Pure in its form and spiritual in its expression, Classical Indian music glorifies the divine and all of creation, by breathing life into untold traditions, values and cultures emerging from the subcontinent.
The classical form of Indian music originated in singing melodious hymns in praise of the Lord in temples. Indian Classical music dating back thousands of years is even present in the Vedas, the oldest scriptures in Hinduism. As aeons passed, Classical music has derived influences from the Persian music style and Indian folklore (in reference to various religions and states), as well as scions (such as Tyagaraja, Swathi Thirunal, Tansen) who created new Ragas. Indian Classical music emphasizes on complete devotion, focus and dedication on the part of the artiste, developing a sacred relationship between the guru (teacher) and shishya (student).
This introduced two Indian classical styles – Carnatic and Hindustani, which are diverse, yet share the same roots. Carnatic music is prevalent in Southern India, whereas Hindustani music mainly resides in North India.
Both styles are centralized around the raag and taal. The Raag uses certain musical notes, which are Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Da Ni Sa to create a melody, where each melody differs due to the characteristic progression in the notes, thus conveying distinct moods.
Ragas are associated with emotions, seasons and with different times of the day.
Today, ragas find great importance and impact in modern music, as artists strive to create renditions as pure as those in Indian Classical music.
Bringing you back to your roots, here’s a contemporary Indian classical playlist:
1. Alaipayuthey Kanna – AR Rahman
Music maestro AR Rahman revives this age old Carnatic classic in the tamil film Alaipayuthey. Sung in praise of the ‘Muralidhara’, the mischievous Lord Krishna, who enthralls his devotees with a flute recital. Songs of raag ‘Kanada’ create such an atmosphere.
2. Dhanashree Thillana – Agam
Bangalore-based Carnatic progressive rock band Agam came to the limelight as their experimental classical rock pieces reached the ears of AR Rahman. Since then nothing has held them back as they repeatedly deliver classical tunes such as this thillana.
A Thillana is a rhythmic classical piece that is usually performed at the end of a concert or a Nrithyanjali meaning ‘Salutations to Dance’. It involves the use of taal and raga in different verses of the song. This thillana is one of the songs by legendary M. S. Subbalakshmi, which was reinterpreted by Agam.
Raga Dhanashree seeks its roots from the Sikh religion and occurs in the holy Guru Granth Sahib. This raga creates a joyous and happy mood.
3. Lasya – Anoushka Shankar
Anoushka Shankar, the daughter of legendary sitarist, Pandit Ravi Shankar, fuses her father’s gift of fine classical base with subtle western tunes.
Lasya from her latest album, touches upon her skills as a sitarist, thus proving her versatility. The term ‘Lasya’, in the context of Hindu mythology, refers to the graceful dance performed by Goddess Parvati to counterbalance the male energy of the powerful cosmic dance Tandava performed by Lord Shiva.
Through this title, Shankar celebrates feminism and its spirit, questioning “When will our world have a safe and respectful, celebratory balance of male and female power?”
4. Aasai Mugam Maranthu Poche – Suchitra Karthik
Karthik’s version of Bharathiyar’s Aasai Mugam captivates listeners creating a serene atmosphere. “When the heart has not forgotten the love, is it proper to forget the face?”
Yet another in memory of Lord Krishna, who creates a lasting impression on his devotee, who now he finds it difficult to forget his face. Raga Jonpuri, named after the Sultan Sharqui of Jonpur, derived from Hindustani music, finds its way into Carnatic music. This raga conveys an emotion of bhakthi, with glory and magnificence.
5. Giriraja Sudha – Nithyasree Mahadevan
A melodious rendition of Tyagaraja, the greatest composer of Caranatic music, in praise of Lord Ganesha, the elephant god; sung by Nithyashree fusing Carnatic with Western music.
6. Shiva Tandava Stotram – Uma Mohan
The Shiva Tandava Stotram, is a Hindu hymn in praise of the Divine Lord Shiva’s power of destruction and his beauty. This is a hymn in obeisance to Lord Shiva by Ravana requesting him to be pardoned from a sin committed by him.
Being pleased by this stotra, Shiva spared him and blessed Ravana with the Chadrahas (moon sword by Lord Shiva), which is considered one of the most powerful weapons in Hindu Mythology.
7. Gaana Mere Bas Ki Baat Nahi – Sadhna Sargam & Shankar Mahadevan
When Bollywood takes to Classical music, the outcome is as brilliant as this song. The base is purely hindustani with catchy lyrics to leave behind the Bollywood touch.
8. River Pulse – Anoushka Shankar
Yet another rendition from the brilliant Shankar, taking fusion to a whole new level by combing two string instruments – the Guitar and Sitar, from the western and eastern worlds of music. She takes a striking departure from classical yet sticks to her roots.
9. Raag Hamsadhwani – Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia
The breathtaking raag Hamsadhwani (meaning Sound of Swans) played by the flute maestro Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia takes listeners to a different world where one is sure to find spiritual bliss.
10. Krishna – Colonial Cousins
Raga: Yaman Kalyani
A blend of classical Carnatic music and pop influences with meaningful lyrics engrosses the listener.