Indian music

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"A lady listens to the music" (Punjab, approx. 1750)

The Indian music describes the entirety of in South Asia were among musical styles. These can be roughly divided into:

  • Classical music: Cultivated style of music that has become particularly well known in the West and has about the same status in India as Western classical music in Europe.
  • Folk music: Regionally very different songs, which are mostly of religious origin and are sung and played especially at festivals and in the temples.
  • Pop music: everyday hits, most of which come from new and old Bollywood-style films and often contain elements of classical and folk music.

Indian classical music

Indian classical music distinguishes between two directions:

  • South Indian classical music ( Carnatic music ): more original, older style; very earthy with many melodic and rhythmic variations, rather through-composed arrangements.
  • North Indian classical music ( Hindustan music ): music strongly influenced by the Persian cultural area, which is practiced not only in India, but also in Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Mainly instrumental, with a specific ornamentation (decorations) and much more improvisation. A performance of North Indian classical music is also known as a mehfil .

Classical Indian music is modal and basically only tolerates one melody instrument. Within a framework set by strict rules that have been handed down, there is plenty of room for interpretation. In solo play, the musician works out a musical idea on this basis and develops it over the course of the piece from the interrelationship between freedom and discipline. There is only a dialogue between the melody and the rhythm instrument. The structure of the melody is the raga , the scale of which is fixed in ascending and descending order. It expresses a certain musical mood and is usually assigned to a time of day.

Percussion instruments in North India are the tabla , the leading percussion instrument in popular and classical music, or the pakhawaj . Similar instruments can be found in South India, such as the mridangam or the ghatam (sound-sounding body). They are on an equal footing with the main instrument and must not be understood as rhythmic accompaniment. The rhythm of the Indian classical music is not subordinate to the melody, rather a percussionist actively shapes the improvisation game in the system of rhythmic circles (so-called talas ) - in a mutual dialogue.

Classical Indian music usually consists of a main instrument or the vocal part, one or two percussionists and, if necessary, drone tones as a background to the main instrument , which are produced by a harmonium or a tanpura . The duet play ( jugalbandi ) has become widespread in India in recent years and is enjoying increasing popularity among (international) audiences.

A number of generally applicable, very complex rules that have been developed over centuries allow musicians in ensemble playing who have never seen each other to play a concert together: 80 to 90% of a concert is freely improvised and based on these basic principles; its main pillars are raga scales and the talas as a basic rhythmic-metric structure .

The singing styles of light classical music in North India include Dhamar , Tarana , Thumri , Tappa , Kirtana and Sadra , in Maharashtra the singing styles Lavani and Natya Sangit and in South India Geetham and Javali .

Indian folk music

The large number of regional folk music styles differ considerably from one another and are often musically far from the classical traditions. In some regions, for example in the music of Rajasthan , professional ensembles belonging to certain music casts shape the music scene. Music groups play religious songs at the temples, perform at major annual festivals and private family celebrations.

The dhol , a double-headed tubular drum that is used particularly in the rural areas of northern India, has also become internationally known through music groups such as The Dhol Blasters .

Shrutis (microtonal structure)

The division of the pitch range of an octave - as in western music culture in whole tones / semitones with seven main notes (C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C) - is structured completely differently in Indian classical music. The same pitch range is subdivided into 66  microtonal graduations of equal frequency spacings , the Shrutis . Alternatively, a reduced system of 22 microtones is used in India.

The steps of the western octave are represented in Indian music by the so-called Sargam Syllables (Sa, Re, Gha, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni, Sa '). Here one has approximated the western notation system with seven pitches (Sa - Sa ') - from the historical development through the English occupation up to the independence of India in 1947. The syllable Sa is generally used as a starting point for the development of the raga scales, regardless of the actual pitch. So Sa can on the pitch of a particular raga interpretation C are, for others Raga scales is It , etc. used as a starting point.

Musical instruments

Indian music is originally vocal music . In the course of time, various instruments have been developed, some of which attempt to imitate the sound of the human voice. Many of the innumerable instruments are only known in certain regions, others are common all over India and in some cases even in the oriental region. According to the classification of musical instruments from ancient India, there are four groups: string instruments, membranophones, idiophones and wind instruments.

Stringed instruments

In India, stringed instruments ( tala vadya ) are divided into three subgroups: those that produce a drone tone or are used for rhythmic accompaniment; multi-string instruments ( zithers ) used to play the melody or tones of the raga, with each string producing only one tone; and single- or multi-string instruments in which a melody can be played on one string. String instruments whose strings are plucked or struck are:

  • Bin-baja : rare and only Indian bow harp thatoccursonly in the Mandla area in central India
  • The ektara is a one to two-stringed long-necked lute for song accompaniment in north Indian folk music.
  • Gintang : bamboo zither struck with sticks in Assam
  • Gottuvadyam : horizontally played variant of the vina in South India
  • Santoor : originally from Persia , dulcimer that is beaten with two mallets.
  • Sarod , a plucked lute thatgoes backto the Afghan rubab . String instrument very popular in India with roots in the oriental region. The body is covered with a skin, which is why the sound is a little reminiscent of a banjo . The neck is made of metal and has no frets; The musician determines the pitch by pressing or sliding his fingernail.
  • Sitar , a plucked long-necked lute. Probably the best known North Indian instrument in the West with a large number of strings, one of which is mainly used to work out the raga scales (in improvisational play). The term melody would be misleading in the structure of classical Indian music as a modal system. The other strings are partly sympathetic strings that vibrate independently, or strings that are intended to create a basic rhythmic structure. The frets can be moved freely to achieve the desired tones; however, many tones are produced by “pulling” the string.
  • The Swarmandal ( surmandal ) corresponded to the Mughal period in the form and style of play probably the most inherited from the Arab-Persian music culture box zither kanun . Today the swarmandal is neither used as a melody nor as a drone instrument, but is simply plucked by some singers of light classical music in northern India.
  • The tanpura is a simple long-necked lute that is used in almost every concert in order to constantly produce the fundamental as well as its fifth and octave as a drone instrument. Today partly replaced by electronic instruments ( shrutibox ) . Related drone and rhythm instruments in religious folk music are the tandura in Rajasthan, the tanburo in the Pakistani province of Sindh and the damburag in the Pakistani province of Balochistan .
  • Tuila , a rare stab zither playedonly in rural regions in Odisha , with which the ancient Indian form of a vina has been preserved.
  • Villadi vadyam : a large musical arc thataccompanies folk tales sungin the southern Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala
  • Vina : originally the general term for string instruments, today for a group of long-necked lutes and zithers. These include the North Indian stick zither Rudra vina and the South Indian long-necked lute Saraswati vina

With the arch painted string instruments:

  • The three-string fiddle bana is used to accompany epic songs in Madhya Pradesh .
  • The two long-necked lutes dilruba and esraj are used in the west and east to accompany songs in north Indian folk music. They are descendants of the mayuri vina , the body of which ends in a peacock's head.
  • The kamaica of the Manganiyar, a caste of musicians in Rajasthan , is a bowl-neck lute with a circular body that is used to accompany a narrative and devotional style of singing.
  • The pena is a single-string string lute in Manipur .
  • The ravanahattha , the gauntlet violin played in Rajasthan and Gujarat , is considered the oldest Indian string instrument.
  • The sarangi is the most common string instrument in North India in popular and classical music. Its body is covered with parchment .
  • Sarinda : only in the folk music of northern India common string instrument in regionally different variants, in Rajasthan surinda , in Sindh surando . With their two-part anchor-shaped body, the sarindas are related to the Central Asian ghichak . A regional special form in East India is the dhodro banam .
  • The European violin is mostly used in the south. The position of the violin differs from the western playing position (vertical, with the head down).

Wind instruments

Wind instruments ( sushira vadya ) are the second of the four groups of instruments. In classical Indian music, only transverse flutes and double reed instruments are used, the other wind instruments belong to regional folk music styles or to religious music styles.

  • In the north-west of India, folk music uses the double longitudinal flute alghoza with a reed for the melody and a drone reed.
  • Bansuri : North Indian flute made from a bamboo tube without a special mouthpiece, the sound being created by blowing through a simple hole. A shorter bamboo flute in North Indian folk music is called banshi or bansi . The South Indian counterpart to the bansuri is the venu .
  • Bhankora , rare, long straight natural trumpet made of copper in the Garhwal regionin the state of Uttarakhand
  • The doneli double-beaked flute in the Pakistani province of Balochistan is similar to the alghoza .
  • Karna , conical straight natural metal trumpet that usually only produces one tone
  • Kombu : S-shaped or semicircular curved natural trumpet made of metal
  • Kuzhal , a small bowling oboe of temple music in Kerala
  • Mashak : rare Indian bagpipe with single reeds
  • Mohori , the oldest name for double reed instruments in India, today several variants made of wood and bamboo in Central and East India
  • Mukhavina is the general name for Indian double reed instruments, especially a small cone oboe in Tamil Nadu
  • Nadaswaram , a double reed instrument in south Indian temple music, larger than the shehnai .
  • Narh , a lengthwise flute made of plant cane in Rajasthan and southern Pakistan
  • Pepa , a single reed instrument with a buffalo horn bell in Assam
  • Pungi , a single reed instrument with a wind cap , played as a drone instrument in rural folk music and played by snake charmers
  • Shehnai , a North Indian double reed instrument with a sharp sound in classical and folk music
  • Only rarely is an unusual double flute played in Maharashtra , the transverse flute surpava blown in the middle .
  • Tangmuri , a double reed instrument with a conical bell in the northeast Indian state of Meghalaya
  • Tirucinnam , rare straight brass trumpet in Tamil Nadu, which is the only trumpet played in pairs by a musician.


Percussion instruments are divided into membranophones or drums ( avanaddha vadya ) and idiophones ( ghana vadya ).

"Hill Leader" and Nagara double drum player . (Punjab, ca.1720)
  • Chande : double-headed tubular drum in the folk music of Karnataka , especially in the dance drama Yakshagana . The Chenda in Kerala is related to it.
  • Dama , double-headed tubular drum of the Garo in northeast India.
  • Damaru : small hourglass drum in religious music
  • Daunr : small hourglass drum in the Garhwal regionin the Uttarakhand provinceon the southern edge of the Himalayas
  • Damau , flat kettle drum in the same region
  • Dhamsa : largest kettle drum with a body made of sheet iron for folk dances in East India, especially at the Chhau dance theater
  • Dhanki : Kettle drum played in pairs with a wooden body in South India
  • Dhimay : two-skinned barrel drum in procession music in the Kathmandu valley in Nepal
  • Dhol : two-headed barrel drum in north Indian folk music, especially in bhangra music
  • Dholak or dholki : Smaller forms of dhol . When playing, the body is often tapped with a metal ring on the right thumb.
  • Dhyangro : double-skinned stem drum, which is used by shamans in Eastern Nepal for spiritual healing and divination
  • Duggi : small kettle drum, often played in pairs in North Indian folk music
  • Ektara , not to be confused with the lute instrument, is the name of theplucked drummainly played by the Bauls in Bengal and Orissa .
  • Hurka , small hourglass in Uttarakhand, similar to the daunr used
  • Idakka : Hourglass drum in South Indian temple and processional music, especially in Kerala
  • Kanjira : simple South Indian frame drum that is only struck with the right hand and yet offers a remarkable variety of sounds.
  • Khol : two-headed double-cone drum made of clay in East India, especially in Bengal
  • Maddale : Double cone drum in the folk music of Karnataka
  • Mridangam : drum widely used in South Indian music. Similar to Pakhawaj, but different in sound and playing style.
  • Pakhawaj : Classic North Indian double-headed drum with an almost cylindrical wooden body, which is covered at both ends with intricately constructed heads.
  • Pambai , two connected tubular drums in South India.
  • Parai , single-headed frame drum in southern India
  • Pashchima : the Pakhawaj- like double cone drum at festivals and dance dramas in the Kathmandu valley.
  • Pung : slim double cone drum in Manipur .
  • Tabla : a pair of kettle drums. The bulbous bass drum is usually made of metal, the smaller - more melodious - of wood. The tabla belongs to the North Indian classical music, but because of its sound it is popular with all types of music and for every occasion.
  • Timila , wooden hourglass drum in Kerala


  • Bartal : largest Indian couple pool in Assam
  • Chimta : fork-shaped percussion instrument in north-west India, a kind of barbecue tongs with cymbals attached to the side
  • Elathalam : small couple pool in Kerala
  • Ghatam : Clay pot in South India that can make amazing sounds
  • Kartal : wooden rattle in northern India
  • Morsing : bail's jaw harp made of metal
  • Thali : regionally in folk music, metal plates struck with sticks
  • Toka : fork-shaped bamboo rattle in Assam

Keyboard instruments

  • Harmonium : In the 19th century from Europe introduced keyboard instrument breakdown tongues . The Indian harmonium has a good three octaves and is smaller than the European version. A bellows is attached to the back wall, which is constantly operated with the left hand, while the right hand plays the melody lines and occasionally chords . It is mainly used in folk and devotional music. The European piano could not establish itself in India.
  • Bulbultarang : Board zither first introduced in Mumbai inthe 1920s, the melody strings of which are shortened using a row of keys. The bulbultarang is usedin popular folk music and devotional musictogether with the harmonium or in its place in northwest India as far as the Pakistani province of Balochistan .

See also


  • Janaki Bakhle: Two Men and Music: Nationalism in the Making of an Indian Classical Tradition , Oxford University Press 2005, ISBN 0-19-516610-8
  • Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande : A Short Historical Survey of the Music of Upper India. (1916) Indian Musicological Society, Vadodara 1985
  • Alain Daniélou : Introduction to Indian Music . Noetzel, 4th edition 2004, ISBN 3-7959-0183-9
  • Bigamudre Chaitanya Deva: Musical Instruments of India. Their History and Development. KLM Private Limited, Calcutta 1978
  • Raghava R. Menon: Adventure Raga. About the magic of Indian music. Kristkeitz, Heidelberg 1988, ISBN 978-3-921508-22-0
  • Raghava R. Menon: The Penguin Book of Indian Classical Music , Penguin Books 2003, ISBN 0-14-051324-8
  • Markus Schmidt: Aesthetics and Emotion in North Indian Art Music . Osnabrück 2006, ISBN 978-3-923486-77-9

Web links