It is traditional for performers who have reached a distinguished level of achievement, to be awarded titles of respect; Hindus are usually referred to as Pandit and Muslims as Ustad. An interesting aspect of Hindustani music going back to sufi times, is the tradition of religious neutrality: Muslim ustads singing Hindu bhajans, or vice versa.
Around the 12th century, Hindustani classical music diverged from the principle which eventually came to be identified as Carnatic classical music. The central notions in both these systems is that of a melodic mode or raga, sung to a rhythmic cycle or tala. The tradition dates back to the ancient Samaveda, (lit. sāma=ritual chant), which deals with the norms for chanting of srutis or hymns such as the Rig Veda. These principles were refined in the Natyashastra by Bharata (2nd-3d c. CE) and the Dattilam (probably 3d-4th c. AD).
In medieval times, many of the melodic systems were fused with ideas from Persian music, particularly through the influence of sufi composers like Amir Khusro, and later in the Moghul courts. Noted composers such as Tansen flourished, along with religious groups like the Vaishnavites. After the 16th century, the singing styles diversified into different gharanas patronized in different princely courts. Around 1900, Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande consolidated the musical structures of Hindustani Classical music into a number of thaats. In the 20th century, Hindustani classical music has become popular across the world through the influence of artistes like Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan and many others.
Indian classical music has 7 basic notes Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni, with five interspersed half-notes, resulting in a 12-note scale. Unlike the 12-note scale in Western music, the base frequency of the scale is not fixed, and intertonal gaps (temper) may also vary; however with the gradual replacement of the sarangi by the harmonium, an equal tempered scale is increasingly used. The performance is set to a melodic pattern called a raga (also spelled as raag) characterized in part by specific ascent (Arohana) and descent (Avarohana) sequences, which may not be identical. Other characteristics include King (Vadi) and Queen (Samavadi) notes and a unique note phrase (Pakad). In addition each raga has its natural register (Ambit) and glissando (Meend) rules, as well as features specific to different styles and compositions within the raga structure. Performances are usually marked by considerable improvisation within these norms.
Music was first formalized in India in connection with preserving the sruti texts, primarily the four vedas, which are seen as apaurasheya (lit. un-created by man). Not only was the text important, but also the manner in which they had been enunciated by the immortals. Prosody and chanting were thus of great importance, and were enshrined in the two vedangas (bodies of knowledge) called Shiksha (pronunciation, chants) and Chhandas (prosody); these remained a key part of the brahminic educational system till modern times. The formal aspects of the chant are delineated in the Samaveda, with certain aspects, e.g. the relation of chanting to meditation, elaborated in the Chandogya Upanishad (ca. 8th c. BC). Priests involved in these ritual chants were called Samans and a number of ancient musical instruments such as the conch (shankh), lute (veena), flute (bansuri), trumpets and horns were associated with this and later practices of ritual singing.
Music is dealt with extensively in the Valmiki Ramayana; Narada is an accomplished musician, as is Ravana; Saraswati with her veena is the goddess of music. Gandharvas are presented as spirits who are musical masters, and the gandharva style looks to music primarily for pleasure, accompanied by the soma rasa. In the Vishnudharmottara Purana, the Naga king Ashvatara asks to know the svaras from Saraswati.
The most important text on music in the ancient canon is Bharata's Natya Shastra, composed around the 3rd c. CE. The Natya Shastra deals with the different modes of music, dance, and drama, and also the emotional responses (rasa) they are expected to evoke. The scale is described in terms of 22 micro-tones, which can be combined in clusters of 4, 3, or two to form an octave.
While the term raga is articulated in the Natya Shastra (where its meaning is more literal, colour, as in the mood), it finds a clearer expression in what is called jati in the Dattilam, a text composed shortly after or around the same time as Natya Shastra. The Dattilam is focused on gandharva music, and discusses scales (swara), defining a tonal framework called grama in terms of 22 micro-tonal intervals (sruti) comprising one octave. It also discusses various arrangements of the notes (murchhana), the permutations and combinations of note-sequences (tanas), and alankara or elaboration. Dattilam categorizes melodic structure into 18 groups called jati, which are the fundamental melodic structures similar to the raga. The names of the jatis reflect regional origins, e.g. andhri, oudichya.
Music also finds mention in a number of texts from the Gupta period; Kalidasa mentions several kinds of veena (Parivadini, Vipanchi), as well as percussion instruments (Mridang), the flute (Vamshi) and conch (Shankha). Music also finds mention in Buddhist and Jaina texts from the earliest periods of the Christian era.
Narada's Sangita Makarandha treatise circa 1100 CE is the earliest text where rules similar to the current Hindustani classical music can be found. Narada actually names and classifies the system in its earlier form before the advent of changes as a result of Persian influences. Jayadeva's Gita Govinda from the 12th century was perhaps the earliest musical composition presently known sung in the classical tradition called Ashtapadi music.
In the 13th century, Sharngadeva composed the Sangita Ratnakara, which has names such as the turushka todi (Turkish todi), revealing an influx of ideas from the Islamic influx. This text is the last to be mentioned by both the Carnatic and the Hindustani traditions, and is often thought to date the divergence between the two.
The advent of Islamic rule under the Delhi Sultanate and later the Mughal Empire over northern India caused considerable cultural interchange. Increasingly, musicians received patronage in the courts of the new rulers, who in their turn, started taking increasing interest in local music forms. The initial generations may have been rooted in a cultural traditions outside India, gradually, they adopted many aspects from their kingdoms which retained the traditional Hindu culture. This helped spur the fusion of Hindu and Muslim ideas to bring forth new forms of musical synthesis like qawwali and khayal.
The most influential musician from the Delhi Sultanate period was Amir Khusrau (1253-1325), sometimes called the father of Hindustani classical music. A prolific composer in Persian, Turkish, Arabic, as well as Braj Bhasha, he is credited with systematizing many aspects of Hindustani music, and also introducing the ragas Zeelaf and Sarparda. He created the genre of the qawwali, which fuses Persian melody and beat on a dhrupad like structure. A number of instruments (such as the sitar) were also introduced in his time.
Amir Khusrau is sometimes credited with the origins of the khayal form, but the record of his compositions do not appear to support this. It is possible that the word khayal was a corruption of qawwali, but it is more likely that it has a separate etymology (the Arabic word khyal means mood or capriciousness). The compositions by the court musician Niyamat Khan (Sadarang) in the court of Muhammad Shah 'Rangiley' bear a closer affinity to the modern khyal, and suggests that 'Sadarang' may have been the father of modern day 'Khayal'.
Much of the musical forms innovated by these pioneers merged with the Hindu tradition, composed in the popular language of the people (as opposed to Sanskrit) in the work of composers like Kabir or Nanak. This can be seen as part of a larger Bhakti tradition, (strongly related to the Vaishnavite movement) which remained influential across several centuries; notable figures include Jayadeva (11th century), Vidyapati (1375 AD), Chandidas (14th-15th century), and Meerabai (1555-1603 AD).
As the Mughal Empire came into closer contact with Hindus, especially under Jalal ud-Din Akbar, music and dance also flourished. Particularly, the legendary musician Tansen is recognized as having introduced a number of innovations, ragas as well as particular compositions. Legend has it that upon his rendition of a night-time raga in the morning, the entire city fell under a hush and clouds gathered in the sky, or that he could light fires by singing raga Deepak, which is supposed to be composed of notes in high octaves.
At the royal house of Gwalior, Raja Mansingh Tomar (1486-1516 AD) also participated in the shift from Sanskrit to the local idiom (Hindi) as the language for classical songs. He himself penned several volumes of compositions on religious and secular themes, and was also responsible for the major compilation, the Mankutuhal (book of curiosity), which outlined the major forms of music prevalent at the time. In particular, the musical form known as dhrupad saw considerable development in his court and remained a strong point of the Gwalior gharana for many centuries.
After the dissolution of the Mughal empire, the patronage of music continued in smaller princely kingdoms like Lucknow, Patiala, Banaras, giving rise to the diversity of styles that is today known as gharanas. Many musician families obtained large grants of land which made them self sufficient, at least for a few generations (e.g. the Sham Chaurasia gharana). Meanwhile the Bhakti and Sufi traditions continued to develop, and interact with the different gharanas and groups.
In the 20th century, the power of the maharajahs and nawabs declined, and so did their patronage. With the expulsion of Wajid Ali Shah to Calcutta after 1857, the Lucknavi musical tradition came to influence the music of renaissance Bengal, giving rise to the tradition of Ragpradhan gan around the turn of the century.
In the early 20th century, Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar emerged as an extremely talented musician and organizer (despite having been blinded at age 12). His books on music, as well as the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya music school that he opened in Lahore in 1901 helped foster a movement away from the closed gharana system.
Paluskar's contemporary (and occasional rival) 'Chaturpandit' Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande recognized the many rifts that had appeared in the structure of Indian classical music. He undertook extensive research visits to a large number of gharanas, Hindustani as well as Carnatic, collecting and comparing compositions. Between 1909 and 1932, he brought out the monumental Hindustani Sangeetha Padhathi (4 vols), which suggested a transcription for Indian music and described the many traditions in this notation. Finally, it consolidated the many musical forms of Hindustani Classical music into a number of thaats, a system that had been proposed in the Carnatic tradition in the 17th century. The ragas as we know them today were consolidated in this landmark work, although there are some inconsistencies and ambiguities in Bhatkande's system.
In modern times, the government-run [[All India Radio], Bangladesh Betar and Radio Pakistan helped to bring the artists in front of the public, countering the loss of the patronage system. The first star was Gauhar Jan, whose career was born out of Fred Gaisberg's first recordings of Indian music in 1902. With the advance of films and other public media, musicians started to make their living through public performances. With exposure to Western music, some of these melodies also started merging with classical forms, especially in the stream of popular music. A number of Gurukuls, such as that of Alauddin Khan at Maihar, flourished. In more modern times, corporate support has also been forthcoming (e.g. the ITC Sangeet Research Academy).
Both systems repeat at the octave. The difference between sargam and solfege is that re, ga, ma, dha, and ni can refer to either "Pure" (Shuddha) or altered "Flat" (Komal) or "Sharp" (Tivra) versions of their respective scale degrees. As with movable do solfege, the notes are heard relative to an arbitrary tonic that varies from performance to performance, rather than to fixed frequencies, as on a xylophone.
The fine intonational differences between different instances of the same swara are sometimes called śruti. The three primary registers of Indian classical music are Mandra, Madhya and Tara. Since the octave location is not fixed, it is also possible to use provenances in mid-register (such as Madra-Madhya or Madhya-Tara) for certain ragas. A typical rendition of Hindustani raga involves two stages:
Dhrupad is a yet older style of singing, traditionally performed by male singers. It is performed with a tanpura and a Pakhawaj as instrumental accompaniments. The lyrics, which sometimes were in Sanskrit centuries ago, are presently often sung in Brajbhasha, a medieval form of Hindi that was spoken in the Mathura area. The Rudra Veena, an ancient string instrument, is used in instrumental music in the style of Dhrupad.
Dhrupad music is primarily devotional in theme and content. It contains recitals in praise of particular deities. Dhrupad compositions begin with a relatively long and acyclic Alap, where the syllables of the following mantra is recited:
"Om Anant tam Taran Tarini Twam Hari Om Narayan, Anant Hari Om Narayan".
Dhrupad was the main form of northern Indian classical music until two centuries ago, but has since then given way to the somewhat less austere, khyal, a more free-form style of singing. Since losing its main patrons among the royalty in Indian princely states, Dhrupad ran the risk of becoming extinct in the first half of the twentieth century. Fortunately, the efforts by a few proponents from the Dagar family have led to its revival and eventual popularization in India and in the West.
Some of the best known vocalists who sing in the Dhrupad style are the members of the Dagar lineage, including the late Senior Dagar brothers, i.e. Us. Nasir Moinuddin Dagar and Us. Nasir Aminuddin Dagar, the late Junior Dagar brothers, i.e. Us. Nasir Zahiruddin and Us. Nasir Faiyazuddin Dagar, Us. Wasifuddin Dagar, Us. Fariduddin Dagar, Us. Sayeeduddin Dagar. Other leading exponents include the Gundecha brothers (i.e. Ramakant and Umakant Gundecha), Dr. Ritwik Sanyal and Pt. Uday Bhawalkar, who have received training from some of the Dagars. Leading vocalists outside the Dagar lineage include the Mallik family.
Th importance of the Khayal's content is for the singer to depict, through music in the set raga, the emotional significance of the Khayal. The singer improvises and finds inspiration within the raga to depict the Khayal.
The origination of Khayal is controversial, yet it is accepted that this style was based on Dhrupad gayaki and influenced by Persian music. Many argue that Amir Khusrau created the style in the late 16th Century. This form was popularized by Mughal Emperor Hussain Shah Sharqi, an art connoisseur, through his court musician, Mohammad Shah. Other well-known composers of this period were Sadarang, Adarang, Manarang.
"Kaisku Marwa Jaayal Hamaraa
More darawa nayan ghar kan warahe,
Mohammad Shah ke Sadarangile,
Prem Piya la Chapate Apne,
Huntara Tana Mana Waarune"
- Mohammad ShahThis Khayal bandish in raga Bibhas was popularized by D.V. Paluskar. It is interesting how this bandish mentions three names; Mohammad Shah, Sadarang, and Prem Piya.
Later performers include Pt.Dattatreya Vishnu Paluskar, Faiyaz Khan, Pt.Vinayak Rao Patwardhan, Pt. Shankar Rao Vyas, Pt.Narain Rao Vyas,Pt.Balabhau Umdekar "Kundalguru" Ut.Nazakat Ali And Ut. Salamat Ali Khan, Pt.Eknath Sarolkar, Pt.Kashinath Pant Marathe, Ut.Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Smt. Kesarbai Kerkar, Mogubai Kurdikar, Krishnarao Shankar Pandit,Amir Khan, Pt. Gajananrao Joshi, Pt. Ram Marathe, Pt. Ratnakar Pai, Pt. Kumar Gandharva, Pt. Jitendra Abhisheki, Pt. A. Kanan,Pt. Basavaraj Rajaguru and Mallikarjun Mansur.
Some of the present day vocalists are Rashid Khan, Pandit Jasraj, Bhimsen Joshi, Gangubai Hangal, Pt. Yeshwantbua Joshi, Girija Devi, Kishori Amonkar, Satyasheel Deshpande, Ustad Iqbal Ahmad Khan, Dr. Ishwarchandra Karkare,Dr. Rajshekhar Mansur, Pt Ulhas Kashalkar, Pt. Arun Bhaduri, Malini Rajurkar, Pt. Ajoy Chakrabarty, Prabakar Karekar, Alka Deo Marulkar, Aslam Khan, Sanjeev Abhyankar, Shruti Sadolikar, Ashwini Bhide, Padma Talkwalker, Arati Ankalikar-Tikekar, Maya Motegaonkar, Ajay Pohankar, Chandrashekar Swami, Pt. Venkatesh Kumar, Mashkoor Ali Khan,Vidushi Subhra Guha,Pt. Parameshwar Hegde, Indrani Choudhury, Pandit Ganapathi Bhatt, Pt.Madhav Gudi, Bhawani Angiras, Smt. Shashwati Mandal Paul, Pandit Nagaraj Havaldar, Pt. Somanath Mardoor, Pt.Panchakshariswamy Mattigatti, Pt. Shivanand Patil, Sandipan Samajpati,Manjiri Asanare-Kelkar, Sanjeev Chimmalgi
A number of musical instruments are associated with Hindustani classical music. The veena, a string instrument, was traditionally regarded as the most important, but few play it today and it has largely been superseded by its cousins the sitar and the sarod, both of which owe their origin to Persian influences. Other plucked/struck string instruments include the surbahar, sursringar, santoor, and various versions of the slide guitar. Among bowed instruments, the sarangi, esraj (or dilruba) and violin are popular. The bansuri (bamboo flute), shehnai, harmonium, and samvadini are important wind instruments. In the percussion ensemble, the tabla and the pakhavaj are the most popular. Various other instruments (including the Bulbul tarang and the piano) have also been used in varying degrees.
Some representative performers (these lists are by no means comprehensive nor are intended to be):