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Sunil Mukhi's Indian Music Page

The term "Indian Classical Music" refers to two related, but distinct, traditions rooted in antiquity. Both are very much alive in India today. The North Indian style is known as "Hindustani", while the South Indian tradition is referred to as "Carnatic". This page deals mainly with Hindustani Classical Music, about which I know a little bit. While I also appreciate Carnatic music, I do so as an outsider.

What is Hindustani Classical Music? Like any kind of music, it is hard to say in a few words. But let me try, in case the reader is totally unfamiliar with this music.

The basic scale of Hindustani music is similar to the western 12-note scale. The main difference is that the Hindustani scale is not tempered. Thus, the intervals between consecutive notes are not equal. Indeed, they can be varied slightly to suit the particular raga that is being performed. The same note, in different ragas, may have slightly differing positions. The notes themselves have names as in Western music, and here they are:

Hindustani: SaRe GaMa PaDha Ni
Western: DoReMiFaSoLa Si

These seven notes are like the white keys on a piano keyboard. There are intervals between them: to be precise, there are five intermediate notes. The one between Sa and Re is called "Komal Re" (like Re flat), between Re and Ga is "Komal Ga" (like Mi flat), between Pa and Dha is "Komal Dha" (like La flat), and between Dha and Ni is "Komal Ni" (like Si flat). That accounts for four notes. The fifth lies between Ma and Pa but it is called "Tivra Ma", like Fa sharp.

The final result is shown here:

SaKomal ReRe Komal GaGaMaTivra Ma PaKomal DhaDha Komal NiNi

The four notes marked "Komal" and the one marked "Tivra" correspond to the black notes on a piano keyboard.

What, then, is a Raga? It is most simply described as a subset of these notes, usually from five to eight notes, together with a set of rules to combine them effectively and create a particular mood. Each Raga has a name. It also has a character, which can be devotional, erotic, bold and valorous, or tragic, to name some examples. And a Raga usually comes with a time of day when it is best performed, usually specified as a 3 hour interval (6 AM to 9 AM, 9 AM to noon, etc.). Some Ragas are related to seasons, for example the Malhar ragas are performed mainly in the monsoon season, and then they can be sung at any time.

Given a Raga, there exist several compositions, more or less like songs (with words), which obey the rules of that Raga and effectively convey its mood. It is common for the words to assist in conveying the mood. For example, monsoon-related Ragas will have compositions that describe the gathering clouds, the falling raindrops, the lightning and thunder, and the accompanying erotic mood (if you've never been to India you may wonder about this one, but it is so). A vocal musician will sing the notes of the raga in various combinations, then recite the composition and perform variations on it, often switching to a faster composition after some time. The whole thing can last an hour, or even two, and it is never monotonous because different types of variations are introduced at different stages. The success of the performance depends on how effectively the musician builds up the desired mood. Some Ragas are considered "light" in that they have less richness of structure, and are performed for shorter durations like 10-15 minutes.

That's more or less all I have to say about it here, but in practice this music is too fantastic for words, and needs to be experienced. For me personally, this music has gone a long way towards opening up the sublime aspects of the world we live in.

I did give a slightly longer explanation about Hindustani music to an audience of String Theorists, in a lecture at the Strings 2001 conference in Mumbai. You can hear that lecture and view the accompanying transparencies by clicking here.

Below, you will find a link to the Kumar Gandharva Home Page. This is the only original material about music on my website other than the above. After that, you will find a collection of links to interesting pages on Indian Classical Music. This material has now undergone revision and updating. It is not intended to be exhaustive - I've only included the sites that I liked to some extent.

kumar gandharva home page
The Kumar Gandharva Home Page
My tribute to a great Hindustani Classical musician, and the person I have most admired in my life. This site includes an article that I wrote about Pandit Kumar Gandharva, a photo gallery, the words to some of the bhajans that he popularised, and much more.

non-commercial links
Patrick Moutal's Indian Music Page
Incredible wealth of information, and downloadable video, audio, photos. What a delight. Monsieur Moutal has displayed a dedication to Indian music that is increasingly rare in our own country. (In passing, I hope that those Indians who talk of "protecting our ancient culture from foreign influences" will visit this site, and will then be so kind as to drown themselves out of shame!)

ITC Sangeet Research Academy
Impressive website of the Sangeet Research Academy based in Kolkata. Useful information about Ragas, downloadable clips, and a nice diagram (click on Samay Raga) showing which Ragas are sung at different times of day and night.

UK based group that organises Hindustani music concerts there and maintains this rather attractive website.

Rajan Parrikar's articles
These are very scholarly and well-written articles, also copiously illustrated with music clips. Mostly for the expert, I would say.

Satrangi Art Point
Site maintained by Meenakshi Bodas, which explains the concepts of Raga in some detail.
A site on medieval music which has an introduction to Hindustani music, along with lists of recommended records to listen to.

North Indian Classical Music
Emphasis on instrumental music, quite detailed introductory material and links.

An Introduction to Indian Classical Music
A wonder of the internet, this site is hosted on a Brazilian address and contains introductory material by an Indian professor living in Canada!
Planned as the principal site for Carnatic music, this site also features the Carnatic Webring through which you can access many or most Carnatic music sites on the web.

A Little Karnatic Music Web Corner
An interesting site about Karnatic (Carnatic? Karnatak?) music, maintained by my friend M.V. Ramana. Features over 25 articles written by him, photos of great musicians, and links.

Indian Classical Arts
A page maintained by N.S.Sundar. Mainly Carnatic music, with a primer, information about the great composers, and a database. Features some Hindustani music and Indian Classical dance, too.

Indian Classical Music Forum: Carnatic and Hindustani
Just what its name suggests.

commercial links
Music India Online
Offers just about every kind of Indian music, both classical and popular. You can listen to the music with Real Player.

Internet Indian arts store, with over 4700 CD's of Indian music. I didn't actually count, but they do seem to have an encyclopaedic collection, judging from the list of artistes by name. You can find 21 CD's of Pandit Kumar Gandharva here, which is enough to get my vote! (Note: these are not all different, the Sangeet Sartaj and Baithak series are the same performances). This seems to be one of the most impressive commercial sites.

Music Today
Modestly billing itself as "The best online store for the finest in Indian music", this is the music division of Living Media inc. who are the publishers of the newsmagazine "India Today". They publish a number of good CD's and you can buy them online.

Navras Records
Another good publisher of Indian classical music CD's. While the collection is small, some of their products, including one CD each by Kumar Gandharva and Mallikarjun Mansur, are outstanding.

Neelam Audio and Video
A publisher of Indian classical CD's with a rather impressive collection of artistes on its list. The catalogue strangely divides vocalists into "male" and "female" with separate pages for each category -- reminiscent of the segregated seating arrangements at traditional social gatherings in India!

PESHKAR: Online Store for Indian Classical Music in Germany
Hier finden Sie über 200 CDs, assuming that Sie ist minimally kompetent at speaking German! You can also find a rather extensive collection of Indian Classical Music links at this website.

Raga Records
Commercial page offering CD's and cassettes.

David and Chandrakantha Courtney's Homepage
A large site featuring an extensive hypertext introduction to Indian Classical Music, other articles, lists of products and services and more.

Oriental Records Inc.
Website and online store for a company founded by Rangasami Parthasarathy. The Hindustani selection features mostly instrumental music. Some very well-known artistes featured in both the Hindustani and Carnatic sections.

Last Updated: June 1, 2011