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INDIAN RAGA. Contextual Information. Indian music is viewed as having special religious and philosophical significance. Musical performances take place in temples and at religious festivals. Performances of individual pieces can last for many hours.

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contextual information
Contextual Information
  • Indian music is viewed as having special religious and philosophical significance.
  • Musical performances take place in temples and at religious festivals.
  • Performances of individual pieces can last for many hours.
  • Students learn to play Indian classical music through the oral tradition. This means that the music is memorised and not learnt from notation. Students learn by listening, observing and imitating.
the texture of indian music
The Texture of Indian music…
  • The texture of Indian classical music is made up of three main components:
  • A solo melody line (vocal or instrumental) which is highly ornamented
  • A rhythmic accompaniment (normally on drums)
  • A drone (one note or several) which continues through the whole composition.
  • A raga is a cross between a scale and a melody
  • Each raga has an association with a specified time of day when they should be performed. This results in particular moods or feelings being evoked.
  • Ragas are based on special scales called thats. There are ten basic thats from which most ragas are derived.
  • Like western scales, there are seven degrees to every raga. These are known as sa, ri, ga, ma, pa, dha and ni (equivalent of doh, ray, me etc)
  • Ragas serve as the basis for melodic improvisation. It considered bad practice to sound notes that do not belong to the raga during improvisation.
  • All rhythms have a basic pulse or beat. The special way in which beats are grouped together in Indian music is called tala. This group is called a cycle and serves as the framework for rhythmic improvisation by the drummer. Each tala has a characteristic pattern.
  • Different talas have a different number of beats per cycle. Two of the most common talas are tintal (16-beat cycle grouped 4+4+4+4) and rupaka (7-beat cycle grouped 3+2+2).
  • A typical raga performance will have a formal structure around which the improvisation is cast. Performances can last from 30 minutes to 5 hours - or more!
  • Section 1 Alap

Solo instrument (+ drone on tampura)

Notes and phrases of the raga explored

Rhythmically free (no metre)

Can last up to 45 minutes and is in a slow tempo

  • Section 2 Jhor/Jor

Still solo (+ drone)

Regular pulse introduced (a sense of metre)

Music becomes more rhythmic

Medium tempo

Section 3 Jhala

Still solo (+drone)

Becomes very rhythmical

Fast tempo

Further exploration of raga

  • Section 4 Gat

Fixed composition starts

Entrance of tabla (drum) player

Free rhythmical improvisation using notes of raga/tala cycle

If a vocal performance (main melodic instrument),

the fixed composition is called a bandish rather than a gat (which refers to instrumental)

Will normally end with a dramatic flourish of

Virtuoso display!

indian instruments
Indian Instruments…
  • The Voice - Indian musicians consider the voice to be the greatest instrument and so instrumental music always tries to imitate the sound of the voice. Singers tend to sing in melismatic phrases (singing more than one note to a syllable) and use microtonal (intervals smaller than semitones) ornamentation.
  • Sitar - A long-necked string instrument which is plucked. Has 6 or 7 main strings (two of which are drone strings) and these are plucked by a wire plectrum.
  • Tabla - The main drums in Indian music. Tabla is actually a set of TWO drums, one smaller than the other.
other instruments you should know include
Other instruments you should know include…
  • Shehnai (double-reed instrument a bit like an oboe)
  • Pakhavaj (a double-ended drum)
  • Sarod (smaller than sitar and has a fretless metal fingerboard, allowing the player to slide his/her fingernails up and down the strings)