Indian Music Traditions

Category: Performing Arts

Indian classical music is a genre of music rooted in ancient Indian texts. The basic elements of Indian classical music involves raga (melody) and tala (rhythm). Similar to Western classical music, the tonal system involves seven basic notes in ascending tonal order.

Indian Classical MusicMr Retnam popularised the use of bulbul tarang (a stringed instrument) in Indian classical music in Singapore. Source: Roots.sg.

There are two major traditions of Indian classical music. They are Carnatic music, a style associated with South India, and Hindustani music, a style associated with North India. It is unclear when the differentiation in the styles started, and the two traditions were considered distinct only during the 15th to 16th centuries.

Carnatic music is more structured while Hindustani music tends to focus on improvisation. Common Carnatic music instruments include veena (plucked string instrument), violin, flute and mridangam (two-sided drum), while common Hindustani music instruments include tabla (pair of drums), sarangi (bowed, short-necked string instrument), sitar (plucked stringed instrument), santoor (stringed instrument played with wooden mallets) and clarinet.

In Singapore, Carnatic music tends to be more widely practiced due to the demographic profile of the Indian community which comprises a sizable population of South Indians. Carnatic music is believed to have been performed in local temples as early as the 19th century although it was popularised through local radio stations during the 1950s and 1960s.

Today, Indian classical music is performed at temples and festivals, and staged during productions by professional and amateur groups. There are also schools that offer classes on Indian music and dance.


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