Preserving Indian Classical Music : Read this by clicking on the link
An empty universe was filled with stars and planets. Through the play of energy life emerged on those planets. Sound and light is everywhere where everything begins.
The big bang, the arrival of Adam and Eve, the play of Bhrahma or Waheguru, whatever one believes would have had a sound. Sound is the medium through which anything happens by its inherent vibrations. Light on the other hand would need to absorb material in order to vibrate and make sound.
Without getting bogged down with science, sound communicates. Thus language is created through sounds. Once uttered those sounds have a meaning and convey something. Sound and language then is the blueprint of existence.
There are sounds that are horrible and sounds that are pleasant. It depends on the way we listen perceive and what those sounds can evoke in us. We need to fill our surroundings with the right sounds to experience our different moods then.
Through those moods we experience life.
People bring life to themselves by chanting, praying and singing. Through this they attempt to reach the beginning of their existence, the Som. I.e; God.
Pundit Jasraj and Sadh Guru explained the effects of sound. Punditji explained that we hum ‘Sa’ but is it on the right note? He added that we can never be sure of its accuracy because if two taanpura plays the same tone at the same time with accuracy then it will create a ‘resonance’ that could snap a string on the taanpura; it could even collapse a bridge.
Sadh Guruji explained that being in unison creates certain energy and that’s how music through sound brings you that energy and energy brings you sound. He explained that modern science would explain it as ‘when one plays energy around it can create virtual protons.’ Carrying on from that then it shows that although logic moves step by step creation does not happen step by step.
The Inherent Benefits of Music
Musicologists, psychologists, physiologists and educationalists all have told us that music has a positive effect on many areas of our lives. (Nigel Osborne, Dr. W. H. J. Wales and Dr. D. Brine).
Psychological benefits include the concentration level, improve memory. Music triggers the brain center, which deal with the development of creativity. Certain ragas are known to activate all the chakras of the listener’s body, bringing benefits in being better in other tasks.
Physiological ailments such as reducing stoic blood pressure and heart rate have said to be reduced.
Educational attaining faculties can see improvements in certain areas, such as verbal learning and abstract conceptualization. Music stimulates the brain centers that deal with thinking, analyzing and planning, thus enhancing one’s organizational and mathematical skills. Music has been used to give students the capacity to trust themselves.
Therapy through music is not new. Music helps secrete endorphin that in turn helps in speeding the process of healing. After undergoing surgery, patients may be advised to undergo a music therapy.
As Western music and pop music is more expressing our lives as we live it, Indian Classical music is experiencing our life as it is comes to us in meditative form.
Sound in Indian Classical Music.
The language of sound in Indian Classical Music can be in single line (melody) or multiple lines (harmony) in rhythmic patterns (beat/taal) and as these sounds can and do change ones emotions then it also brings a colour (mood). In Indian Classical Music, moods are described as sringar (love), hasya (laughter), karuna (compassion), vira (heroism), raudra (wrath), bhayanaka (fear), bibhatsa (disgust) and adbhuta (wonder) and others. There have been attempts to relate individual notes to the eight basic moods in Indian Music. Saraj/kharaj) and rishab/rikhab are used to create moods of anger courage or wonder, gandhar for compassion , madhyam, pancham bring love and laughter dhaibat shows fear and disgust and nishad/nikhad evokes compassion. Minor notes bring more melancholy and sentiment. In Indian Music, taal, which in western music is seen simply as beats, offers a semi-melodic quality on the tabla and adds a third dimension of harmony. Harmony in the Western sense, however, is not a part of traditional Indian music, and it is important not to look for it.
The melodic structure, vaadi, samvaadi, jaati, pakad, using sound, brings you raaga with different moods and emotions. The different times of the day can also affect the mood and thus raaga are set for certain times of the day or night. The various dhrupad, kheyal, thumri with the incorporation of taans, boltaans, gamak and meer and other various techniques all enhance both the experience of the performer and the listener.
Mathematical precision brings certain effects, even if they cannot break strings or bridges maybe in a performance, as explained above. The different energies do incredible things to human beings and its surroundings.
Individual singing or groups of people singing together brings sounds together to create profound.
A word about lyrics
As music is so difficult to define (Dr Levitin, Neuroscientist and Musician author) and lyrics are words set to the music it can be very difficult to separate the two. In Indian Classical Music however it has been noted that lyrics are not as important as sounds.
Away from deep meditation, music has been known as an effective way of communicate to the masses, lyrics have played a massive role in delivering this communication. (Patricia Fox Ransom at the University of Pennsylvania has written
‘When individuals understand where they find meaning in their own lives they understand a little more about themselves (Steger, 2009). This self-understanding is important for many reasons. It may provide clarity into who we are and how we make decisions. The more meaning you have in your life the higher your well-being (Campbell, 1990). Researchers have looked at the role of meaning in the workplace and have discovered that the more meaning in the 16 workplace can lead to more personal fulfillment, higher engagement and motivation, and better career development (Wrezeniewski, Berg, & Dutton 2010; Wrzeniewski 2003). In a study of 143 college undergraduates, Spiritual meaning has also been researched as a buffer against stress and found to act as a buffer against stressful situations (Mascaro & Rosen, 2006). Students with high levels of spiritual meaning showed less daily stress and depression as measured by the Life Regard Index-Revised, a 14 self-report scale that measures the framework or philosophy for living, and Frankl (1963) writes that when we come across a roadblock to a goal we are more likely to resist stress and persevere if we find meaning. Like positive emotions, the ability to find meaning is an area we can cultivate. Fields such as narrative therapy help people change the meaning they give to the stories they themselves, transforming self-image (Brown & Augusta-Scott, 2007). By transforming this self image it gives the individual a meaningful way to connect to past and present circumstances allowing for the ability to make sense of their lives and the world around them (Brown & Augusta-Scott, 2007). As we find meaning in our surroundings and our stories it is important to look at the messages we receive on a daily basis and how we might interpret them.’
In conclusion then I can say that lyrics has therapeutic benefits in a slightly different way – through the sounds that have meanings to them – melodies have the effect of creating mood and rhythm has the effect of finding the mathematics that brings life to one. Lyrics to give them a worldly meaning creating life in the way one wants life to be. The effects of music are simply profound.
So whatever music means to one; meditation, hobby, passion or career, what is music is doing to you? Music brings your life to you. Taking you to meet sounds in the most pure and most natural place possible for you, connecting you creation or creator, God.
Finally, apart from the meditative benefits, performers or artists of any genre or medium, an artist friend, Saif Shaikh, commented on a class performance of mine, which actually inspired me to write this article. He said, amongst other things,
‘ From the Golden Ratio of Leonardo Da Vinci’s measurement of Woman to Fibonacci’s sequences, artists, musicians, sculptors, dancers etc are all trying to find that rhythm & dance (so to say, in their own medium or art form) to that universal beat. More simply put; every artist is trying to connect with creation or the divine and share that creative joy with the world’
The Power of the Ghazal
From the 5th century Arabian peninsula to modern day Indian countries speaking Persian -Turkic languages, the beauty of the Ghazal engulfs the world – An idea that was a prelude to poetry was not about love but pre Islamic preludes and then Islamic preludes from the Arab Ummayad era and since, displayed versus of divinity and heroism.
The introduction of longing gave birth to the Qasida that displayed feelings of love. The Ummayad era poetry migrated via Persian to Turkic and languages of India. In Spain it migrated via Arabic into Hebrew and transforming again back into Persian models and emerging even in poetic canon of German literature.
Even the 1993 Qasida conference held in Oxford (and further conferences) discussing another great poetic from emanating from the Middle East (Qasida) brought home that it was the Power of the Ghazal that brought us to this discussion of the beauty and intricacies of this genre of poetry. In particular; the poetic form, the magical musical beauty that emanates perhaps from the repetition and eloquence of refined language that makes it truly enchanting.
The structural requirements of the ghazal are similar in stringency to those of the Petrarchan sonnet. In style and content, it is a genre that has proved capable of an extraordinary variety of expression around its central themes of love and separation.
The striking similarities of the underscoring words or phrases in both Turkic-Persian Ghazal and German Gasel that preceded the rhythmic syllables and ends every verse similarly reinforces the depth of the words recited or sung.
As you listen to the Ghazal, it’s as if you are eavesdropping into someone’s intimate life where the recitor is oblivious or has metaphorically turned its back on the listener. This unique listener -speaker has its marked distinction from any other genre.
The affiliation of natural or unnatural love usually to one’s beloved, using language with specific words to establish an unworldly divine or sacred place. Through the use of language, the divine is brought back to the worldly place whilst creating and maintaining the connection to the divine. Pure love is after all divine. Poetic form of expression and refined language with rhythm brings back to one’s beloved a divine love in a most efficient way.
Popular ghazals today are those written by Rumi and Hafiz of Persia; the Azeri poet Fuzûlî in the Ottoman Empire; Mirza Ghalib and Muhammad Iqbal of North India; and Kazi Nazrul Islam of Bengal. Through the influence of Goethe (1749–1832), the ghazal became very popular in Germany during the 19th century; the form was used extensively by Friedrich Rückert (1788–1866) and August von Platen (1796–1835). The Kashmiri poet Agha Shahid Ali was a proponent of the form, both in English and in other languages; he edited a volume of “real Ghazals in English”. Ghazals were written by Moti Ram Bhatta (1866 – 1896), the pioneer of Nepali ghazal writing in Nepali and many more.
Current day ghazals has the added beauty of musical instruments that were not around before.
The development of North Indian Classical music in the Mughal Era saw the introduction of the table and sitar and other instruments. Whilst earlier forms of Indian Classical Music were divine in nature and essentially prayers which turned into poetry which gave us the Vilambit, Kheyal and Tumri, they were too similar expressions of divinity.
Although Tumri expresses romanticism also it is more the religious type of love. The move away to pure human love starts with the Dadra and Ghazal.
The move away to a lesser classical form brought about more human love for other humans. Musically it has been classed as pop (moving away from the classical tenets) as opposed to the pure classical form. However the study of Ghazal shows a similar intensity with Ghazals.
You have raga or mixture of ragas, a rhythmic pattern and a repetition of key phrases upheld in a framework of musical notes creating the feel and mood for the Ghazal.
So here we see a mixture of the line of raga music and poetic literature combined and refined to give you the Ghazal in its’ current form of which Urdu Shayeri and Ghazals is undoubtedly the most popular.
Except for the Sufi transformation, the Ghazal is also an Islamic art from although not religious. In fact the display of human love makes it secular and appealing to anyone of any religion or no religion.
It has to be said that a genre that has lasted for more than two millennia is certainly enchantment of the finest form with a royal and majestic place of its own.
London Raaga Festival 2017
Keep your eyes on this space as we want to explore Indian Classical music through our Raaga Factory and invite all raaga lovers to the Raaga Challenge to improvise and produce compositions indivually and in groups to share on a platform with renowned artists and spread the love of Indian Classical Music.
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