Semi Classical forms of Music
Indian classical music originates from the Samaveda, an ancient Sanskrit text written around 1700 BC that describes music at length. Dhrupad is based on this text and traces its roots to the 12th century AD, making it one of the oldest styles of Indian classical music still sung today. A dhrupad performance is characterized by a long and metered improvisation of a raga followed by a short bandish, or melodic composition. Originally sung mostly in temples, Dhrupad was popularized through the 16th century AD with strong patronage from the Rajput and Mughal kings. Emperor Akbar is among the most well-known of these kings. Miyan Tansen, a musician in his court, is often considered to be the Father of Hindustani, or North Indian, classical music. Around the 17th century AD, a new, more open and flexible style of classical music called Khayal evolved from Dhrupad. A khayal presentation is characterized by a shorter introductory improvisation than Dhrupad, a slow bandish with improvisation, and then an increase in speed with additional, faster improvisation called taans. Khayal gained popularity among artists largely because of its openness and greater scope for extemporization compared to Dhrupad. Khayal is the most prominent form of Hindustani classical music performed today. Here are some examples of Dhrupad (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6j3EqLcyrs) and Khayal (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7KH-VJvbt8) for you to listen to.
Thumri evolved from North Indian folk music circa 1500-1600 AD, rising in popularity during the 19th century in the court of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Typically narratives about love, thumris are composed in particular ragas (scales) that have a light or romantic mood and are set to simple taals (rhythm patterns), often with a slow tempo. Many eminent personalities of Indian classical music, like Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Gauhar Jan, Begum Akhtar, Shobha Gurtu, and Noor Jahan, have embraced and performed this art form.
Example : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7iDE66o_b4
Dadra originated and became popular around the same time as thumri and resembles it in many ways. Like thumri, dadra’s lyrics are also about love. However dadras are usually shorter compositions, faster in tempo, and are thought to allow the artist more freedom in performance than thumris.
Example : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHmMnAuDpWg
Next topic is Tappa. Tappa evolved in the 18th century AD from folk songs sung by camel riders in the Punjab and Sindh regions of modern-day Pakistan. With short compositions and lyrics that are usually written in Punjabi about love, the signature of tappa is rapid, unevenly-spaced taans (improvised, rhythmic passages). Pandita Malini Rajurkar is among the contemporary artists who popularized this art, though many prominent classical singers such as Raja Bhaiya Poonchwale, Girjadevi Pandit, and Krishnarao Shankar Pandit have also embraced and performed it. Here is an example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mh2EjoqtPn8
Tarana is our next topic. Tarana is thought to have originated and been popularized by the legendary poet Amir Khusro in the 14th century AD as a combination of Persian and Indian music styles. Today, it is sung all over India and is especially prevalent as an accompaniment to Indian classical dance forms like Kathak and Bharata Natyam. Taranas often have fast and lengthy taans, or improvisations. Their lyrics sometimes resemble the sounds of instruments like the sitar and tabla and do not have any known meaning, though legend has it that they evolved from Persian words. Here is an example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhEuK5-XOyU
Let's switch gears and talk about some devotional forms of music. Any Indian devotional song is broadly termed as a bhajan. The word bhajan is derived from the Sanskrit word “bhaj” that means "to render service," and these songs typically describe a saint's devotion toward the object of his or her faith. Many saints and poets have written well-known bhajans that are sung widely throughout India. Amongst the most popular are those composed by the legendary saints Meerabai, Kabir. Many of Meerabai’s bhajans, like “Aisi lagi lagan Meera ho gayi magan,” (So strong is the bond [towards Krishna] that Meera has lost herself in it). reflect complete surrender to Lord Krishna. Kabir's philosophy about oneness of gods is apparent in his bhajans like “Koi kahe Ram, koi Khudai,” (Call that force whatever you will [Ram or Khuda]; inferring spirituality transcends the borders of religion) Here’s a beautiful Kabir bhajan http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_buuncAm9Ts
Next topic is Abhang. The literal meaning of the word “Abhang” is "unbreakable" or "eternal". Abhangs are Marathi devotional songs praising the Hindu god Vithoba. Devotees of Vithoba sing Abhangs during their pilgrimages to temples, often over hundreds of miles on feet. The lyrics of Abhangs are thought to have originated in folk poetry and the songs themselves are often fast-paced. Saints like Dnyaneshwar, Namdev and Tukaram played a major role in composing and popularizing abhangs. Today, they are sung by both bhajan singers and classical musicians. Here’s a good Abhang for you to listen to.
Bhimsen Joshi Teerth Vitthal: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ay8svwxzmrI
Sufism is considered to be the mystical dimension of Islam and Sufi music dates back to Bilal, a friend of the Prophet Muhammed. Its lyrics are inspired by the works of Sufi poets like Rumi, Hafif, Bulleh Shah, and Khwaja Ghulam Farid. The style is prevalent in many countries including India, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Morocco etc. Sufi music has many forms, varying from slow-tempoed Mevlevi Sama, a style with roots in the Ottoman Empire that is usually accompanied by swirling dance, to South Asia's fast-tempoed Qawwali, which we'll talk about in our next post. Here's an interesting example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ra5nTlty6CM
Qawwali, the most well-known form of Sufi music, can be traced back to 8th century Persia (today's Iran and Afghanistan). Amir Khusro Dehelvi, a famous Indian poet and musician from the 14th century, is credited with fusing Persian and Indian musical traditions to create Qawwali as we know it today. Qawwalis are often sung by groups and their central themes are love, devotion, and longing (of man for the Divine). Qawwalis tend to begin gently and build steadily to a very high energy level in order to induce hypnotic states both among the musicians and the audience. Here is an example of a Qawwali. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03jJPLzZphw
Before we wrap up our session on semi classical forms of Indian classical music, let’s talk briefly about this very well known lyrical form of music...Ghazal! Ghazal is an expression of both the pain of loss or separation and the beauty of love in spite of that pain. The form is ancient, originating in 6th-century Arabic verse. It spread to South Asia in the 12th century under the influence of Sufi mystics. Although the ghazal is most prominently a form of Dari, or Afghani Persian, poetry and Urdu poetry, today it is composed and sung in many Indian languages as well. Some respected Urdu ghazal poets are Allama Muhammad Iqbal, Wali, Aatish, Mir Taqi Mir, Mirza Rafi Sauda, Mirza Ghalib. Here's one Ghazal for you. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8ZA9zfZMQg