Hindustani Carnatic -:- Brief

The classical music of North India is called Hindustani Classical Music. Melody and rhythm are the common features for music, be it Western or Indian. Indian music is essentially monophonic (single melody format or homophonic) while Western music can be polyphonic (multiple notes played or sung in harmonised unison), monophonic or a combination of both.

Western classical music is based upon the equal tempered scale, and rests upon melody, harmony and counterpart while Swara and Tala are the two basic components of Indian classical music.

Swaras are the twelve notes and the intervening semitones, while a Tala is a cycle of beats, starting with a stress point called the Sam and ending with a release point called the Khali. It is this (sam & khali) that brings life to a Tala.

Indian classical music has two distinct styles-Hindustani classical music and Carnatic music. Hindustani music is prevalent all over India except in the Southern States, where Carnatic music is practiced.

Similarities and Differences between 'Hindustani' and 'Carnatic' music?

Both the styles are monophonic, follow a melodic line and employ a drone (tanpura) with the help of one or two notes against the melody. Both the styles use definite scales to define a raga but the Carnatic Style employs Shrutis or semitones to create a Raga and thus have many more Ragas than the Hindustani style. Carnatic ragas differ from Hindustani ragas. The names of ragas are also different. However, there are some ragas which have the same scale as Hindustani ragas but have different names; such as Hindolam and Malkauns, Shankarabharanam and Bilawal. There is a third category of ragas like Hamsadhwani, Charukeshi, Kalavati etc. which are essentially Carnatic Ragas. They share the same name, the same scale (same set of notes) but can be rendered in the two distinctively different Carnatic and Hindustani styles. Unlike Hindustani music, Carnatic music does not adhere to Time or Samay concepts and instead of Thaats, Carnatic music follows the Melakarta concept.

Each Raga has its own scale consisting of minimum five and maximum seven notes (swaras). A raga has specific ascending (Aaroh) and descending (Avaroh) movements, specific dominating notes (vadi) and specific notes complementing the Vadi (Samvadi) notes. The characteristic phrases of a raga (Pakad) establish its identity and mood.

Originally, there were six Ragas and thirty-six Raginis (melodies with softer emotions). Hundreds of Ragas were created with the help of these Ragas and Raginis, many of which have become obsolete. In recent times, musicians have composed many more ragas. There are today, approximately, 120-150 ragas in use.
Ragas are used in semi-classical and light music as well.

What is a THAAT?
Thaat is a system by which different sets of complete scale of seven notes, in ascending order, are formulated to categorize the maximum number of ragas under it. Thaat or Mela is known as the Parental scale. There are ten Thaats under which most of the Hindustani ragas can be catagorised. These Thaats have the names of ragas and they are Bilawal, Khamaj, Poorvi, Kafi, Bhairavi, Kalyan, Bhairav, Marwa, Asavari and Todi.

For a performer, Thaats have little significance but for a student of music, the system comes as a great help to understand the classification of ragas. Thaat does not have relevance in other types of music.

Khayal is a form of rendering a raga. The essential component of a khayal is a composition (Bandish) and the expansion of the text of the composition within the framework of the raga. The nuances and sub forms employed to improvise and embellish the rendition vary from singer to singer. There are two forms of Khayal. Bada-Khayal in slow tempo and Chhota-Khayal in medium to fast tempo.

Dhruvapada or Dhrupad is another form of rendering a raga. It has a specific composition, consisting of four parts and is sung in different styles. The percussion accompaniment is the Mridang or Pakhawaj, a one-piece drum, as opposed to the two-piece drum, the tabla in khayal. The main difference between these two musical forms is that the Dhrupad is rigidly bound by the composition and the tala, within which all improvisation has to be made. The Khayal, on the other hand, has the freedom to free itself from the rhythmic beat and then return to the beginning of each time cycle (tala). Also, the two essential idioms used in Khayal, which are absent in Dhrupad, are the Sargam and Taan. Sargam is the singing of the notes (sa, re, ga,..), per se, instead of words while Taan is the sequential movement through the different notes using the vowel "Aa".

The Thumri is yet another form of rendering ragas. However, this very popular, light classical form of Hindustani music is limited to specific ragas whose key emotion is lyricism and eroticism, e.g. Bhairavi, Gara, Pilu. Effective word play usually characterizes a Thumri. Chiefly associated with folk songs of UP and Punjab, the Thumri is composed in dialects of Hindi.

Sometimes the words are not intelligible because they are sung in a stylized manner and do not always follow the necessary scansion and get elongated with the notes.

Very often musicians repeat a particular phrase thrice and arrive on the first beat of the rhythm known as 'Sam'. This division of any Tala, or rhythm cycle, into three equal parts to create variation and musical thrill is known as 'Tihaayi'. Artistically phrased tihaayi enhances the beauty of a performance.

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