Sounds of India

Miniature folk musician dolls

Indian music is made up of a variety of different musical genres including the Indian classical music, pop music, folk music, etc. India’s traditional classical music is diverse and includes Carnatic music, Hindustani music, and Qawali amongst other.

Music is the soul of India, and has a history spanning millennia that developed the sound of this music over different eras.  Being an important part of the Indian lifestyle, the music began as an integral part of a socio religious life.

Classical Music

There are two main traditions of Indian classical music that include Carnatic music, which hails from the peninsular regions of India, and the Hindustani music which comes from the central, northern, and eastern regions of the country. The basic concepts which dictate this kind of music are:

  • Raga (melodies derived from grammar)
  • Alankar (ornamentations)
  • Swaras (notes)
  • Shruti (microtones)
  • Tala (rhythmic patterns using percussions)

This is a tonal system that divides the octave into 22 different segments called shrutis; not all of these are equal but they do amount to a quarter of the entire tone of western music.

Carnatic Music

The recent form of the music genre is based heavily on the historical developments that shaped it. The sounds can be traced back to the 15th and 16th century. Carnatic music is believed to originate from Karnataka, which is in South India. The music is melodic with fixed compositions, and improvised variations. On the Carnatic Scale there are a total of 7.2 million ragas, with 300 still being used to this day.

Indian Pop

The interesting thing about Indian pop music is that it was inspired by a fusion of classical Indian music and folk tunes. The more recent pop music has beats originating from music in different parts of the world. The genre gained popularity in 1966 after the broadcast of the famous song ‘Ko Ko Korina’ by Ahmed Rushdi. This was followed by artists like Muhammad Rafi, Asha Bhosle, Lata Mangheskar, and Kishore Kumar in the decades to come. Most of the pop music available has always been recorded for the film industry of India.

Indian Metal and Rock

Raga rock is simply rock music with dominant Indian influence. This is probably because of its construction, its timbre, or use of instrumentation like Tabla and Sitar. The Indian music genre influenced artists outside the country as well. The first traces were hears in songs like ‘See My Friends’ by The Kinks. Even The Beatles incorporated the Sitar in their song, Norwegian Wood.

Hip Hop

Hip Hop music has not always been around, it started in the 1990s. The musical genre took a bit getting used to for the audience. The first hint of acceptance came from the song ‘Pettai Rap’ in the movie Kadalan.

Further down the road, London based artist Bally Sagoo and Raghav of Indian descent laid more foundations for RnB and Hip Hop music. Right now Honey Singh is the most successful rapper in India. The album International Villager generated more than a million dollars, which placed it at the top in all Punjabi albums ever released.

Indian music has interacted with music from other genres as well. The trend probably gained traction after Ali Akbar Khan performed in North America in 1955.