Portal:Indian classical music

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Introduction

An Indian classical music performance.

Indian classical music is a genre of music from the Indian subcontinent. It has two major traditions: the North Indian classical music tradition is called Hindustani, while the South Indian expression is called Carnatic. These traditions were not distinct till about the 16th century. There on, during the turmoils of Islamic rule period of the Indian subcontinent, the traditions separated and evolved into distinct forms. Hindustani music emphasizes improvisation and exploring all aspects of a raga, while Carnatic performances tend to be short and composition-based. However, the two systems continue to have more common features than differences.

The roots of the classical music of India are found in the Vedic literature of Hinduism and the ancient Natyashastra, the classic Sanskrit text on performance arts by Bharata Muni. The 13th century Sanskrit text Sangita-Ratnakara of Sarangadeva is regarded as the definitive text by both the Hindustani music and the Carnatic music traditions.

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Prince Rama Varna playing a veena
Prince Rama Varna playing a veena

Aswathi Thirunal Rama Varma also known as Prince Rama Varma, is a South Indian classical musician, a performing vocalist, veena player and writer.


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The origins of Indian classical music can be found from the oldest of scriptures, part of the Hindu tradition, the Vedas. The Samaveda, one of the four Vedas, describes music at length. The Samaveda was created out of Rigveda so that its hymns could be sung as Samagana; this style evolved into jatis and eventually into ragas. Indian classical music has its origins as a meditation tool for attaining self realization. All different forms of these melodies (ragas) are believed to affect various "chakras" (energy centers, or "moods") in the path of the Kundalini. However, there is little mention of these esoteric beliefs in Bharat's Natyashastra, the first treatise laying down the fundamental principles of drama, dance and music.

Indian classical music has one of the most complex and complete musical systems ever developed. Like Western classical music, it divides the octave into 12 semitones of which the 7 basic notes are Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni Sa, in order, replacing Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do. However, it uses the just intonation tuning (unlike most modern Western classical music, which uses the equal-temperament tuning system).


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Ravikiran 25 A.jpg
Credit: Joe Mabel

South Indian (Carnatic) musical performance. From left to right:
—Guruvayur Dorai, mridangam
—Ravi Balasubramanian, ghatam
—Ravikiran, navachitraveena, which is his own invention, basically a hollow-body electric chitraveena played with a teflon (rather than ebony) slide.
—Akkarai S. Subhalakshmi, violin
Photo taken at Interlake High School, Bellevue, Washington, during a performance in the Ragamala series (Greater Seattle).

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