Dear Music Lovers,
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.
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
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.
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. Total notes in a single saptak are 12 but when we practice arohi and amrohi then we also include next saptak Sa and then total notes becomes 13.
What Is 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.
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. Working music composers 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.