India is a vast and diverse country with a rich heritage of history and culture. Indian
people belong to different kinds of religions and castes. Each tradition has its history
of sacred beliefs, social customs, political changes, and conquests. Because of its
history, location, and creed, the country attains plenty of traditional and cultural
activities. The various food and spices, the varied attire of different cultures, an array
of languages, and several dance forms of different states, and tribes.
Among all of these is the rich tradition of the Indian classical music of the Indian
subcontinent. Indian classical music can be found across all corners of the world but
has originated in South Asia. Classical music can be traced back to the sacred Vedic
scriptures, which are over 6,000 years ago when chants formed a system of rhythmic
cycles and musical notes.
In this way, Indian classical music is closely bound to nature. It takes inspiration from
natural phenomena, including the seasons and times of the day, to create ‘ragas’ or
musical moods and many time cycles or ‘taals’ that further branch out to different
The compositions are riveted, but most of the music is improvised within the structure
of math and notes. This gives the music spontaneous freedom, ensuring that each artist
and every performance is entirely unique.
There are two distinct traditions, geographically divided into North and South India.
They have similar roots and concepts, but their articulation is contrasted in a beautiful
manner, for which many different instruments are used.
Indian classical music is generally passed on in an oral tradition. The student spends
many years with their ‘Guru’, developing an extraordinary, spiritual relationship,
grasping all aspects of the music and the philosophical and moral principles that shape
them for life.
Indian classical music can now be learned in many institutions and has been well
documented and jotted down, but learning through observation, listening and memory
is still of paramount importance. Connecting with an experienced teacher is
considered the most fruitful way of learning.
Indian music has been popularized by Indian classical musicians and vocalists all
across the globe. They have enriched the world of music and allured the audiences
with their masterful artistry. Their fervent performance has comforted many hearts.
Bollywood songs that are featured in Bollywood films are derived from the
song-and-dance routine. Bollywood songs, along with dance, are a characteristic motif
of Hindi cinema, giving it enduring popularity, cultural value, and context. Hindi film
songs form a predominant part of Indian pop music and are inspired by both classical
and modern sources. Hindi films usually contain plenty of songs coupled with a few
dance routines; they are not similar to musicals in Western theatre. The
music-song-dance aspect is an integral attribute of the genre, much like the plot,
dialogues, and other parameters. Modern Bollywood songs increasingly comprise
elements of the Hinglish language, while Urdu poetry has also had a particularly
strong influence on Bollywood songs, in which the lyrics are largely based on Urdu
poetry and the Ghazal tradition. Additionally, Punjabi is also often used for
Bollywood films and songs.
How amazing would it be if traditional Indian classical instruments can be paired with
new-age music? What happens when musicians and hobbyists address Indian classical
instruments and sounds? Here are seven such talented individuals who are giving it
their unique touch on global platforms and social media platforms. Here’s who you
should tune in to, too!
- Varun Rana
Varun Rana – a Sitar star, is a passionate sitarist and a fashion commentator. When
Rana was four, he irked his parents to buy him a sitar. Since the lockdown, he began
playing short riffs on the sitar. Creating classical contemporary, Rana is not limiting
himself just to ragas. Instead, he started trying out Bollywood numbers on it.
Sometimes, he plays over a piece of background music, making his Insta live a
new-age yet nostalgic jam session.
- Ali Safi
The first Afghan member/artist of San Diego Symphony Master Chorale, Ali Safi, is
an uber driver and audio engineer who practices opera with the harmonium. At the age
of eight, at his home in Afghanistan, Safi picked up the harmonium, and today he
practices opera with it. While learning opera a few years ago, Safi once practiced his
operatic scales on the harmonium. He then realized that this was the best creative base
for a few hours of improvisation.
- Kamakshi Khanna
Singer-songwriter, Kamakshi Khanna, also creates Hindustani classical riyaaz. An
hour-long riyaaz that the RnB and Blues musician, Khanna, learned from her Indian
classical trainer is what she has gone back to during lockdown. Every Sunday at noon,
she comes live on Insta for it. You can even practice this on the keyboard. But so far,
nothing has helped Khanna develop to control the way this exercise has. It’s a basic
yet complex exercise that’s beyond genres – in case you haven’t tried it out yet, give it
- Bhrigu Sahni
Singer-songwriter and guitarist Bhrigu Sahni, also jams with the tanpura. Since Sahni
doesn’t own or have access to a tanpura, he has improvised by taking on his guitar
over a tanpura background during his once-a-week Insta live session. Bhrigu hones
the tunes of his guitar in harmony with the melody of the tanpura, that he will be
working with that day. This modern-day improvisation practice session helps build a
structure and foundation irrespective of the genre you prefer.
- Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt
Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt is a disciple of the sitar maestro – Pt. Ravi Shankar.
Bhatt’s knowledge of music originated from Tanse – a court musician of the Mughal
emperor Akbar, and his spiritual guru – Swami Haridas. Bhatt has blended the chords of the west and classical music as a Grammy award winner, uniquely putting himself and the Indian classical music on a global stage. Bhatt created the Mohan Veena – an Indianized Western Hawaiian guitar. This instrument is an assimilation of the techniques of a sitar, the veena, and the sarod. This hybrid slide guitar was added to the list of classical Indian instruments. One of the greatest slide players in the world, Bhatt has attracted a lot of international light with his unique invention of Mohan Veena, which included reshaping and reshaping the guitar. Bhatt has performed extensively in various countries like Great Britain, the US, Spain, Canada, Germany, Italy, France, Belgium, Netherlands, and Scotland, among 80 countries and 500 cities worldwide.
- Pandit Ronu Majumdar
Taught under the influence of great figures like his father Dr. Bhanu Majumdar, and
his grand guru Pt. Ravi Shankar, Majumdar acquired profound education and training
in flute playing. He originates from the Maihar Gharana.
A pro flutist – Pt. Ronu Majumdar is a global figure when it comes to the instrument
of the flute. Nominated for the Grammy award, Majumdar has composed and
performed for the Hollywood film ‘Primary Colours’ and has collaborated with top
artists like John Hassles, George Harrison and Indian masters like Pt. Bhimsen Joshi,
Pt. Ravi Shankar, Kishori Amonkar, and Pt. Jasraj. Playing traditional chords, Majumdar has also performed with guitarists Larry Coryell and Ry Cooder, transcending his melodies between eras. Majumdar has brought the bansuri or the Indian flute to a global platform and has been felicitated globally with several awards and prizes. He has further enveloped the world with his soulful tunes while also imparting his unique set of skills to lead his Sadhana School of Music in Chicago, USA.
- Ustad Nishat Khan
The renowned and prominent, leading sitar player Ustad Nishat Khan is a master
when it comes to rendering the chords of his instrument. Khan began playing at the
tender age of seven and comes from one of the most famous families of musicians in
northern India, whose musical culture dates back seven generations. Khan’s style is a
distinctive mix of Indian and contemporary styles. He plays to the inherited tunes of
heritage musicals and combines them with genres such as Western Classical music,
flamenco, jazz, and Gregorian chants. A classical musician with a contemporary style, Khan, has also performed at Indian film festivals and at major international venues, including the Lincoln Centre, Carnegie Hall in New York, and the Royal Albert Hall in London.
Indian Classical music is an art form composed of tunes, traditions, and history. Indian
Classical music is deep-rooted in Indian culture. Few have mastered the art of
blending tradition with modern music, extending the genre of music, and offering us
more creative tunes to listen to!