My candid thoughts about Hindustani Classical Music

Hindustani Classical Music is not for everyone. It can be understood , appreciated and performed by select few , hence it is classical. ( Other wise wouldn’t it be called Pop ??) . The music has the deep base of science based on the laws of nature , physics , human anatomy , physiology and many other sciences.

The Hindustani classical music is beyond the frequencies of sounds (notes) unlike the Western classical music which is purely an equi- tempered scale of notes where a performer’s skill of reproducing those notes is critical. In Hindustani music , its not just the skill of reproducing a particular frequency of sound ( shruti) that is important , but also the thought and “Bhaav”(भाव ) behind it to create a mileu and “ras” ( रस ) based on the words (साहित्य ) of a “Bandish” and the tempo of the rhythm that is chosen , the “taal” ( ताल ).

Hence simply reproducing the right notes (frequencies , shrutis ) of sound in a steady pattern is not enough. It is however essential and basic skill that a performer has to master reproducing clearly , these specific frequencies (22 shrutis) of the tonic (base swar , Shadja षड्ज ) that is chosen.

Further, raagdaari sangit which includes  “badaa Khyaal”  or a “major thought” behind the raag chosen , requires deep understanding of various facets of life , philosophies , understanding of the language and verses of the “bandish” chosen. Only then a performer is able to create the Raag Bhaav , Ras and the kind of milieu inherent in the terse words with the power of Shrutis (swars) chosen for the raag at the repetitive rhythmic patterns.

Therefore  each bandish of a raag gives a different perspective of the ras / bhaav , when sung at different times by different performers. Hence, a singer,  matures in his presentation as he ages , gets experiences of life , gets time to ponder over thought process behind a bandish of a raag , while he masters the reproduction of right frequencies (shrutis) effortlessly through riyaaz of years. This could be one reason why the elderly musicians( Masters, Ustaads, Pandits) are able to impress the audience better and faster with a throw of patterns of notes ,their taans/ alaap within few minutes !

The biggest mistake that most musicians of Hindustani Classical music commit is that they associate reproduction of right swars/shrutis as ” perfect singing ” ! This is in fact one of the biggest misconceptions , right notes of perfect shrutis can be produced even by a tuned musical instrument and patterns of notes could be generated by any computational program ! This is however not the “Sangit” or “Mousiki” which entertains a human ear of a common listener  or a connoisseur of music.

The true power of Hindustani Classical Music lies in the “Bhaav”  and “Ras” darshan through modulation of voice , throw of the notes , pauses, choice of the tempo and taal (rhythm) , and also the wordings and philosophy behind the chosen “Cheez” or “Bandish” (साहित्य) .

Creating the mood and milieu of the performing raag among the audience is the real power of these pattern of notes , bandishes and rhythm (Taal and Tempo) . The audience is an integral part of this presentation (mehfil) . Hence live concerts of classical music is the “real” thing to experience. This experience may not be enjoyed to the full extent in the recorded version of the presentation.

My observations about Hindustani Classical Musicians :

1) The Classical Musicians seriously lack in the stage presentation. This includes physical appearance , dressing , sitting arrangement , discipline of time , discipline of respecting the audience. Some of the artists make faces as if straining themselves to reproduce a note, which hampers the beauty of the presentation. Some make too many hand gestures , movements (as if dancing) , avoid eye contact with audience. Some vocalists have a tendency to praise themselves and pat themselves when the arrive at a sam ( सम ).

2) They claim that words of a bandish are not important in classical music : This is absolutely not true . The words of a bandish are most important in classical music. These short words expose huge philosophy , story , narration enclosed in them through the power of (notes) swar and their patterns.

3) Some Musicians of Hindustani Classical Music are extremely over rated . While some of the artist do pretend humbleness , they are in fact extremely arrogant and full of self grandiose.

4) The statements made about classical music is that : “Musicians want to popularize classical music among masses and youth”  … the fact is that classical music is not for masses , it is for certain type of people, everyone will not appreciate or understand it, less so the the youth. However with experience of life and the exposure to all type of popular music , generally with growing age and maturity , a person may turn to classical music

5) There are singers who can simply reproduce right kind of shrutis without giving importance to the pronunciation of the words, the deep meanings behind the words. These singers have good basic skills of reproducing swars / right notes through their throat. While there are others who not only produce the right kind of shrutis / swars / notes through their throat but also give deep thought about the words behind bandishes , their pronunciation , their choice of rhythms , tempos for the bandishes etc. There is a good distinction between such types of singers. Kumar Gandharv was that of later type. Such musicians make classical music more appealing.


About Prasad Bhave

Clinical Scientist / Healthcare Informatics Consultant
This entry was posted in Classical Music, Hindustani Classical Music, Music and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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