Music and dance are as old as Indian civilisation. The 30,000-year-old paleolithic and neolithic cave paintings in Madhya Pradesh depict a type of dance, while mesolithic and Chalcolithic cave art shows musical instruments like gongs and the bowed lyre.
Rhythm or taal can be traced back to the Vedic texts. Hindustani and Carnatic are the two classical traditions although India is home to a wide variety of folk styles, semi classical and pop music as well. In the early 60s, pioneers like John Coltrane and George Harrison collaborated with Indian instrumentalists like Pandit Ravi Shankar and used the sitar in their songs. Fusions with Indian music became well known in the 1970s and Asian Underground emerged in Britain in the late 80s. Ever since Pt Ravi Shankar and the Beatles brought the glory of Hindustani music to the world, Indian musicians have made their mark, from Ricky Kej to A.R. Rahman. This section features Global Indians who are the forefront of India's soft power, dominating OTT platforms and Hollywood, promoting an intermingling of cultures through Indian music.
FAQs about Indian Music
What is Indian music called?
There are two major classical styles - Carnatic, one of the oldest forms in the world, which is found in the south and Hindustani music, which dominates the northern regions. There are also semi classical styles that are a convergence of classical and folk traditions, including sugam sangeet (Bhajan, Shabad, Qawwali), Rabindra Sangeet and Haveli Sangeet. Film industries and composers like Ilayaraja and A.R. Rahman are known for incorporating Western styles into their work as well, creating a wide and versatile genre of modern music.
What is the most popular music of India?
Carnatic, Hindustani, light classical, Lavani, Bhangra and Modern Bhangra, Sufi Folk Rock, Bengali Folk, filmy pop, to name a few. Classical music is characterised by microtones (shruti), notes (swaram), ornamentations (alankar), melodies improvised from grammar (raga) and rhythmic patterns (talam).
What makes Indian music unique?
Indian music typically contains no harmony, can be completely improvised and is rarely written down. Almost all Indian performance is improvised - there are no musical notes read out during a performance. The songs are standard and known but nobody knows how the musician will interpret it, says violin virtuoso U. Srinivas. Another peculiarity is the sound called the 'drone', the background sound against which other notes are played for melodic tension.
Is Indian music popular in the world?
India ranks 20th for global music influence and sixth for uniqueness in study, according to the Global Influential Music Index.
What instruments are used in Indian music?
The most common in Hindustani traditions are the sitar, sarod, tambura, sahnai, sarangi and tabla. Karnatic music uses the veena, mrdangam, kanjira and violin.
How is music used in Indian culture?
Indian philosophy stresses the importance of sound, which serves as the focal point for truth. Truths were passed down orally to the sages, making sound instrumental to knowing and understanding the truth.