An Introduction of Classical Music & Raga
What is Classical Music:
By Dictionary, A music which follows the characteristics of the tradition, is called classical - in opposition to Western classical music, where classical means belonging to a period of time (approximately from 16th to 17th century). All classical music follows this rule even if some completely different styles exist side by side. To develop precisely a raga, the musician needs the presence of a drone, whatever the music. Singers are always accompanied with the tanpura or the harmonium, which produce the singer's tonic and dominant (SA and PA). The present system of Indian music is based upon two important pillars: raag and taal. Raag is the melodic form while taal is the rhythmic form. Raga or raag may be roughly equated with the Western term mode or scale. Classical music is mainly divided into two branches, North and South
History of classical music Of The Indo-Pak Sub-Continent :
North Indian Classical music (some people know as Hindustani) in reference of the Hindi speaking region going to North-West Frontier and to Poorab, the East. Many styles and genres have been developed and encouraged by a family system now called Gharana. These numerous Gharanas all over North India have developed very different styles of classical music, genres and instruments. In the development music, the things went like this (from a verse): First songs, then notes, then Sharutis and then the Jaties (ragas). Birds have songs, so do the other mammals. When we say that the songs must have developed after humans were civilized, we are forgetting something. Look around you. There are songs everywhere.
It is certain that as humans got civilized, their songs got complicated. With the development of language, the songs became more meaningful. The primal screams evolved into poems of love, separation, nature, beauty and other things that affected us emotionally. When something said through conversation does not capture the essence of our feelings, a song erupts in us. That is a primal instinct. It is not something that is impossible to do without the knowledge of Sharuties. A villager in India or a Gypsy in Europe cannot stop singing just because they do not know the difference between just intonation and chromatic intonation. These are afterthoughts.
When the enlightened artists of the ancient world sang the songs, the beauty of changing pitch compelled them to find more about it. What is it that changing the pitch up and down in certain ways sounds musical. The first known theory of music in Indian Vedas (Samveda) contains four notes. Nowadays notes are always mentioned in ascending (such as C D E or Sa Re Ga) order.
The combination of several notes woven into a
composition in a way, which is pleasing to the ear, is called a Raga.
The raga is an Indian scale which utilizes varying ascending and
descending patterns - certain notes on the way up and certain notes on
the way down - but always in the set sequence. The raga never has less
than five notes - the minimum required for a tune.
Each raga creates an atmosphere, which is associated with feelings and
sentiments. Any stray combination of notes cannot be called a Raga.
At a more academic level, it is a musical composition that
functions within a structure and follows certain rules with relation to
the kind of notes used in it.
Raga is the dictator of melody and the "Taal" is the dictator of Rhythm. In addition, melody is the product of sound and the rhythm is product of time. Therefore, ‘the music is the art of manipulating the ’sound’ through ‘time’. The time affects music in two different ways. First through rhythm is obvious. However, the time is also at work producing the musical sounds that are useful in melody. The universe is full of sound, but every sound is not musical.
According to the scriptures, sage Narada practiced great austerities for several years and was honoured by Lord Shiva who taught him the great art of music. It is said that from the sleeping position (Shayanmudra) of his wife, Goddess Parvati, Lord Shiva created the Rudravina (an instrument with a form similar to the sitar). From his five mouths, five ragas emerged while a sixth was created by the goddess Parvati. These ragas were named according to Lord Shiva's movements to east, west, north, south and towards the sky and were called Bhairav, Hindol, Megh, Deepak and Shri. Raga Kaushik was created by the Goddess Parvati herself.
Music flourished in India under Muslim rule and was subject to a number of new influences, including those of the mystic Sufi sect. As a consequence new elements, forms and instruments came to be introduced into Indian Music. Among the vocal forms, were the Qual which gave rise to the Qawali and the Tanpura, both of which are heard today. The sitar and the tabla also belong to this period. The Persian poet Amir Khusrau is believed to have made a major contribution in the development of the Qawali as well as the Sitar.
Musical patronage reached its zenith under the Mughal emperors Akbar (1555-1605), Jahangir (1605-1627) and Shahjahan (1628-1658) The legendary composer Tansen (1492-1589) is believed to have been a member of the court of Akbar. His enchanting music is believed to have had the power to bring rains and light lamps. Music was also becoming more popular and was no longer the preserve of the upper classes. Most compositions had initially been in Sanskrit but by the sixteenth century they were being composed in various dialects of Hindi - Braj Bhasa and Bhojpuri among them - as well as Persian and Urdu. It was during this phase that two separate systems emerged as a result of the Islamic influence on the existing system in Northern and central India while the south remained free from this domination. This led to emergence of two forms of Indian Music. Hindustani (North Indian) and Carnatic (South Indian).
The arrival of British rule saw the violin entering the repertoire of South Indian music in the mid-eighteenth century. In the time of Bahadur Shah Zafar the last King of Mughal empire, music development was limited and poetry developed. A significant development was the use of music to promote nationalism during the Indian freedom struggle. The twentieth century also saw the arrival of Indian cinema, which further popularized music among common man. The post independence period saw classical Indian music gaining global recognition. Ravi Shankar, one of the greatest players of the Sitar, worked with the Beatles while Ali Akbar Khan popularized the Sarod in the west. The twentieth century also saw collaborations between Indian and western musicians. such as Ravi Shankar and Yehudi Menuhin. This merging of two streams of music is often referred to as fusion Music.
New generation of artists like Bhimsen Joshi, Amjad Ali Khan and Bismillah Khan brought finest traditions of Indian music. Film music is however, the most popular music in India and Pakistan today and popular Indian films are seldom without songs. Urdu Ghazal also got popularity and popular Ghazal singers like Mehdi Hassan, Ghulam Ali, Jagjeet and many others emerged with a new style. Bhajans and Qawali also retain their popularity.
NOTES IN A SAPTAK
The Indian 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 shrutis or intervals, and these
are the basis of the musical notes. The 7 notes of the scale are known
to musicians as Sa, Ri, Ga, Ma, Pa, Da and Ni. The eighth note is a
repetition of the first and is therefore an octave higher. The group of
seven notes is called a saptak. In western music these seven notes are
identified as C D E F G A B. These 7 notes of the scale do not have
equal intervals between them. A Saptak is a group of 7 notes, divided by
the shrutis or intervals -- A raga is based on the principle of a
combination of notes selected out the 22 note intervals of the octave.
The raga forms the backbone of Indian music, and the laws laid down for the ragas have to be carefully observed to preserve and safeguard their integrity. The following points are required in the construction of a Raga.
According to Indo Pak ancient theory, the
musician's task in exploring mood is made easier if the performance
takes place at the time and in the atmosphere appropriate to the raga.
So if a raga which embodies the atmosphere of spring is played in spring
it will be more effective than if it were played in winter. The right
atmosphere responds to the raga as it were, just as the sympathetic
strings of a sitar vibrate to enrich the melody being played on the main
strings. This is why particular times and seasons are deemed suitable
for particular ragas.
Play some classical sounding music and try to see if any particular Raga thrills you. Anything that turns you off completely ? Play instrumental or light classical music at first before embarking on a heavy-duty vocal piece. Is there a piece that moves you ? Puts you in a sublime mood ? Helps you drive your car ?
Another aspect of the raga is the appropriate distribution in time during the 24 hours of the day for its performance, i.e. the time of the day denotes the raga sung a particular time. Raga are also allotted a particular time space in the cycle of the day. These are divided into four types --
All the raga are divided into two groups
-- Poorvi Ragas and Uttar Ragas. The Poorvi Raga are sung between 12
noon and 12 midnight. The Uttar Raga are sung between 12 midnight and 12
noon. The variations on the dominant or ``King" note help a person to
find out why certain raga are being sung at certain times. This raga
classification is about 500 years old.
The beauty of the raga will not be marred by the time of the day it is sung. It is the psychological association with the time that goes with the mood of the raga. The object of a raga is to express a certain emotional mood and sentiment without any reference to time and season. For a student of classical music, this classification may give an idea as to how to base his reasons for the traditional usage of raga.
Another division of ragas is the classification of ragas under five principal:
From these five ragas, other raga are
derived. The first derivatives of the ragas are called raganis, and each
of the five ragas have five raganis under them. There are 25 raganis for
the above five ragas. Each raga contain 5 raganis. Further derivatives
from these raga and raginis resulted in attaching to each principal raga
16 secondary derivatives known as upa-raga and upa-raganis.
All the ragas are supposed to have been derived from their thaat. Every raga has a fixed number of komal (soft) or tewar (sharp) notes, from which the thaat can be recognized. In other words, a certain arrangement of the 7 notes with the change of shuddh, komal and tewar is called a thaat. There are several opinions in this matter.
About Thaat or Scales
The set of Seven Notes or Scale which can produce a Raga is called a Thaat in urdu or Hindi and raga produces a Song. The system of classification for the ragas in different groups is called a thaat. There are again several systems of classification of the raga. Presently in Indian or Pakistani Classical Music the 10 Thaat (Scales) classification of raga is prevalent. If you want to learn how to play keyboard or harmonium the practice of thaat is important. If you want to bring beauty in music then raga practice is important. If you learn one thaat or scale then you can play many songs in that particular thaat or scale. Beauty in playing harmonium or keyboard appears when you use raga.
There are certain rules for these thaat
1. The set of Seven Notes or Scale which can produce a Raga is called a Thaat in urdu or Hindi. A Thaat must have seven notes in ascending order.
2. Thaat has only one Arohi.
3. Thaat are not be sung only play but the raga produced from Thaat are sung. You can play music of film songs with thaat.
4. Thaat are named after the
popular raaga of that Thaat. For example Bheravi is a popular raga and
the thaat of the raga Bheravi is named after the raga.
What is a Raga?
The combination of several notes woven into a
composition in a way, which is pleasing to the ear, is called a Raga
or Raag. The raga is an Indian scale which
utilizes varying ascending and descending patterns – certain notes on
the way up and certain notes on the way down – but always in the set
sequence. The raga never has less than five notes - the minimum required
for a tune. Each raga
creates an atmosphere, which is associated with feelings and sentiments.
Any stray combination of notes cannot be called a Raga. At a more
academic level, it is a musical composition that functions within a
structure and follows certain rules with relation to the kind of notes
used in it.
Ragas are placed in three categories:
Odho or pentatonic, a composition of five notes
Ragas are placed in three categories:
Odho or pentatonic, a composition of five notes
Or Khado is hexatonic, a composition of six notes
Sampooran is heptatonic, a composition of seven notes.
Melody is based on our ability to hear and perceive changes in frequencies. Although it is more than just the pitch going up and down, but as the frequency goes higher, the note is sharper. In any octave, the highest note always vibrates at the double rate from the lowest note. So an octave is the interval between one musical note and another with half or double its frequency. After the unison, (two things vibrating at the same rate), the octave is the simplest interval in music. The human ear tends to hear both notes (upper and lower) as being essentially ‘the same’. For this reason, notes an octave apart are given the same name in Indian music. The same is true for Western Music. And just like in western notation system, Northern Indian music recognizes 12 places in one octave as Notes. Most musicians use the same notes as we see them on a guitar’s fret or on a piano. But it hasn’t been always like this. In ancient times, Indian music was based on the ‘Sharuti’ system. The intervals were measured with sharuties.
Melody of Northern Indian Music is based on the ‘Thaat’ (parent Scale) and ‘Raga’ theory. Ragas have their minimum requirements of five notes in an octave. Based on that principle, 484 Ragas can be created mathematically from any given ‘Thaat’. Every Raga has its own personality. There are many special things about every Raga, which make it possible to separate one Raga from another.
Secret Of Phrasing In Ragas
Even though many popular musician do not study Ragas and most of the popular music is not even in any certain Ragas, there are many ‘phrasing’ secrets hidden in the Ragas, however. Ascending and descending do not make music. Whole art of music is hidden in phrasing. You must have listened to hundreds of songs composed in ‘C’ or ‘E’ major. They still sound different from one another. That is because music we hear affects us in phrases, not scales.
This theory (music in phrases) was the origin of Ragas. Ragas start with that in mind and grow from there. To learn a Raga you have to learn its ascending or descending etc., but you also must know its flow and important phrases. There are thousands of available lists of hundreds of Ragas everywhere, but they have no practical value as one will never know how to proceed from there. A Raga description without its phrases and flow is useless. Nisar Bazmi as a working music composer giving you the only information that is essential to ‘know and play’ Indian music in the real world. You will find yourself improvising in a certain Raga in no time by mixing and shuffling its phrases and flow
Ragas & Time:
According to Indo Pak ancient theory, the musician's task in exploring mood is made easier if the performance takes place at the time and in the atmosphere appropriate to the raga. So if a raga that embodies the atmosphere of spring is played in spring it will be more effective than if it were played in winter. Play some classical sounding music and try to see if any particular Raga thrills you. Anything that turns you off completely? Play instrumental or light classical music at first before embarking on a heavy-duty vocal piece. Is there a piece that moves you? Puts you in a sublime or inspiring mood. Another aspect of the raga is the appropriate distribution in time during the 24 hours of the day for its performance, i.e. the time of the day denotes the raga sung at a particular time. Ragas are also allotted a particular time space in the cycle of the day.
Time based ragas are divided into four types:
1. Twilight raga when the notes re and da are used such as Raga Marwa and Poorvi.
2. Mid-day and Mid-night ragas that include the notes ga and ni (komal).
3. Ragas for the first quarter of the morning and night that include the notes re, ga, da and ni
4. For the last quarter of the day and night, the raga includes the notes Sa, ma and Pa.
The entire ragas are divided into two groups:
The Poorvi Raga is sung between 12 noon and 12 midnight. The Uttar Raga is sung between 12 midnights and 12 noons. The variations on the dominant or “King” note helps a person to find out why certain raga are being sung at certain times. This raga classification is about 500 years old and it takes us to Mughals era. The beauty of the raga will not be spoiled by the time of the day it is sung. It is the psychological association with the time that goes with the mood of the raga. The object of a raga is to express a certain emotional mood and sentiment without any reference to time and season. For a student of classical music, this classification may give an idea as to how to base his reasons for the traditional usage of raga.
Classification of Ragas under five principals:
From these five ragas, other ragas are derived. The first derivatives of the ragas are called raganis, and each of the five ragas has five raganis under them. There are 25 raganis for the above five ragas. Raganis are female and raga is male. You can guess raganis and raga from the name of the ragas. Further derivatives from these raga and raginis resulted in attaching to each principal raga 16 secondary derivatives known as upa-raga and upa-raganis. Every raga has a fixed number of komal (soft) or tiver (sharp) notes, from which the thaat can be recognized. In other words, a certain arrangement of the 7 notes with the change of komal and tiver is called a thaat.
Facts About Ragas:
It took a long time for music to come to the form found in present-day India. The most important advance in music was made between the 14th and 18th centuries. During this period, the music sung in the north came in contact with Persian music and absorbed it, through the Pathans and the Mughals. It is then that two schools of music resulted, the Hindustani and the Carnatic. Hindustani music adopted a scale of natural notes and Carnatic music retained the traditional octave. During this period, different styles of classical compositions such as Dhrupad, Dhamar, Khayal, etc. were contributed to Hindustani music.
Detailed melodic modes are used in Ragas. Traditionally, ragas are based on a complex Vedic philosophy of sound. A raga is also basically a set of Vedic-rooted rules for how to build a melody. It specifies rules for movements up (arohi) and down (amrohi) the scale, which notes should figure more and which notes should be used more cautiously. Which phrases to be used and which phrases to be avoided, and so on. The result is a framework that can be used to compose or improvise melodies, allowing for endless variation within the set of notes.
There is no absolute pitch; instead, each performance simply picks a ground note, and the other scale degrees follow relative to the ground note. As ragas were never codified but transmitted orally from teacher to student, some ragas can vary greatly across regions, traditions and styles. Indian classical music is always set in raga, but all raga music is not necessarily classical. Many popular Indian film songs are themselves based on ragas. In today's Indian classical music raga is the backbone.
The outstanding feature of Indian classical music is the “raga” concept. Raga is the essential concept of Indian classical music. Each raga is a distinct musical entity or unit by itself and possesses well-defined characteristics. The concept of raga is proud contribution to the world music. It is defined as melody mould or melody style. The goal of absolute music is reached in the concept of raga. Ragas are the artistic facts that can be recognized by a trained ear. Ragas are acoustic facts and every musician is aware of them. They are the creative talents of a musician. The ragas form the basis of all melodies in India. Raga is the soul of Indian classical music. If two songs sound strikingly similar the chances are based on the same set of notes and thus in the same raga. Raga is also identified typically by pattern recognition, if you are not willing to do detailed decomposition into the basic keys of their scale. Thus, a raga is described as the unmeasured music and it has a rich variety of classifications.
A Raga may also be characterized by a series of melodic notes pattern called challan, which means movement or by a key set of notes called pakad. These form the melodic outlines of a raga and include consecutive ascending and descending phrases. The challan discloses the basic grammar and the progression of a raga. Every raga has a note that is frequently used or held for a long duration and is called vadi or a sonant note. Similarly there is another note from vadi that is called samvadi or the consonant. This note is usually the fourth or the fifth note from the vadi.
Identify Raga From Raga Based Film songs:
Pakaad or bandish are the most dominating notes of a given raga. Each raga has its own bandish. Whenever a music director composes a song based upon a given raga, he makes sure that he uses the bandish of that raga. This is the precise reason why two songs composed on the same raga sound similar. In a way, bandish is a common factor within all the tunes composed on a given raga.
While rendering a raga, one should be vary careful of not using varjya swar. Varjya swars in a raga are the notes; those are strictly excluded in rendition. Varjya swar is the enemy of the raga. If a varjya swar is accidentally used during performance of a particular raga, it will spoil the atmosphere that a particular raga is supposed to create. So great artists do a lot of practice of a given raga so that they will never make the mistake of using varjya swar. Actually, to understand the bandish of any raga, it is better to listen and grasp the instrumental classical music played on a musical instrument or midi music. Since musical instruments do not utter words, the listener can concentrate and grasp the raga very accurately after repeatedly listening to the notes of the tune. Of course, if you are very well versed in classical music, then you can easily recognize a raga with ease even if you are listening to a vocal piece. Also, in order to grasp any given raga, one should listen to the same raga presented by different artists.
If you listen to a vocal song based on a raga, say on radio or a in a computer, and you want to identify the raga of this song, then you should listen to it while you are farther away, say about 30 to 50 feet away from the player. It has been observed that you can recognize the raga of a song while listening to it from a farther distance rather than by listening to it closer. This is because as you go farther from the source of vocal sound, you do not listen to any words from the song, but you only hear the dominating notes or bandish of the song. Once you hear the bandish, you can easily recognize the raga of the song. Of course, one has to have prior knowledge of ragas before attempting to recognize it using this technique. Also note that within any raga or a melody there is a definite relationship among the notes. A song based on a given raga can be composed in any one of 3 octaves. This sometimes makes it difficult to identify the raga of the song, although the progression of notes follows the same rules of raga in any octave.
The way some people have it easy, and can directly see the patterns and recognize a raga. Some others learn by going to a guru, but for a casual listener, it might take some practice and some intuitive thinking. If you listen too much film music, then there is a really good and easy way to try and learn ragas. Listen to a song and get someone to identify the raga initially for you. Learn this raga, by listening to the song and try humming along with it. Then turn off the song, and try humming along the same tune, but with variations. Let me name some songs for you.
Let us take for instance, any song of Raga Kalyan e.g Ranjish hi sahi, composed by Nisar Bazmi Sahib. If you know the name of the raga, play this song in your cd player. Play it a couple of times, continuously, and then turn your cd player off. Sing the song, but use your imagination to sing it. And then slowly hum and let it loose. If you are finding trouble nailing the notes, get its lyrics.
Once you've done this for a few songs, you will have some of it down. If you want to get theoretical however, and already have a decent ear, then learn the notes. It really and really helps if you can play an instrument, something visual. Harmonium is perfect, some persons learn on electronic keyboard, so the possibility is obviously endless. If you know theory and are just finding it hard identifying the ragas, then just stick with it and practice. You should try and improve your memory and memory association skills. Watch patterns, solve pattern puzzles, they all help.
There are certain clues to look for; here is a short suggestion on how to identify raga notes:
First listen to how the raga alaap starts off or the song, it must always begin with the raga identification. Its not like you can just sing without telling the audience what the raga of the song is. Listen closer to each note sang. Listen very carefully, and note down which notes are higher and lower, then slowly approximate the scale. Make it thorough first. For example if you are listening a song you just try to sing-along with the song. Slowly try to get what are the swars inside that song. Ok you just think that you got the swars.
Note: All the above info has been taken from various internet sources and no claim of authenticity lies on my part. Thanx
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