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Music of India

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Music of India
A Lady Playing the Tanpura, ca. 1735.jpg
A Lady Playing the Tanpura, ca. 1735 (Rajasthan)
  • Classical
    • Carnatic
    • Hindustani
  • Folk
  • Thumri
  • Dadra
  • Ghazal
  • Qawwali
  • Chaiti
  • Kajri
  • Sufi
  • Bhangra
  • Filmi
  • Pop
  • Rock
    • Bangla
    • Raga
  • Blues
  • Jazz
  • Trance
Media and performance
Music awards
  • Filmfare Awards
  • Punjabi Music Awards
  • Sangeet Natak Akademi Award
Music festivals
  • Chennai Music Season
  • Dover Lane music festival
  • Tyagaraja Aradhana
  • Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana
Music media
  • Sruti
  • The Record Music Magazine
Nationalistic and patriotic songs
National anthem Jana Gana Mana
Other Vande Mataram
Regional music
  • Andaman and Nicobar Islands
  • Andhra Pradesh
  • Arunachal Pradesh
  • Assam
  • Bihar
  • Chhattisgarh
  • Goa
  • Gujarat
  • Haryana
  • Himachal Pradesh
  • Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh
  • Jharkhand
  • Karnataka
  • Kerala
  • Madhya Pradesh
  • Maharashtra
  • Manipur
  • Meghalaya
  • Mizoram
  • Nagaland
  • Odisha
  • Punjab
  • Rajasthan
  • Sikkim
  • Tamil Nadu
    • Ancient
  • Tripura
  • Uttar Pradesh
  • Uttarakhand
  • West Bengal
    • Bengali
    • Rabindra Sangeet

The music of India includes multiple varieties of folk, popular, pop, and classical music. India's classical music tradition, including Carnatic and Hindustani music, has a history spanning millennia and, developed over several eras, remains fundamental to the lives of Indians today as sources of religious inspiration, cultural expression and pure entertainment. India is made up of several dozen ethnic groups, speaking their own languages and dialects, having very distinct cultural traditions.

Classical music

The two main traditions of classical music have been Carnatic music, found predominantly in the peninsular regions and Hindustani music, found in the northern and central parts. While both traditions claim Vedic origin, history indicates that the two traditions diverged from a common musical root since c. 13th century. For more, see Indian classical music, Hindustani music and Carnatic music.

Hindustani music

Hindustani music is an Indian classical music tradition that took shape in northern India circa the 13th and 14th centuries AD from existing religious, folk, and theatrical performance practices. The practice of singing based on notes was popular even from the Vedic times where the hymns in Sama Veda, a sacred text, was sung as Samagana and not chanted. Developing a strong and diverse tradition over several centuries, it has contemporary traditions established primarily in India but also in Pakistan and Bangladesh. In contrast to Carnatic music, the other main Indian classical music tradition originating from the South, Hindustani music was not only influenced by ancient Hindu musical traditions, Vedic philosophy and native Indian sounds but also by the Persian performance practices of the Mughals.

Carnatic music

The present form of Carnatic music is based on historical developments that can be traced to the 15th - 16th centuries CE and thereafter. From the ancient Sanskrit works available, and the several epigraphical inscriptional evidences, the history of classical musical traditions can be traced back to about 2500 years.

Carnatic music is completely melodic, with improvised variations. The main emphasis is on vocal music; most compositions are written to be sung, and even when played on instruments, they are meant to be performed in a singing style (known as gāyaki). Like Hindustani music, Carnatic music rests on two main elements: rāga, the modes or melodic formulæ, and tāḷa, the rhythmic cycles.

Folk music


Bhavageete (literally 'devotional song') is a form of expressionist poetry and light music. Notable Bhavageete performers include P. Kalinga Rao, Mysore Ananthaswamy, C. Aswath, Shimoga Subbanna, Archana Udupa, Raju Ananthaswamy etc.


Bhangra is a form of dance-oriented folk music that has become a pop sensation in the United Kingdom and North America. The present musical style is derived from the traditional musical accompaniment to the folk dance of Punjab called by the same name, bhangra.


Lavani is a popular folk form of Maharashtra. Traditionally, the songs are sung by female artistes, but male artistes may occasionally sing Lavanis. The dance format associated with Lavani is known as Tamasha.


Dandiya is a form of dance-oriented folk music that has also been adapted for pop music worldwide. The present musical style is derived from the traditional musical accompaniment to the folk dance of Dandiya called by the same name, dandiya. (DANDIYA means small sticks and are used in place of swords to train and practice martial art in form of dance by tribal in interior Gujarat in India. it is believed to be in practice since the days when Lord Krishna migrated from Mathura to Dwaraka.)


Rajasthani has a very diverse cultural collection of musician castes, including Langas, Sapera, Bhopa, Jogi and Manganiyar. Rajasthan Diary quotes it as a soulful, full-throated music with Harmonious diversity. The haunting melody of Rajasthan evokes from a variety of delightfully primitive looking instruments. The stringed variety include the Sarangi, Rawanhattha, Kamayacha, Morsing and Ektara.Percussion instruments come in all shapes and sizes from the huge Nagaras and Dhols to the tiny Damrus. The Daf and Chang are a big favourite of the Holi (the festival of colours) revellers. Flutes and bagpipers come in local flavours such as Shehnai, Poongi, Algoza, Tarpi, Been and Bankia.

The essence of Rajasthani Music is derived from the creative symphony of string instruments, percussion instruments and wind instruments accompanied by melodious renditions of folk singers. It enjoys a respectable presence in bollywood(Indian Film Fratenity) Music as well.


The Bauls of Bengal were a mystical order of musicians in 18th, 19th and early 20th century India who played a form of music using a khamak, ektara and dotara. The word Baul comes from Sanskrit batul meaning divinely inspired insanity. They are a group of mystic minstrels. They are thought to have been influenced greatly by the Hindu tantric sect of the Kartabhajas as well as by Sufi sects. Bauls travel in search of the internal ideal, Maner Manush (Man of the Heart).

Rabindra Sangeet

A towering figure of Indian music was Rabindranath Tagore. Writing in Bengali, he created a library of over 2,000 songs now known by Bengalis as rabindra sangeet whose form is primarily influenced by Hindustani classical thumri style. Many singers in West Bengal proudly base their entire careers on the singing of Tagore musical masterpieces.


Qawwali is a Sufi form of devotional music based on the principles of Hindustani classical. It is performed with one or two lead singers, several chorus singers, harmonium, tabla, and dholak.

Pop music

The biggest form of Indian pop music is filmi, or songs from Indian musical films. The Film industry of India supported music by according reverence to classical music while utilizing the western orchestration to support Indian melodies. Music composers like C. Ramchandra, Salil Chowdhary, S.D. Burman, Vasant Desai, Shankar Jaikishan employed the principles of harmony while retaining classical and folk flavor. Reputed names in the domain of Indian classical music like Pt. Ravishankar, Ustad Vilayat Khan, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and Pt. Ramnarayan have also composed music for films. Independent pop acts such as Asha Bhosle, Alisha Chinai, Shaan, Madhushree, Shreya Ghoshal, Nihira Joshi, Kavita Krishnamurthy, Chinmayi Sripada, Sonu Nigam, Sukhwinder Singh, KK, Kunal Ganjawala, Sunidhi Chauhan, Alka Yagnik and rock bands like Indus Creed, Indian Ocean , and Euphoria exist and have gained mass appeal with the advent of cable music television.

Interaction with non-Indian music

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, rock and roll fusions with Indian music were well-known throughout Europe and North America. Ali Akbar Khan's 1955 performance in the United States was perhaps the beginning of this trend.

jazz pioneers such as John Coltrane—who recorded a composition entitled 'India' during the November 1961 sessions for his album Live At The Village Vanguard (the track was not released until 1963 on Coltrane's album Impressions)—also embraced this fusion. George Harrison (of the Beatles) played the sitar on the song "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" in 1965, which sparked interest from Shankar, who subsequently took Harrison as his apprentice. Jazz innovator Miles Davis recorded and performed with musicians like Khalil Balakrishna, Bihari Sharma, and Badal Roy in his post-1968 electric ensembles. Other Western artists like the Grateful Dead, Incredible String Band, the Rolling Stones, the Move and Traffic soon incorporated Indian influences and instruments, and added Indian performers.

Though the Indian music craze soon died down among mainstream audiences, diehard fans and immigrants continued the fusion. In the late 1980s, Indian-British artists fused Indian and Western traditions to make the Asian Underground.

In the new millennium, American hip-hop has featured Indian Filmi and Bhangra. Mainstream hip-hop artists have sampled songs from Bollywood movies and have collaborated with Indian artists. Examples include Timbaland's "Indian Flute", Erick Sermon and Redman's "React", Slum Village's "Disco", and Truth Hurts' hit song "Addictive", which sampled a Lata Mangeshkar song, and the Black Eyed Peas sampled Asha Bhosle's song "Yeh Mera Dil" in their hit single " Don't Phunk With My Heart". In 1997, the British band Cornershop paid tribute to Asha Bhosle with their song Brimful of Asha, which became an international hit. British-born Indian artist Panjabi MC also had a Bhangra hit in the U.S. with "Mundian To Bach Ke" which featured rapper Jay-Z. Asian Dub Foundation are not huge mainstream stars, but their politically-charged rap and punk rock influenced sound has a multi-racial audience in their native UK.

Rock & Metal music

The rock music "scene" in India is extremely small when compared to filmi or fusion music "scenes" but has of recent years come into its own, achieving a cult status of sorts. Rock music in India has its origins in 1960s and 70's when international stars such as The Beatles visited India and brought their music with them. These artistes' collaboration with Indian musicians such as Ravi Shankar and Zakir Hussain have led to the development of Raga Rock. However Indian Rock Bands began to gain prominence only much later, around the late 1980s. It was around this time that the rock band Indus Creed formerly known as The Rock Machine got itself noticed on the international stage with hits like Rock N Roll Renegade. Other bands quickly followed. As of now, the rock music scene in India is quietly growing day by day and gathering more support. With the introduction of MTV in the early 1990s, Indians began to be exposed to various forms of rock such as grunge and speed metal. This influence can be clearly seen in many Indian bands today. The cities of Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore have emerged as major melting pots for rock and metal enthusiasts. Some prominent bands include Parikrama, Pentagram, Thermal and a Quarter, Zero, Half step down, PRITHVI, and Nexus. The future looks encouraging thanks to entities such as DogmaTone Records, that are dedicated to promoting and supporting Indian Rock.

One of the most famous rock musicians in the world is the late Freddie Mercury of Queen. Born Farrokh Bomi Bulsara to Indian parents in Zanzibar, he was raised in Panchgani near Mumbai. Mercury was influenced early on by the Bollywood playback singer Lata Mangeshkar along with western influences such as Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon and The Beatles.

Film Music

India is the largest film producing country in the world. It produces around 1,000 films in 27 official languages. Every film must contain five to six songs which are based either on classical Indian music or light music. It also contains devotional songs. The Indian audience loves music from films. There are number of music recording studios based in different film cities of India in Mumbai, Kolkata,Delhi, Chennai and Noida Film City.

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