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Old 11-29-2009, 07:39 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Arrow Expeditions Into India: An Exploration of History's Most Enchanting Music


...has a rich culture of traditional music. The most familular instrumentation of Indian Classical music are the Sitar, Bansuri, Tabla and, later, violin. Classical music is always set to a raga.

From a technical standpoint, a raga is defined as five or more musical notes upon which a melody is made. They are a structure underneath which composition and improvisation can take place. A non technical definition of a raga is "a combination of tones which, with beautiful illuminating graces, pleases the people in general". North Indian ragas in particular often correspond to a particular time of day, month or season. It is thought that performing these pieces at those times maximizes their effect.

What does a raga sound like? Please join me as I travel deep into this foreign land to uncover history's most enchanting forgotten music.

Prepare for the Journey

Before we can start our expedition we must be sure to prepare. In the context of this thread, that means learning a bit more about the technique and ideas behind India's classical music.

The two main forms of classical music are:

Hindustani music

Khyal and Dhrupad are the two main forms of Hindustani music, but there are several other classical and semi-classical forms. Players of the tabla, a type of drum, usually keep the rhythm, an indicator of time in Hindustani music. Another common instrument is the stringed tanpura, which is played at a a drone throughout the performance of the raga. This task traditionally falls to a student of the soloist, a task which might seem monotonous but is, in fact, an honour and a rare opportunity for the student who gets it. Other instruments for accompaniment include the sarangi and the harmonium. The prime themes of Hindustani music are romantic love, nature, and devotionals. Yet, Indian classical music is independent of such themes. To sing a raga any poetic phrase appropriate for the raga may be chosen and the raga would not suffer.

The performance usually begins with a slow elaboration of the raga, known as badhat. This can range from long (30–40 minutes) to very short (2–3 minutes) depending on the style and preference of the musician. Once the raga is established, the ornamentation around the mode begins to become rhythmical, gradually speeding up. This section is called the drut or jor. Finally, the percussionist joins in and the tala is introduced. There is a significant amount of Persian influence in Hindustani music, in terms of both the instruments and the style of presentation.

Further Reading

Carnatic Music

Carnatic music tends to be significantly more structured than Hindustani music; examples of this are the logical classification of ragas into melakarthas, and the use of fixed compositions similar to Western classical music. Carnatic raga elaborations are generally much faster in tempo and shorter than their equivalents in Hindustani music. The opening piece is called a varnam, and is a warm-up for the musicians. A devotion and a request for a blessing follows, then a series of interchanges between ragams (unmetered melody) and thaalams. This is intermixed with hymns called krithis. This is followed by the pallavi or theme from the raga. Carnatic pieces also have notated, lyrical poems that are reproduced as such, possibly with embellishments and treatments as per the performer's ideology; these basic pieces are called compositions. Compositions usually have flexibility in them so as to foster creativity: it is commonplace to have same composition sung in different ways by different performers.

Carnatic music is similar to Hindustani music in that it is improvised. Primary themes include worship, descriptions of temples, philosophy, nayaka-nayaki themes and patriotic songs.

Further Reading


As we leave on our great journey I must emplore you all to keep an open mind, comment often and enjoy the musical masterpieces of another time.

Last edited by someonecompletelyrandom; 11-30-2009 at 05:53 PM.
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Old 11-30-2009, 03:54 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Wow, this looks promising. Looks like it might be one of the most exciting new threads to pop up in this forum in a long time actually. Looking forward to it!
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Old 11-30-2009, 04:11 AM   #3 (permalink)
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gonna be following this. the genre interests me but besides ravi shankar i haven't listened to anyone.
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Old 11-30-2009, 08:18 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Wow...this looks like the start of a fantastic thread. I'll most definitely be keeping an eye on this. Good going!
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Old 11-30-2009, 10:00 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Great idea Conan, if I was a mod as soon as I saw this get off it's feet and running I'd throw it in the editors pick forum, really great thread idea. Actually I know a few blogs here and there with Indian, African, etc but I was never too into world music, especially not Indian music specifically. Anyway, I'm keeping an eye on this of course and am looking forward to the first entry, I can't even wait to see what it is.

Last edited by Schizotypic; 11-30-2009 at 10:33 AM.
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Old 11-30-2009, 10:41 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Funnily enough, I've been thinking about doing a thread like this myself for a little while now.

This thread promises much. I'll be a-readin'!
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Old 11-30-2009, 11:03 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Looks really interesting dude, hopefully this one will pick up.

Looking forward to the next entry

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Old 11-30-2009, 06:10 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Chapter I
As I stepped off of the train, a familiar and nostalgic feeling overtook me. The sounds of peddlers taunting passersby; the smell of their labors and of the people themselves; the steam of the train as it whisked away it's next set of travelers - this was India - oh how I had missed it. All I knew about my destination was that I would be meeting a guide there. They said he was a quiet, wise old man who would help me take that first and most crucial step on my journey.

Anxious about meeting him, I paced back and forth between my seat on a bench and the edge of the tracks - shuffling in between a good dozen people every time. This was a crowded place, but a charming one. I didn't mind the traffic. In fact, I could move about with ease compared to the trachea crushing rushes of cities like New York or Tokyo. This place had a kind of old world charm that you can't find other more Western parts of the world.

After waiting for about ten minutes, I spotted an old, white haired man approaching me. His name was G.S. Sachdev, and he was a master of the Bansuri - a bamboo flute. I could tell he was anxious to leave that busy place. He didn't seem like the kind of man who enjoyed the company of hundreds of strangers.

I followed him to a quiet, secluded place where he introduced me to his fellow musicians. They planned to perform two Classical North Indian Ragas for me and a little something extra. Before they began I asked Sachdev to tell me a little bit more about his instrument, the bansuri. He told me it is made of a single chute of bamboo with several open holes, and that they vary greatly in length. I noticed his instrument had to have been thirty inches long!

He told me of the instruments origins - that it was linked to the mythology of Krishna, who played it beautifully for his love interest and follower Radha. The instrument has been around since atleast 100 A.D, but remained primarily a tool in folk music until Pannalal Ghosh began to devolop it for use in classical music.

G.S. Sachdev - Classical North Indian Ragas

1. Invocation
2. Raga Patdeep
3. Dhun

Three Hindustani ragas featuring structured improvision. Instruments include Sachdev's own bansuri, sitar and percussion. A hauntingly beautiful recording, it will provide the attentive mind with sustenance and the wondering one with relaxing sonance. This is our crucial first step into a foreign land.

Last edited by someonecompletelyrandom; 12-09-2009 at 09:40 PM.
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Old 11-30-2009, 06:20 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Wow, this is such an awesome idea. Downloading ^ that now... and can't wait to follow the rest of this!
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Old 11-30-2009, 06:37 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Transcendent, shine more brilliance upon me emissary of Krishna.
-John Martyn

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