The culture of India is defined largely by its music. This is true of many countries, as music bears testimony to the lives, ideals, values and desires of the people that listen to it and produce it. Music has been used in worship for centuries, giving it more import and significance within the culture than many other aspects. India boasts a wide variety of styles in terms of their music. The following are some examples:

Classical Music
The Classical genre comprises Hindustani music and Carnatic music. Hindustani music can be dated back to about 1000 BCE (Before our Common Era) and was one of the first styles that involved singing to the music notes, rather than chanting the words. This style of music displays distinct Persian influences. The Carnatic music originated in the 1400’s of our Common Era (CE) and is completely melodic. The melody is sung vocally, but no words are used. This is about the rhythm and the melodic structure.

Folk Music
There are many categories of folk music.
Image of a Tanpura
The ethnic Indian instrument called the
Tanpura with a beautiful design

a) Bauls – this name comes from “batul”, a Sanskrit word that means ‘divinely inspired insanity’. The instruments used to create this sound are the khamak, ektara and dotara. Bauls is about finding the internal ideal, a rather spiritual and complex process.
b) Bhangra – this music was formed to celebrate the festival of the Sikhs and is more dynamic and fun in style. These lyrics usually incorporate history and political struggles.
c) Bhavageete – emotional poetry is accompanied by a light tune for a soft, but penetrative, effect.
d) Lavani – this remains one of the most popular forms of traditional music and combines the song with a dance. It is usually sung by women and drumming features in its structure as it is performed in a fast tempo.

Popular Music
The music that is played in Indian movies and Bollywood productions is the most popular, making up almost three quarters of the country’s total music sales. This trend began when classical styles of music were combined with a completely modern approach, making for a unique and interesting style that proved very popular amongst young and old alike. The stars in these films have fast become acclaimed celebrities, even in the western world.

It was in the 1970’s that musicians in the western world began to use influences from India to enhance their songs and melodies. While this became a sort of cult genre to a small group of fans, some of it was also popular amongst the more mainstream public. At this stage, it was dubbed “fusion” and was part of the mass rebellion against what had previously been considered to be normal and right.

Today, the world as a whole is characterised by a sort of internationality, where borders are blurred and nations have mingled. There are no longer “faraway lands” as technology continues to shrink the planet. It is in this way that Indian music has spread its reach to many different genres and continues to influence and be influenced by them.

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