The music of India is as diverse as its many cultures. India has over a billion people and hundreds of dialects and languages but there is still an undeniable “sound” that makes Indian music unmistakable.
The sounds they make binds the country together in some form of common identification.
Indian music and its accompanying dance(s) have played a remarkable role in the world of entertainment and culture. Using the body as a medium of communication, their dance expression is perhaps the most intricate and developed, and mimicked even till today by entertainers from other climes.
The tradition of Indian music is known to be a mystical experience, analogous to yoga.
What Makes Indian Music Unique?
Indian music is rarely written down, typically contains no harmony and can be completely improvised.
Western music, even sounds from Africa, have seen its greatest developments in harmony, but Indian music, which has only very primitive harmony, has developed its melody and rhythm. Each melody and its variations is constructed rigidly upon one raga (an Indian musical classification). The distraction of contrast is avoided and thus the music is direct and its effect powerful.
Some composers describe the Indian rhythm as probably the most difficult because the beat never stays the same for more than two bars.
During a performance, the drummer conforms to a particular rhythmic form (tala) hroughout the piece. He supports the melodic line while at the same time performing his own complex embellishments. The understanding between drummer and the singer or instrumentalist is sometimes unbelievable.
The unique music instruments of Indian music:
The indian drum speaks. They are made from pumpkin. A lot of sounds define the sounds of Indian music, and how they are played.
The most popular drum is the tabla, which is really two drums each head of which gives a different sound. Both can be tuned and can produce sounds ranging from a sharp tap to a noise like a bang.
The violin, experts argue, is an instrument of Indian origin. Its relative in India is the squat, guitar-shaped “sarangi”, found throughout northern India.
The most widely used classical melodic instrument is the “vina.” This looks something like a lute but with a hollow gourd attached to the upper end of the fret-board to make a rest and an extra sounding box. It has seven strings, of which four are played and the other three produce a drone accompaniment. The strings are plucked either with over-grown fingernails or with a plectrum.
Similar to the vina is the “sitar.” It has seven strings and usually about 19 sympathetic strings. It is a beautiful instrument and has become very popular among professionals and even amateurs.
The “tambura” is shaped similar to the vina but without the extra gourd. It has four strings which are strummed to produce a droning sound. The strings are tuned to the principle notes of the raga being used, and the instrument provides a nonstop background drone.
Of wind instruments the most common is the “nagasara,” the Indian oboe. Like the Indian flute, it has no keys. Good players of the flute and nagasara can produce an amazing range of notes. Their shakes and slides would leaves the mouth of foreign instrumentalists open.
These are but a few instruments that are used to make the sweet sounding and rhythmic Indian music. So when next you watch a Bollywood musical watch out for these instruments. You’ll appreciate the music better.
What particular Indian song do you like? Kindly share with us in the comment section.