

Harmonium – Wind instrument reed box similar to a western harmonica.

Tabla – Set of two drums – one for each hand – produces different sounds.


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