The Republic of India is located in southern Asia, bordering the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, between Myanmar (Burma) and Pakistan.
Two music traditions co-exist in India, that of the North (Hindustani) and of the South (Carnatic). They share the same basic systems but differ greatly in the instruments used, by the Ragas played, and by the concept of musical expression. It is very rare for musicians to master both traditions.
Carnatic is the music of South India, six states. The name comes from the Carnatic wars fought in the state of Karnataka centuries ago. The state of Karnataka just north of state Kerala had the origins of this music. The father of this stream of music was Purandara Dasa of Karnataka who laid down the grammar of this stream of music.
Purandara Dasa was a vaishnava saint meaning one who was a worshiper of Lord Vishnu (The Preserver among the Trinity) and created several compositions in His Praise. He was actually a sinner turned saint and originally was an usurious moneylender rolling in considerable wealth. But good sense dawned on him one day and he became a renunciate wandering about in the streets and singing the praises of Lord Vishnu.
Although the music evolved in Karnataka, it was enriched with ornamental compositions by another Saint named Thyagaraja from the State of Andhra Pradesh (North East of Kerala). He sang several songs in praise of Lord Rama (seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu). However, in later years the musicians who practiced this great art were from Tamil Nadu the Eastern State of Kerala. Even today, Tamil Nadu is the seat of this great art holding most of the annual functions in connection with this glorious art.
In India the musician tribal castes of Rajasthan are called ” Kalakar “(sacred servants of the Art). Some of these include:
The Langas – Langa means “the song giver.” Langas are a group of accomplished poets, singers, musicians and genealogist proceeding from Barmer district. Langas are looking for the beauty of the tune; playing and singing together they would echo each other to accentuate their common tune to a vertiginous transcending sound which is one of their magic practice through the music. They seem to have converted from Hinduism to Islam in the 17th century. Later, Sufi influences prevented them from using percussion instruments. However, the Langas are versatile player of the Sindhi sarangi and the aloogoza (double flute) which accompany and echo their formidable and magic kind of voice.
Langa music is learned orally in a master/apprentice relationship. The apprentice begins by accompanying the master and eventually learns a large corpus of songs. The vocal repertoire includes women’s songs of the life cycle and the seasons (which men sing too), songs in praise of their patrons, devotional songs composed by nineteenth century Sufi poets, and film songs. Themes such as love and heroism predominate, and water and cattle, the source of life in the desert, appear frequently in the lyrics. Langas are known for their improvisations and their instrumental and vocal ornamentation. Men and women often perform together.
The Langas perform at events like birth, wedding, exclusively for their Muslim patron (jaajman), the Sindhi Sipaï, who are cattle breeders, farmers, owner of the land where they have been allowed to live and are regarded as Kings. Langas are the guardians of the oral tradition of the family (king) they belong to.
The Manganyars – Another cast of fine musicians and singers, who mainly proceed from Jaisalmer and Barmer district. Manganiar means “one who begs” and indicate the low status of these superb artists. Also mostly converted to Islam at some time, still they do continue to sing for their Hindu “patrons”, the Rajputs and Megwals and are like the Langas, the guardians of the oral tradition of the family they belong to.
At one time, they were musicians at the Rajput courts, accompanying their chiefs to war and providing them with entertainment before and after the battles and at his death, they would stay performing at the ruler’s ” samadhi “day and night until the mourning was over. Despite their conversion to Islam, the Manganyars retain Hindus practices and often play in Hindus Temples. Manganyar singers are spontaneous and uncontrollable with much energetic rhythmic elements.
The Manghaniyar repertoire is vast, including songs celebrating secular and sacred love and devotional songs to the Hindu deity Krishna.
The Kalbelias – From the nomadic Jogi casts, who worship the Nag Deva (the Cobra), devotees of Shiva and followers of the Yoga system of philosophy. Men are traditional snake-charmers. Women are dancers who perform a special symbolic dance, pretending to transform herself into a cobra while in a trance like state.
Kalbelia songs disseminate mythological knowledge through stories, while special traditional dances are performed during Holi, the festival of colors. The songs also demonstrate the poetic acumen of the Kalbelia, who are reputed to compose lyrics spontaneously and improvise songs during performances. Transmitted from generation to generation, the songs and dances form part of an oral tradition for which no texts or training manuals exist.
Song and dance are a matter of pride for the Kalbelia community, and a marker of their identity at a time when their traditional travelling lifestyle and role in rural society are diminishing. They demonstrate their community’s attempt to revitalize its cultural heritage and adapt it to changing socioeconomic conditions.
Kalbelia folk songs and dances are included in the inventory of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, a national repository of Indian arts and culture under the Ministry of Culture.
Kalbelia folk songs were inscribed in 2010 on the UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The Saperas (from the word Sap, snake) are a sub-group of the migrant community of Kalbeliyas, who travel with mules and dogs. They have their own music but do perform professionally with Langas. Their dances, often performed by women, are featured in Musafir. They specialize in curing snake bites and in snake charming.
[sources: Arnaud Azzouz, Maharaja, UNESCO]
Throughout their 500-year history, the Fakirs of Bengal have refused to conform to the conventions of Bengali society. Their final goal is to discover the divine inner knowledge, an ideal that they believe lives within the body of every man, but may take a lifetime of wandering, singing and self-exploration to discover.
The Sufi Fakirs Of Bengal have preserved a series of esoteric spiritual teachings on breath, sex, asceticism, philosophy and mystical devotion, as well as amassing a treasury of enigmatic teaching songs about love, humanity and devotion that map out their path towards their inner vision.
The Fakirs, and their Hindu counterparts, the Bauls, believe that God is found not in the heavens, or even in the afterlife, but instead in the present moment, in the body of the man or woman who seeks the truth: all that is required is to give up your possessions, take up the life of the road, find a pir, and adhere to the path of love. Each man is alone, they believe, and must find his own way. Mixing elements of Sufism, Tantra, Vaishnavism and Buddhism, they visit their wayside shrines and there sing songs on a simple one-string instrument called ektara.
Indian Musical Genres
Raga – A melody in Indian classical music. The series of notes are related with moods, seasons or ceremonies. It can also be found under the spellings rag and raag.
A. R. Rahman
Aashish Khan Desharma
Amjad Ali Khan
Bombay S Jayashri
Brij Bhushan Kabra
The Dagar Brothers
Dr. Krishna Raghavendra
Dr. L. Subramaniam
Dr. Natesan Ramani
Dr. P. K. Swaminathan
G.S. Sachdev (Gurbachan Singh Sachdev)
Gundecha Brothers (Umakant and Ramakant Gundecha)
Guru Rewben Mashangva
Karnataka College of Percussion
Kavita Krishnamurti Subramaniam
L. Athira Krishna
Mayuram T. Viswanathan
Mustafa Raza (Dr. Mustafa Raza)
Mysore Sri. V. Ramarathnam
Nabani Das Baul
Paban Das Baul
Purna Das Baul
S. D. Batish (Shiv Dayal Batish)
Shiv Kumar Sharma
Shujaat Husain Khan
Tejendra Narayan Majumdar
Thakur Chakrapani Singh
T. N. Seshagopalan
Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman
Vivek V Krishna