Nuances Of Hindustani Classical Music

Nuances Of Hindustani Classical Music

Author: Hema Hirlekar
Format: Paperback
Language: English
ISBN: 9788178062068
Code: U2068
Pages: 200
List Price: US$ 16.00
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Nuances of Hindustani Classical Music, is a book for people interested in Hindustani Classical music, people who like to listen to such music and would be glad for some information about it, people who are looking for an easy-read book explaining this music, people who feel that a little more knowledge about this music is required to enjoy it fully and for people who do not really want to know the theoretical or technical details but would be glad for a friendly book to understand the nuances of Hindustani Classical Music. The book shall be of immense benefit to those who want to take the first step in making Hindustani classical music an inalienable part of their lives. Nuances of Hindustani Classical Music is organised for extremely easy understanding of the terms, the music, the genres, the gharanas, and the concerts. The details are interesting, the anecdotes adding the human touch. A CD illustrating the finer points of the music accompanies the book.


The world of Hindustani music is boundless, infinite, unsurpassed, and awe-inspiring science. According to me, to introduce this science, the biggest challenge—almost like lifting Lord Shiva’s bow—is from where to begin? This is because the word ‘sangeet’ means, “Geetam, vadyam tatha nrutyam cha trayam sangeetmuchyateh”. As per this saying, ‘singing, playing instruments and dancing’ are the three qualities together that form sangeet that is Godlike. While explaining such a God, innumerable ruchas in Vedas go on to describe Him, but beyond a point even the Vedas surrender saying ‘Neti, Neti’. That is exactly what can happen while describing Music and its three elements.
Hema Hirlekar has taken up such a challenge for the sake of music lovers. And she has successfully tried to capture vocal and instrumental music with pertinent and appropriate words and that too in English. She has aptly named the book, Nuances of Hindustani Classical Music. The purpose of her book is to enlighten an interested reader about the nuances of this music, about how to appreciate and understand the science behind this divine music. She has provided all this information in her flowing and eloquent language for Indian readers as well as interested foreigners. In fact I will even say that this book is not just for the uninitiated music lovers but can be a great reference book even for the knowledgeable. The reason for this is that the author has distilled the essence of Hindustani music and has offered it to music lovers on a platter.    
The material that she has tackled in this book is presented in a concise yet comprehensive manner. And that is absolutely right, as her aim is to introduce the subject within the boundaries of the book in a way that can enable an uninitiated person to appreciate and enjoy Hindustani music. The main subjects in the book—dhrupad-dhamar, khayal, raag development and expansion, and its nuances such as bandish, gat, upaj, rasa-aavishkar, taal, tihai – are such that may at first glance seem a little difficult, but with the help of the book a learner could soon become a connoisseur.
To be frank, is it possible to bind the sweetness of sugar, the deliciousness of honey, the ambrosia of amla in words? One has to experience the taste firsthand. Only then can one empathise with the words! That was my condition while reading this book. That is because any subject need not be understood immediately. Otherwise in this world did knowledge come first or a scholar? Did a hen come first or an egg? That is the case with this science of music. Appreciation of music and its science go hand in hand.
That’s why uninitiated readers when reading the book will gradually acquaint themselves with the subject and then slowly learn to appreciate the beauty. That is the endeavour of the author at the end of her well-researched treatise. She has explained difficult concepts in such easy and flowing language that ‘Hats off!’ For example this is how she explains ‘Merukhand’—a complex idea—so effortlessly.
Ustad Amir Khan’s gayaki was a synergetic musical language, a fusion of the Jaipur, Kirana and Bhendi Bazzar gharana styles along with the central theme of the Merukhand gayaki. This gayaki is very interesting and extremely difficult to master. ‘Meru’ means fixed or steady; and ‘Khand’ means section. In the present context, ‘Meru’ means fixed swars (notes) in a given raag. These notes can be arranged in many different ways using the theory of permutations and combinations. If there are only two swars, e.g., sa and re in a given raag, only two combinations sa-re and re-sa are possible. If there are three, then six different combinations are obtained. Proceeding thus, for seven notes in a raag such as Bhairavi, 5040 combinations (seven factorial) could be written down mathematically. Of course not all are sung at one time. Musicians aspiring to learn this ‘Merukhand’-gayaki are trained to remember such combinations by heart and study these structures constantly.
Similarly she has kept up a light and friendly atmosphere while describing various gharanas, their histories, recalling interesting anecdotes and stories. For example while talking about the Delhi Gharana she says:
The Delhi Gharana of Hindustani music traces its origins to the time of the Delhi Sultanate. According to its current practitioners, there were two brothers during the time of Sultan Shamsuddin Iltutmish (1210-36)—Mir Hasan Sawant and Mir Bula Kalawant—one of whom was deaf and the other was dumb as well as deaf. The legend goes that they were called to court by the Sultan to sing in front of him! Hazrat Moinuddin Chishti Ajmeri found out about the plight of the two brothers and prayed for them and they were cured and got the gift of music from the Almighty and began singing beautifully. Hasan Sawant had a Sufi inclination and thus began singing qawwali and his tradition came to be known as the Qawwal Bachhe Gharana. Bula Kalawant became a court singer and his tradition came to be known as the Delhi Gharana. It is thus to be kept in mind that there exist inextricable links between the Qawwal Bachhe Gharana and what later came to be called the Delhi Gharana both in terms of familial/ disciple relations and stylistic affiliations and repertoire to this day.
Due to these well told stories this book does not become a studious guide but becomes a friend in the quest to understand music. Even when talking of light music the author says, “Ghazal has two angles. The poetry and the music.” And goes on to explain ghazal unlike anyone else.
I think the last chapter, How to enjoy Hindustani Classical Music? should be read first. This will enable the reader/ connoisseur to understand and know the way to go about learning to appreciate such music.
The CD that is provided along with the book explains the nuances to the music lover—not just to the unversed but equally to the knowledgeable!
Well done.

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About the Author(s)

Hema has worked within media and communications for well over two decades in a multitude of roles. Her literary experience includes a book co-authored with Dr. Prachee Sathe, Head ICU, Ruby Hall Clinic, Pune (India) on intensive care and critical medical cases. This book was translated into Marathi and won the prestigious 'Maharashtra Sahitya Sanskriti Mandal' award in the Vidnyan Lekhan Category, in 2008. She has also translated a Marathi book on Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj into English, which is now in its fifth year of publication. Hindustani Classical Music has been Hema's lifelong passion. She is an avid listener of classical music and has gained her knowledge on the subject by extensive research, reading music literature, interacting with top music scholars, and talking to other classical music enthusiasts. Her interest in writing this book is to share her knowledge and passion and in turn help others interested in music to enjoy it fully, with a good understanding of its roots and background. Hema has a Bachelors in Science, a Masters in Chemistry, a Masters in Fine Arts and a Doctorate in Communication. She lives and works from Pune, India and can be contacted on:


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Slow Unveiling—Vilambit
Elements of Hindustani Music
The Basics—Raag Aspect, Shrutis—Microtones, Swar—Note, Gram and Murchhana, Raag, Thaat (Scale), Jaati—Type, Vaadi and Samvaadi Swars, Anuvaadi and Wivaadi, Saptak, Varna, Pakad, Chalan, Alaap

Musical Ornaments — Alankar
Gaan Kriya, Meend, Kan, Andolan, Gamak, Kampan (or Kampit), Kampan, Gamak, Andolan compared, Khatka/Gitkadi, Zamzama, Murki, Taan

The Basics—The Taal Aspect
Taal, Theka, Vibhag or Khand, Aavartan and Sum, Laya—Tempo, Dugun, Tigun, Chougun, Chhand, Layakari, Sargam

Raag Vistaar the Concept of Raag
Raag Creation, Chalan, Shadj-Pancham Bhaav, Classification of Raags, Raag-Raaginis, Thaat Classification, Jaati Classification, Raagang Classification, Aakrutibandh Classification, Bandish/Gat–Composition, What Are the Ingredients for the Creation of Beauty?

Rasa Aavishkar Raag Aesthetics
Rasa-Anubhav—The Experience of ‘Rasa’, Raag and Rasa, Raag and Time, Importance of Madhyam With Regards to the Time of the Raag: Seasonal Raags, Dawn Raags, Lalit (4 AM to 6 AM), Bhatiyar (4 AM to 6 AM), Gurjari Todi (4 AM to 6 AM), Bhairav (6 AM to 9 AM), Ramkali (6 AM to 8 AM), Ahir Bhairav (8 AM to 10 AM), Todi (8 AM to 10 AM), Bilaskhani Todi (8 AM to 10 AM), Komal Rishabh Asavari (8 AM to 10 AM), Bhairavi (10 AM to 12 Noon), Deskar (10 AM to 12 Noon), Jaunpuri (10 AM to 12 Noon), Bilawal (10 AM to 12 Noon), Sarang family (12 Noon to 2 PM), Gaud Sarang (12 Noon to 4 PM), Bhimpalasi (2 PM to 4 PM), Multani (2 PM to 4 PM), Gavati (2 PM to 4 PM), Poorvi (4 PM to 6 PM), Shree (4 PM to 6 PM), Patdeep (4 PM to 6 PM), Yaman (6 PM to 8 PM), Pilu (6 PM to 8 PM), Khamaj (6 PM to 9 PM), Hamsadhwani (7 PM to 9 PM), Shuddh Kalyan (6 PM to 8 PM), Hameer (8 PM to 10 PM), Jaijaiwanti (8 PM to 10PM), Gara (8 PM to 10 PM), Kedar (8 PM to 10 PM), Des (8 PM to 10 PM), Jog (12 Noon to Midnight, Mostly 10 PM to Midnight), Shubh Kalyan or Janasammohini (9 PM to Midnight), Bihag (10 PM to Midnight), Bageshri (10 PM to Midnight), Shankara (10 PM to Midnight), Chadrakauns (10 PM to Midnight), Malkauns (Midnight to 3 AM), Darbari Kanada (Midnight to 3 AM), Bahar (Midnight to 3 AM), Adana (Midnight to 2 AM), Sohni (Midnight to 3 AM), Malhar (Midnight to 3 AM), Hindol (3 AM to 6 AM), Pahadi, Jayat, Jod-Raag, Mehfil Raags

The Unfolding of a Raag
Section 1 – Vocal Music, Section 2 – Instrumental Music, Tihai

Genres of Hindustani Art Music
Gharana, Dhrupad – Dhamar, Accompaniments, Dhrupad Banies, Gharanas, Dagar Gharana, Darbhanga Gharana, Betiya Gharana, Talwandi Gharana – Dhrupad in Pakistan, A Dhrupad Mehfil – Concert.

Khayal. An idea. A thought. Soaring imagination, Khayal Gharanas, Gwalior Gharana, Jaipur-Atrauli Gharana, Agra Gharana, Bhendibazaar Gharana, Raampur-Sahaswan, Patiala Gharana, Delhi Gharana, Benaras (Varanasi) Gharana, Mewati Gharana, Kirana Gharana, Khayal Mehfil, Tarana, Chatrang, Trivat or Tirvat, Raas.

Light Classical Music
Thumri, Gharana’s in Thumri, Benaras Gharana, Patiala/ Punjab Gharana, Lucknow Gharana, Regional Varieties of Thumri, Tappa, Bangla Tappa, Tappa Gayaki, Other Genres and Sub-Genres of Indian Art Music, Bhajan, Ghazal, The Poetry, The Theme, Ghazal Singing

Instrumental Art Music
The Accompaniments, The Taanpura, Swarmandal, Harmonium, Sarangi, Tabla, Construction, Method of Playing, Terms Used, Baaz, Gharana, Delhi, Lucknow, Ajrada, Farrukhabad, Benaras, Punjab, Tabla as Accompaniment, Tabla – Solo performance, Peshkar, Qaida, Rela, Compositions or Gat, Some More Compositions, Taalvadya Kachheri, The Solo Playing Instruments, The Instrumental Mehfil, Veena, Rudra Veena, Vichitra Veena, Venu – Bansuri – Flute, Sitar, Violin, Santoor

How to Enjoy Classical Music?
Listening to Recorded Music

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Sample Chapters

(Following is an extract of the content from the book)
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How to Enjoy Classical Music?

Now that was a lot of information. It is time to sit back and enjoy the music. To let the sound waves wash over you and drench you in ‘Paramanand’—supreme joy.

Musical preferences do vary from person to person. There are many reasons for this. Our musical tastes are shaped by our exposure to music, our personalities, and some undefined element in our brains that determines how we respond to music. Even with variations in musical tastes, Hindustani art music can have a profound effect on the listeners.

“But we don’t understand it!” say some. That is perfectly fine. To understand a language, you do not need to know the grammar. However if you do know the grammar you can understand the literary value and your enjoyment multiplies. Similarly Hindustani music need not be understood, it will still be enjoyable. The emotions and moods evoked by the music will not fail to affect you. But if you know the broad aspects your enjoyment will increase. Over and above if you are aware of the nuances, you will experience bliss!

Like any other music, Hindustani music can be enjoyed at two levels—emotional or intellectual. Initially you can just listen for the heart. Gradually when you feel like knowing more about it, you can try to understand it. As you are giving the artiste the most precious thing—your time—you should be able to get maximum pleasure out of it. While learning to understand it, you can continue to enjoy it. It is like learning and earning. Keep an open mind, that is essential. Also one more aspect of this music needs to be kept in mind and that is one particular music rendition may suggest different things to different people. Go by your own feelings and judgement. Getting swayed by others is not the answer.

First is music, then is listening and then comes the supreme joy. Hindustani art music is based on raag and taal as we have seen. You have read about these elements, and about a few genres of this music and some schools (gharanas). You know about different instruments. You also know what to expect in a mehfil. Armed with these knowledge now let us learn how to listen.

The steps to listening are:
1. Listening to music
2. Understanding the laya
3. Understanding the raag
4. Enjoying the ornamentation
5. Experiencing the emotion pertaining to the raag

What to listen to and how to listen? That depends on what you wish to do. Do you just wish to spend a pleasant evening, being entertained? Then you can attend any mehfil by a skilled artiste and enjoy. It could be vocal or instrumental depending on your choice and availability of such a program. Or you could just put on a CD of ghazals or thumries and let the words and the laya soothe you. Let your mind be free, attuned to the music. Listen without prejudice and expectations.

In the beginning just let the music flow over you. No need to go in for any technical details. Slowly the details will emerge and you will be able to differentiate various elements. Soon you will be able to anticipate the events such as the ‘sum’ and these will be thrilling. In fact maybe first you may experience the thrill and then identify that point as the ‘sum’.

Listening to Recorded Music
If you wish to become an aware listener and lose yourself in music, you need to make some effort. Refer to the raags, their characters, their rasa generation, and their time. Choose one that appeals to you. Let us assume you have chosen Yaman. This is a simple, pleasant raag, regal in demeanour, best enjoyed during late evening. This late evening raga belongs to the Kalyan thaat and is favoured as the first raag in an evening mehfil because of its inherent grandeur. The raag uses the teevr Madhyam and all the shuddh notes in its scale. The Waadi is ga – Gandhar and the samwaadi is ni – Nishad. Yaman is a very popular raag. It is said that the calibre of a musician can be judged by her/ his exposition of raag Yaman.

Collect music by many different artistes presenting this raag. Art music, thumries, taranas, ghazals such as the wonderful rendering by Mehdi Hasan, ‘Ranjish hi sahi, dil ko dukhane ke liye aa’ or the ever green qawwali from Dil hi to Hai, ‘Nigahen milane ko jee chahata hai’ all in Yaman! There are many websites listing songs based on raags. Take your pick. Instrumentalists and vocalists may present this raag slightly differently, depending on their interpretation, the chosen bandish or gat, the skill of the artiste in generating the bhaav intended in the bandish. Listen to various artistes till you become acquainted with the raag expansion and phrasing. Soon you will know the raag when you hear a familiar melody. Voila!

You can work the raag out in this way, and learn to appreciate the ornaments used such as meend, murki, gamak, kampan, andolan and the taseer of each one. What exactly is ‘taseer’? Taseer means the positive effect of some musical ornaments executed. Supposing a vocalist lands on the Shadaj with effective intonation, timing resulting in a musically effective phrasing, this will be called taseer.

Why a particular music piece appeals to you while others don’t? Maybe this music reaches your inner self immediately. In all probability the music matches your imagination and your enjoyment peaks when the presentation takes some unexpected turn and feels even more beautiful than what you imagined or expected. Music has pronounced tonal and pitch shades and this makes it capable of expressing ideas that are difficult to put into words. Music is capable of conveying subtle human emotions and moods and even creating Nature’s various moods. When this happens then the music becomes simply beautiful and the performance seems in harmony with your inner self. Once you are familiar with one raag, repeat the process of getting friendly with another raag.

The next advanced stage is to identify the swars. Keep listening to ‘sa’ intonation; maybe sing along with a skilled vocalist saying ‘sa’. If you are confident listen to the entire sargam, all the twelve swars including the shuddh and vikrit. A lot of listening will establish the swars firmly in your mind. Then do the exercise of imagining the nature and character of each swar or a cluster of swars. Does a raag cause you to mirror the feelings depicted?

Then come the beats or the rhythm element. You will be able to figure out the taal. Which taals are generally used in vilambit khayal, which in Drut khayal, which taals are preferred by the dhrupad singers and what makes thumri and Dadra exciting… all will become clear as you go on.

Well, if it does not become clear it is not a very bad scene. Maybe that additional perception of raag rules, patterns will develop over time. Some of it gets stored in such a way that when a new melody with similar pattern is heard, association will place the melody into a raag previously recorded and stored in the memory. The process of abstraction and association may not be at conscious but subconscious level. Some people are better at this than others. Knowledge about a raag is not the deciding factor here. It is a different ability altogether.

Even if you think you do not have this ability, just forget every technical detail and enjoy the music!

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