Indian music or Hindustani Sangita  can trace its origins to the metrical hymns and chants of the Vedas, in which the production of sound according to strict rules was understood to be vital to the continuing order of the Universe. Over more than 3,000 years of development, through a range of regional schools, India’s musical tradition has been handed on almost entirely by ear.In Ancient times the chants of the Rig Veda developed in to songs in the Sama Veda and music found expression in every sphere of life, closely reflecting the cycle of seasons and the rhythm of work.

            Over the centuries the original 3 notes, which were sung strictly in descending order, were extended to 5 and then 7 and developed to allow freedom to move up and down the scale. The scale increased to 12 with the addition of flats and sharps and finally to 22 with the further subdivision of semitones. Books of musical rules go back at least as far as the 3rd century A.D. Classical music was totally interwined with dance and drama, an interveaving reflected in the term sangita. At some point
after the Muslim influence made itself felt in the N, North and South Indian styles diverged, to be come Karnatak music in the S and Hindustani music in the N. However, they still share important common features; svara (pitch), raga (the melodic structure), and tala or talam (metre).

            Hindustani music probably originated in the Delhi Sultanate during the 13th century; when the most widely known of N indian musical instruments, the sitar, was believed to have been invented. Amir Khusrau is also believed to have invented the small drums, the tabla. Hindustani music is held to have reached its peak under Tansen, a court musician of Akbar. The other important northern instruments are the stringed sarod, the reed instrument shahnai and the wooden flute. Most Hindustani compositions have devotional texts, though they encompass a great emotional and thematic range. A common classical form of vocal performance is the dhrupad, a 4-part composition.

            The essential structure of a melody is known as a raga which usually has 5 to 7 notes, and can have as many as 9 (or even 12 in mixed ragas). The music is improvised by the performer within certain governing rules and although theoretically thousands of ragas are possible, because of the need to be aesthetically pleasing only a few hundred exist of which around a hundred are commonly performed. Ragas have become associated with particular moods and specific times of the day. Music festivals often include all night sessions to allow performers a wider choice of repetoire.

 

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