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Monthly Archives: December 2016

History of the Melodious Indian Music

Music is truly one of the most expressive art forms, which has a universal appeal. As long as you can feel the rhythm and the harmony of the beats, you can comprehend and enjoy any type of music around the world. Indian music inherits a rich musical culture, and is replete with rhythm, harmony, and emotion.

History of Indian Music

It dates back to the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC, during the Indus valley civilizations. Archaeological studies have validated the presence of several musical instruments like harps and drums during this era. The Samaveda which is one of the four Vedas (scriptures) that include hymns and descriptions of Indian music. The Samaveda states that music originated as a tool for meditation and spiritual awakening. The era starting from 1500 BC to 500 BC witnessed the Vedic music. Vedic music was supposed to be closely intertwined with the Vedic religion, since music was an imperative element of the religious Vedic rituals.

Vedic music was mainly played for two reasons – please the Gods and as an accompaniment to the sacrificial offerings in the Vedic rituals. The prominent instruments of the Vedic era include veena, tunav, dundubhi, bhoomi-dundubhi, and talav. The Rigveda contains the richa which are the recited Vedic hymns. Samaveda is supposed to be the origin of Indian music. The word sama is actually a compound word made up of sa that refers to the hymns and ma, which refers to the musical notes.

The Vedic period also gave rise to the Gurukul system of imparting knowledge. In this system the shishya (pupil) lived in the house of his guru (teacher) and studied the Vedas and other subjects under the guidance of the teacher for as many as 12 years. The Shiksha referred to the first branch of Vedic learning which dealt with the science of correct pronunciation of vowels, syllables and consonants.

Some of the well-known Shikshas are Paniniya, Yagnyvalkya Vashisthi, Katyayani, Manduki, and Naradiya. As regards to music the teachers had to teach the students the six basic aspects of Vedic music which included Varna, Swara, Matra, Bala, Sama, and Santana. The varna refers to the syllables, the Swara refers to the musical notes, matra refers to the duration, bala refers to the articulation,sama refers to the balance in overall utterance, whereas santana refers to the spacing of the words. The history of Indian music during 500 BC to 200 BC includes references of the Ramayana which was the first Indian epic composed sage Valmiki, and the Mahabharata, composed by sage Vyasa, and also sage Bharata’s Pathya Sangeet.

The Pathya Sangeet was primarily developed to spread information and not considered as an entertainment tool. The Pathya Sangeet is based on six basic elements, which include the Saptaswara, which are the seven musical notes, the Sthanas, which are the three vital locations for tone production, Varnas, which are the four ways of tonal arrangements, kakus which are the two basic modes of intonation, Alankaras, which are the sic embellishments and lastly the Angas or the six aspects of the music. Several references in Buddhist and Jain literature also have references to music during this time period.

According to the Indian mythology, Narada was the first sage to whom the laws of music were revealed. It is also believed that Tumburu was the first singer, Saraswati was the goddess of music and learning and Bharata created the Natyashastra or the rules for theater between 200 BC and 200 AD, which also focused on music. The Natyashastra includes descriptions of various classes of instruments, Gandharva music and also provides detailed information about the Talas, which refers to the rhythmic element of Indian music.

The Gupta Period from 300 AD to 600 AD was marked by the masterpieces created by Kalidasa, who was a lyrical poet and a writer of several great epics and plays. His work includes numerous references to musical instruments of his era which included Parivadini vina, Vipanchi vina, Pushkar, Mridang, Vamshi, and Shankha. There also existed several types of songs like the Kakaligeet, Streegeet, and Apsarogeeti. In addition to this there are references of various technical terms for defining voice quality and other nuances of music, which included terms like Murchana, Swarasaptaka, and Tana.

The next landmark towards the evolution of the Indian ragas was the emergence of gandharva gaan which is recorded in the text Dattilam dated roughly 400 AD. The Dattilam discusses parent tonal frameworks or the grama, the twenty-two micro-tonal intervals srutis, sequential re-arrangement of notes or the murchana, and the permutation and combinations of note-sequences which are known as the tanas. This text also describes eighteen Jatis which are synonymous with the contemporary Indianragas.

The Period from 600 AD to 1200 AD, was marked by the emergence of the regional music, classical Hinudstani music and also the influences of Islamic music. The first major text describing ragas was written by Matanga and was known as Brihaddeshi, which literally means ‘The Great Treatise on the Regional’. Brihaddeshi also introduced the sargam which is the musical notation in Indian music. Deshi or regional music was described as that music sung by women, children and everyone else in their regions, capturing a wide range of emotions from several different regions. After this, the 9th century saw a strong influence of Sufi music. Music was an inseparable part of the Basant and Rang celebrations.

The period from 1200 AD to 1700 AD was marked by several other benchmarks in Indian music including the maestro Khusro who composed verses in Persian, Turkish, Arabic, Braj Bhasha, Hindawi and Khadi Boli. Khusro was the one who is supposed to have invented qawali, qasida, qalbana, naqsh and many others forms of Indian music. Khusro is said to have created a new system of musicology, called ‘Indraprastha Mata’ or ‘Chaturdandi Sampradaya’ and also brought into circulation the two unique musical genres called ‘tarana’ and ‘kaul’.

Another important work called the Sangeet Ratnakara written by Sharangdeva provides a detailed explanation regarding the construction and the techniques of playing fourteen types of drums. The next benchmark in the history of Indian music was the Bhakti revolution in 800 BC, which spread in the north during 14th and 15th centuries. This was the emergence of music as a form of devotion, and belonged to the saint poets like Tulsidas and Kabir. Then there was the emergence of several music streams like Ashtachap and Haveli Sangeet.

Information about music during Emperor Akbar’s court comes from the text Ain e Akbari which mentions the rich music culture of Akbar’s time. The history includes information about instruments like sarmandal, bin, nay, karna, and tanpura and numerous musical maestros including the legendary Tansen. After 1700 AD, music in India went through a continuous metamorphosis process for four centuries and finally resulted into the Hindustani as we know it today.

Contemporary Scenario of Indian Music

Contemporary Indian music is a blend of classical music, pop music, and the popular Indian film music. Several genres of music exist in India. Let us have a look at some of the contemporary music genres in Indian music.


Indian Classical music is now basically dividend into two broad categories namely the Hindustani music and the Carnatic music. Both the streams of classical Indian music rest on two basic elements which are the raga which refer to the melodic formulae made up of constituent musical notations, and the tala which are the rhythmic cycles in Indian classical music. The Carnatic music has its roots in the musical traditions from the southern part of the Indian subcontinent. Carnatic music emphasizes on vocals. Most of the compositions in Carnatic music are sung. Even when played on instruments Carnatic compositions are meant to be played in a peculiar fashion called gayaki which means singing. On the other hand Hindustani music is a traditional from North India. The basics of the Hindustani classical music include melodic modes called thaats that are a part of the ragas. Hindustani music is based on the basic system called sargam which is similar to the Western solfege, thus the Indian sa, re, ga, ma, pa, dha, ni corresponds to the western do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti.


Folk music is an inseparable part of the Indian music scenario. The songs of the rural lands, emerging from various regions of India, are distinctive and are embedded with a strong element of the regional culture. Bhavageet which literally translates as ’emotional poetry’ is quite popular in many parts of India and especially in Karnataka and Maharashtra. A very popular genre in Indian folk music is the Punjabi Bhangra music which is an accompaniment to the folk dance called Bhangra done by farmers to celebrate the spring season that marks the time of harvest. There are various folk traditions including the folk music of Maharashtra called Lavani and Gaulan and the Dandiya music from Gujarat and the Baul from Bengal.


Indian pop music is a blend of almost everything starting from folk, classical, and even western music beats. Much of Indian pop music is a part of the Indian film music however there exist bands and singers that have individually ventures into pop albums and singles. Some of the notable pop singers worth mentioning include Usha Utthup, Peenaz Masani, and Sharon Prabhakar from the early nineties. The successive generation of pop singers includes Baba Sehgal, Alisha Chinai, Shaan, Sagarika, Lucky Ali, and Sonu Nigam. Indian pop bands include Colonial Cousins (Hariharan, Leslie Lewis), Euphoria, Band of Boys, Asma, and Viva to name a few. More recently the trend of remix songs has been quite popular on the Indian pop scenario. Most of the playback singers in the Indian film industry have tried their hands at this genre.


The Indian film industry is a humongous industry producing thousands of movies in various languages round the year. Indian films have always been popular for their song and dance sequences. Music has been an inseparable part of Indian movies right from the beginning. The popularity of music in Indian films is such that almost every filmmaker incorporates at least four to five songs in the movies. Indian film music is perhaps the most popular genre in the country, which is enjoyed by one and all.

History of Traditional Japanese Music

Traditional Japanese music is very diverse. While music was once primarily confined to live concert performances and operas, the introduction of the radio, and later television helped bring it into the homes of the public.

There are essentially two basic types of traditional Japanese music, namely folk music and art music. This article mainly focuses on the art form of music. Art music has many different styles, each being established in different periods in Japanese history. These time-honored styles have been well maintained by the Japanese over the years with only a few modifications. In the history of music, vocal music has always played a very important role, more so than instrumental music. Apart from this, the music was developed as a part of drama like Bunraku, Noh, and Kabuki.


The first significant development that took place was during the Heian Period (794 – 1192 AD). This is the period in which music that was popular amongst the common people was being sophisticated. All the different types of music from various other Asian countries were assimilated and then modified to acquire certain distinct Japanese characteristics.

Gagaku was the type of music that was performed at the court and was popular with the upper classes and nobility. There are three categories of Gagaku: pure music, original foreign music, and the music that was composed in Japan by using foreign musical influences. Gagaku was not only performed at the court, it was also performed in temples and shrines. Apart from Gagaku, another very important musical style is the Shomyo. Used in many Buddhist sources, this vocal music is the origin of the Japanese vocal music that developed years later.


Right from the Kamakura Period (1192 AD – 1333 AD) till the Muromachi Period (1338 AD – 1573 AD), there was a remarkable growth in the world of theatrical arts, which would include everything from the peasant rice-plant dances to the shrine ritual plays. By the turn of the century, the Japanese traditional music scene witnessed the development of the Noh drama with its own special form of music, Nohgaku.

Noh is a highly symbolic and stylized form of drama and is generally performed by a couple of male musicians and actors. Nohgaku has two main elements – the instrumental one and the vocal one. The vocal part is the Utai and is performed by a chorus of eight singers and the actors. It usually tells a story. Derived from the Shomyo form of music, it includes speech and singing. Nohgaku was patronized by the higher military class that was considered to be the most powerful level of society in Japan in those days.

Shakuhachi, Shamisen, and Koto

Another very important part in the history of the Japanese traditional music is the Azuchi-Momoyama Period. Shakuhachi was formerly played as a small part of the Zen services and was at that time considered to be the favorite instrument amongst the Buddhist priests.

The music for the Koto is known as Sokyoku, which is played, composed and transmitted purely by the blind girls and women in the wealthy merchant classes and the higher military classes. The Shamisen is generally used for accompaniment of two basic types of vocal music: narrative singing and melodious singing. Melodious singing developed in two separate directions – Nagauta and Jiuta. Jiuta has ever since been enjoyed as pure music while Nagauta is an accompaniment for dancing in the traditional Kabuki dramas.

Till date, the development and preservation of these classical, traditional forms of Japanese music is not neglected by many modern composers and musicians.

Why is Music Important

Mary Anne Evans or George Eliot as she is more popularly known, was a creative person who believed in the power of music and how it affects us as individuals. And that is a truth that all of us will agree with. From moments of extreme grief to times when we experience ecstatic happiness, our one constant is music. As a race we have long shared our story with music. It is so intertwined with our lives that it is impossible to actually trace its history. It has been around since the first rhythmic thumping of feet that was recognized by human beings. Maybe that is the reason why it is such an integral and important part of our life.

Music cleanses the understanding; inspires it, and lifts it into a realm which it would not reach if it were left to itself.
– Henry Ward Beecher
Why is music important to human beings? There is no objective answer to this question. The importance of music is different in every individual’s life. It inspires people and allows us to get in touch with our emotions in a way that is unique. For those amongst us who find it difficult to express ourselves, music can evoke reactions. Your mood can change from dark and depressed to elated and deliriously happy with just the selection of the right track and a hit of the play button. You can use music to liven up a boring party or to create a romantic ambiance. Music works wonders on creating a certain atmosphere.

The highest mission of music is to serve as a link between God and man.
– John F. Kennedy
Several people proclaim the benefits of music to heighten their spirituality. Every religion on the planet uses music in some form or the other to enhance the soul, whether it is the rhythmic chants from Buddhism or the devotional songs in Hinduism. Music is recreational, listening to soothing songs can be a way of relaxing and allowing your body and mind to take a break from the monotony of life. Music can often be a form of meditation. It elevates our consciousness to a level where we are able to look past the mundaneness of everyday life. It allows us to reach deep within ourselves and connect with a higher power.

Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.
– Plato
How does music affect the brain? Music uses both sides of the brain, thus resulting in the overall development of the brain. In fact there was a research conducted at the University of Montreal that proved that the all four of the cortex’s lobes are activated when the brain is involved in musical activity. During these musical tasks, even the cerebellum of the brain is activated. A musician has to constantly make decisions about the elements of music, like form, timbre, melody, tempo, tone, rhythm, etc. This helps in enhancing the ability of the brain to become very good at multitasking and organizational abilities. It improves abilities of expression and also enhances the intelligence of a person.

Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.
– Berthold Auerbach
Music therapy has been widely heralded. It is powerful and non-invasive, which is why the outcome of the therapy may differ from person to person. The reason music works wonders to cure feelings of depression is because of the secure feeling that music gives to a listener. It is familiar and stimulates our senses. It is also a great means of communication and expression. It has also been found that people who take lessons in playing the keyboard experienced a significant depreciation in depression and stress. It allowed them to cope with anxiety and loneliness better and resulted in improved health.

Just as certain selections of music will nourish your physical body and your emotional layer, so other musical works will bring greater health to your mind.
– Hal A. Lingerman
Several studies have shown how music enhances life. According to the Texas Commission on Drug and Alcohol Abuse Report, released in 1999, students in secondary schools who had participated in some form of band or orchestra were less prone to indulge in substance abuse. Also more students who performed music or took classes in music appreciation and related subjects scored high marks on SAT as compared to their other classmates. In fact many colleges believe that an active interest in the arts and music broadens a student’s mind and allows him or her to appreciate the world more. It contributes heavily to the social and intellectual growth of the student.

There is geometry in the humming of the strings. There is music in the spacing of the spheres.
– Pythagoras
A study on the enhanced learning of proportional math through music training and spatial-temporal training conducted by Neurological Research 21 in the year 1999 showed that almost 27% of 237 students who used piano keyboard training, displayed better skills in using mathematical software. Studies have also shown that students who had an interest in music tend to do better academically, receiving honors.

Forget the scientific studies and research that has been done on the numerous benefits of music or how the different music types affects us. Take our own example. We have music that we relate to for every occasion. From the sound that wakes us up in the morning , to the song we listen to when our heart breaks or we are in the doldrums. We have exercise music and on-our-way-to-work music. We listen to party music and music that calms us. Life without this music would leave us kind of lost, unsure, and probably incapable of venting our emotions. Music touches our soul, and allows us to express different moods and emotions. And honestly, life without music would be, well, boring. So, whether you listen to Beethoven or Marilyn Manson, Louis Armstrong or Arctic Monkeys, your daily dose of music is what keeps you going.

Does Music help you sleep ?

Did You Know?
Max Richter’s ‘Sleep’ is a cradle song, termed as ‘my personal lullaby for a frenetic world’ by him. This eight-hour piece includes pieces that will take you into a trance-like state, and holds the record for being the longest live broadcasted composition of music.
It is a well-known fact that most Americans have trouble getting enough sleep. In fact, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), 40 millions Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders. Sleep deprivation can have serious repercussions; it can affect memory, decision-making abilities, and overall mental health.

As babies, most of us went off into dreamland peacefully listening to lullabies. But can music help adults sleep as well? Well, the answer is yes, and no. Music may not make you sleep, but it can definitely help you sleep.
Music And Sleep
The International Journal of Nursing published a study of 557 adults suffering from sleep disorders. In this study, music was played when they were sleeping. Over a short period of time, improvement in the sleep quality of most individuals was seen. In certain cases, there was no significant difference. Such cases may need a longer study to get conclusive results. We can safely assume that, music doesn’t have any negative effort on sleep, and it is not an expensive option either.

How Music Benefits Sleep

If you find that getting enough shut-eye is difficult because you share a bedroom with a nocturnal sibling or noisy roommate, music might help you a lot. Grab your headphones, make a playlist of some sedative songs, and relax. You’ll forget all the annoying noises in the background and sleep like a baby.

Our heart starts beating on the rhythm of music. This uniform motion helps induce sleep. Which is why, listening to rock music or very fast songs is not recommended when trying to sleep. It’s better to go for classical, soft rock, or jazz music.

As we sleep, our body relaxes, temperature reduces, heartbeat slows down, and breathing becomes slower. Listening to music helps fall asleep as it mimics some of these effects. The heartbeat and breathing will slow down. As such, it induced sleep.

Listening to your favorite music triggers feel-good chemicals in the brain. This puts your mind at ease. Instrumental music is extremely helpful in distracting the mind from racing thoughts. Avoid music with a lot of lyrics, as these can stimulate certain thoughts. Just let go of all the unnecessary thoughts, envelope yourself in the beautiful rhythm, and drift away to snooze land.

The Kind of Music That Helps Sleep

The impact of music on sleep depends on the kind of music as well. Music has the power to sooth as well as excite. Music with lot of lyrics can distract the mind, so it’s best to opt for instrumental pieces. Classical, jazz, or downtempo music like Enigma can help you sleep faster. Choose the kind of music you enjoy.

Sleep Music for Babies

Listening to lullabies before sleeping is extremely relaxing for babies. They simply comfort them. This also strengthens the bond between parent and baby. Also, early exposure to music is beneficial, as it enhances brain development.