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The origins of Indian classical music can be found from the oldest of scriptures, part of the Hindu tradition dating back to 2000 BC. One of the four Hindu Vedas describes music at length. The two main streams of Indian classical music are North Indian classical music and Carnatic music from South India.
North Indian Classical music is predominantly more liberal than its south Indian counterpart. Carnatic music is similar to North Indian Classical music in that it is mostly improvised, but it is much more theoretical with stricter rules. It also emphasizes the expertise of the voice rather than of the instruments.
Indian classical music is Monophonic, and based around a single melody line. The performance of a composition, based melodically on one particular raga and rhythmically on one tala, begins with the performers coming out in a ritualized order -- drone instruments, then the soloist, then Accompaniment and percussionists. The musicians begin by tuning their instruments; this process often blends imperceptibly into the beginning of the music.
Players of the tabla, begin by tapping the edges with a hammer to make sure it is in tune with the soloist. Another common instrument is the string instrument tambura (sometimes also called tanpura), which is played at a steady tone (a drone) throughout the raga. This monotonous job traditionally falls to a student of the soloist.