The Rough Guide To Indian Classical Music

India's classical music is deeply bound to the country's mystical ancient traditions. Stretching back  through time to the Vedic period musical historians encounter the Rigveda, an ancient collection of Sanskrit hymns, and the Sama Veda, a text which begins to discuss the origin of seven shruti (notes) from the sounds of nature. The practice of combining tones in certain sequences and the notation system that was developed during this era is connected to the development of the Indian classical raga form. 'Raga' literally translates as a 'hue' of colour and is a musical method of constructing melody through prescribed conventions. Ragas are linked to different moods and times of the day. Amjad Ali Khan's ‘Raga Chhaya Nat’ is in the Hindustani (North Indian) chhayanat mode and illuminates his crystalline prowess on the sarod, a stringed lute that is played with a plectrum. Uppalapu Srinivas' song 'Sankari Sankuru' is played on his mandolin in saveri raga, which is said to bring about the mood of pity and was originally composed by one of Carnatic (South Indian) music’s greatest figures Syama Sastri (1762-1827). 

Indian Classical Legends Shivkumar Sharma, Hari Prasad Chaurasia and Brij Bhushan Kabra are heard delicately delivering a Hindustani bhairav raga on ‘Ahir Bhairav’. This raga is related to Sikh tradition from northern India and appears in the Guru Granth Sahib (the central religious text of Sikhism). Ravi Shankar’s radiant sitar shines bright on the fast-paced track ‘Devgiri Bilawal Dhun’. Shankar’s name and ascendant international career is now synonymous with Indian classical music. Widely regarded as a musical sage or pandit, his definition of raga touched upon its vast and complex nature, describing it as a ‘scientific, precise, subtle and aesthetic melodic form’. Another sitar scholar, Vilayat Khan is heard on ‘Dhun Punjabi Ang’. The Khan musical lineage traces all the way back to the court musicians of the Mughal Empire.

Father and son duo Allah Rakha and Zakir Hussain enter into percussive playoff on the live track ‘Ek Taal’. Tabla virtuouso Zakir Hussain remains grounded by the musical discipline and natural flair he inherited from his father who he regarded as ‘a spirit who was created to work for music by God’. Carnatic vocalist Dr M. Balamuralikrishna’s marvellously melodic instrument sparkles on ‘Sadhathava Pada’. His formidable range and versatile tone mark him out as a legendary singer. He is also credited with popularising the jugulbandi concept in Indian classical music – when two soloists of equal skill perform together. Riverboat Records artist Jyotsna Srikanth contributes ‘Annapoorne’, a work crafted by the famous Carnatic composer, Muttuswami Dikshitar. The subject matter concerns Annapoorne, the Hindu goddess of nourishment. The raga used is sama, one that denotes peace.

Uncover the mystery and beauty of India’s verdant classical tradition on this excellent introduction to one of the world’s most valuable musical repertoires.