Indian classical music

Classical music in India is considered to be a divine art. The Guru-sishya relationship in teaching, the humbling of the ego before the art and the constant practice required by the student makes its practice on par with that of a traditional spiritual practice. According to Hinduism, both the listener and the singer will benefit, on a spiritual level, by a sublime performance.

Swara and Tala are the two basic components of Indian classical music. Swaras are the twelve notes and the intervening semitones that comprise an octave while a tala is a cycle of beats. The swaras are not tuned like the notes of the chromatic scale.

As in Western music, where most pieces of music mainly use only seven of the 12 notes of the octaves - the seven notes of the major or minor key - only seven notes are available for any given piece of Indian classical music.

The notes played in a piece constitute the particular raga. Some notes will be the main pitches in a raga. Notes used in an ascending scale (aroha) may be different from the notes in a descending scale (avaroha). Particular note sequences may also be considered typical of a raga. It is interesting to note that a collection of notes, even if it follows all the rules that bind a raga, will not become one unless it is able to induce a certain mood or emotion. Depending on this mood, ragas are generally associated with a time of the day when they are best performed.

Carnatic and Hindustani music
The main streams of Indian classical music are the Carnatic, of the South, and the Hindustani, of North and Central India, both of which, it is said, date back to the Vedic age. Carnatic, in Sanskrit means “soothing to the ears” and Hindustani “of Hindustan”.
Both styles are monophonic, follow a melodic line and use a drone, the Tanpura.

Historical evidences show that the two traditions were born out of a common root around the 13th century. Despite this common ancestry, there are many clear differences between the two.

The Carnatic style employs shrutis or semitones to create ragas and thus have many more ragas. However, the exact same raga can be rendered differently in the Carnatic and Hindustani styles. Carnatic music, being that of the South, uses South Indian languages and Sanskrit, whereas Hindustani, originally composed entirely in Sanskrit, shifted to Hindi, Urdu, Persian and various dialects in course of time.

During the practice and performance of a Carnatic song, the vocalist and often, the listeners, always keep the beat with one hand - either by tapping it on the thigh or on occasion, the other palm. This dependence on the hand-beat is entirely absent in the Hindustani tradition.

In the Carnatic tradition, the songs are mainly religious and specifically related to gods of the Hindu pantheon. Due to the marked Muslim, especially Persian, influence on Hindustani, there are songs that are rendered to Allah as well as to Hindu gods and these are performed by both Muslim and Hindu artistes.