The scope of music
At present music has many dimensions. Folk music, film music, popular music, light music [Bhajans, ghazzals, Qavvalis etc], regional music [rabindra Sangeet, Bhatiyali, music of northeastern India etc] and last but not the least classical music.
Classical and non-classical music:
There has been a debate over what classical music is and what non-classical music is. If we take the word meaning, the classical music is that music which is meant for classes and not for the masses. But this meaning does not present a clear picture of classical music. Generally, in the subcontinent, it is said that the music based upon the Raga is classical music. As the Raga is based on a set of rules which are well-defined in the Shastras, the music governed by certain set of rules may be called classical music. Others say that Ragas have a specific ethos of their own which make the music special. It is because of this spatiality of music created by the rendering of Raga, that the Raga music is supposed to be classical and all other music is considered to be non-classical.
Matanga's views on classical and non-classical music:
Some scholars suggest that the Marga and Desi described by Matanga in his work "Vriddesi" may be considered as classical and non-classical music respectively. Desi: belonging or pertaining to desa or country. It was the art music of the land. This is different from the folk music, which was current amongst the lower strata of society. Whereas marga sangita [music] was in conformity to strict lakshana [science, theory], desi sangita was in conformity to both lakshana and lakshya [practice]. The Vedic music of the present day represents the survival of marga sangita. The art music of the present times represents the cream of desi sangita and signifies the accumulated musical wisdom of centuries. That is why; it does not look fair to ignore the value of Desi Sangeet by denoting it as non-classical. In his subsequent discussion of the evolution of the concept of tala (the umbrella term for rhythmic/metric activity in Indian music), it looks that there has been a significant change in emphasis from early to later Sanskrit treatises: The contrast is striking: structural and suprastructural topics have vanished from the list, and in their place we see a number of concepts designed for the synchronization, control and perpetuation of the cycle, which has now become an implicit assumption of the system. The formal basis of the entire system has shifted from a set of complex modular formal structures to an integrated system designed to facilitate improvisation over a repeated rhythmic cycle. This is essentially the difference between marga and desi and between the prescribed forms of the ritual tradition and the great variety of regional patterns and procedures which began to be codified during the second half of the first millennium. While through most of its history the marga/desi distinction has meant something quite distinct from classical Vis a Vis folk or popular, there are signs that marga/desi has been reinterpreted in this century, semantically moving much closer to classical/non-classical. In a review of recent literature Carol Babiracki found that today "[marga]" sangit is often taken to mean the major, canonical, classical traditions, and desi sangit has come to mean all regional, localized village little traditions." In sum, the classical/non-classical dyad as used in India has a multiple intellectual lineage, incorporating colonial European alongside indigenous Indian modes of thought. Scholars have drawn from both sources evocative and useful meanings for their purposes, though as mentioned above it seems an impossible task to measure their relative importance as progenitors for the twentieth-century classicist discourse. My sense is that in South India, the frequency with which the terms marga and desi are used today in the sense of classical/non-classical is significantly less than in North India. This is a general feeling that there were nothing like classical and non-classical in the music circles before the medieval period. The music of the Durbars of various Navabs developed a special kind of music, full of romance and filled with the compositions which suited to the Navab concerned, created a different kind of music. It was not popular among the masses. In fact there was no access of common person to the Durbars and thus the masses remained far from this "Durbars" music. Later, the musicologists called "Classical" music the above assumption is supported by the book, "Bombay Hindi Film Songs".
The Censor Board considered traditional Indian music to be North Indian classical music, which in fact, was not widely popular, nor was it the music of the masses. According to Naushad Ali, a prominent film music composer, "Classical sangeet [music] has never been the art of the masses. It flourished in the glamorous courts of the Rajas, Maharajas and Nawabs. The common people, who had no access to the great durbars [courts], were never offered the opportunity of listening to classical music. They could not, therefore, acquire an appreciative ear for it. Thus it looks agreeable that the term "classical music" is the creation of modern musicologists as well as eminent artists of music.
The Hindustani and Karnatik music:
Likewise, the division of Hindustani and Karnataka music was also not visible in the ancient period. It was during the period of great Navabs that the above division cane into existence. As a matter of fact, the Mughal and other invaders who came from west Asia in the medieval era did not know Sanskrit language in which the lyrics of most of musical compositions was rendered. That is why, as they conquered the territory, the music to their liking was developed. As the south India remained unperturbed from this invasions, musicians there maintained the old tradition of Bhatia Sangeet or the devotional music. Clearly, the construction of a classicist discourse earlier this century, envisioning a basic separation of the world of music into classical and non-classical realms (the latter serving as a catch-all for a myriad of diverse traditions), served some vitally important roles. The definition of the venerable South Indian art music tradition known as Karnataka, a term containing semantic resonances of "ancient" and "southern," was updated and augmented, in the English language, as "classical" in a uniquely South Asian way music simultaneously sophisticated, systematic, ancient, and sacred. This definition, fusing European with indigenous Indian concepts, gave focus and impetus to the ultimately successful transplantation of Karnataka music from its former court and temple setting into an urban milieu (primarily the city of Madras/Chennai) where the public concert would become the primary occasion for performance. The classicist discourse came to play a vital role within the nationalist movement, presenting a vision (however mediated) of India's great ancient artistic traditions to contemporary Indians, effectively.
Countering colonial British claims of cultural superiority at a crucial time in the evolving nation's history Partly as a result of this classicist discourse, the Hindustani and Karnataka traditions are today revered as national treasures within India, and recognized and appreciated around the world. Yet we might slightly rephrase John Blacking's memorable "Must the majority be made 'unmusical' so that a few may become more 'musical'?" to ask if, in the process of emphasizing the pure classical-ness of Karnataka music, other forms of (perhaps quite intimately related) musical expression had to be made less so, if something conceptually approaching hermetically sealed spheres of musical practice had to be created in order to maximize the effectiveness of "classical" music within the context of the struggle for independence. In this respect, the dyadic discourse may have incurred costs as well as benefits, leading me to ask how its maintenance into the twenty-first century will serve scholars in their attempts to understand and describe South Indian cultural life. One might argue that the English-language dyad of classical/non-classical has become by 1898 a deeply entrenched, hegemonic, received terminology in South India, a point of departure from which people tend to begin processes of thought and analysis, rather than a carefully considered place of arrival reached after such processes. To the extent that we tend to use phrases like "classical music" without unpacking them or assume an either-or relationship between musical genres, our terminology may be steering us towards certain types of analytical insights and away from others. Specifically, it may inhibit insights with respect to mutual influences or "convection currents" flowing in multiple directions between the multitude of musical expressions (the perceived classical and non-classical) found in South India.
In the discourse which surrounds Karnataka music today in its official organs such as the Journal of the Music Academy of Madras, in newspaper reviews, in formal panel presentations, in informal discussion between rasikas (connoisseurs) a dyadic division of music into classical and non-classical is much in evidence. Classical music is conceived as "of the classes" or "reflective few" (a phrase somewhat ambivalently embraced by Robert Redfield and Milton Singer All the other musical styles falling under the non-classical label are conceived as "of the masses," Redfield's and Singer's "unreflective many."
Before further characterizing what I feel is a dominant trend, I'd like to take note of other currents within the discourse. The hierarchical implications of the classicist paradigm have been revisited, scrutinized, and attenuated by a succession of scholars of both North and South Indian music. Devoting a chapter to "borderlines" in his book Indian Music, B.C. Devavisualizes a continuum of genres "with more or less strict grammar" lying "between the two extremes of gradation." A 1977 paper on "country musicians" and their "city cousins" by Daniel Neuman (published in 1981) attenuates hierarchical implications by rotating the axis of a perceived performance continuum from the vertical to the horizontal Analyzing sociomusical exchange along a continuum from urban to rural, Neuman found the music at the rural or "folk" end to be as cultivated, sophisticated, or reflective as that on the "classical" end. In discussion after the panel at which his paper was presented, remarked that the music of the (rural) Manganiyars of Rajasthan was so close to art music that it was "difficult to make a distinction in other than social ways," and that it shattered his "neat distinctions of folk and classical, urban and rural." To Neuman's comments fellow panelist Nazir Jairazbhoy added: "When I first heard this kind of village music, I had to change all my preconceived notions about village music. It is very highly sophisticated." A report by Stuart Blackburn on an interdisciplinary symposium on South Indian performing arts also raises the issue that what perception we get in the concept of the "classical" is certainly sociological as well as intrinsic or formal: The most heated debate centered on the invidious distinction between 'folk' and 'classical' in the performing arts. Several speakers pointed out interactions, borrowings, and mutual influences between these supposedly separate traditions, although few were able to dispense with these labels altogether. Realizing that some distinction is useful we explored possible criteria for classification by posing a series of questions: Are there formal, intrinsic criteria for differentiating performing arts? Or, should we group them according to public perception of their social status? Further, Carol Babiracki has posited, tellingly, a parallelism between perceived separate genres of music and a very tangible separation of genres of scholarship. She argues that interaction between perceived classical and non-classical musics has been ignored.
Difference of opinions:
Different sets of scholars tend to study different musical forms from different perspectives and with different motivations. According to Babiracki,the dichotomy between great and little traditions in musical performance has found its counterpart in a "great-little dichotomy of musical scholarship."
Within the discussion on Karnataka music, there is a widely held belief that the most classical music is that in which the pure, unfettered play of sound is the focus of attention. P. Sambamurthy makes the following statement in his Dictionary of South Indian Music and Musicians regarding the primacy to be given to the musical element in performance: All musical compositions wherein music is the dominant factor and compositions which are primarily remembered and enjoyed for their musical setting come within the sphere of art music. Art music is also referred to as pure music. As opposed to this is applied music, wherein music is only applied or used for a specific purpose. Religious music, dance music, and operatic music come under applied music. Applied music does not imply that the quality of the music of these compositions is inferior. The term Art music is also sometimes used to signify all musical compositions that do not belong to the sphere of folk music ( any musicians and rasikas specifically caution that attention to the sahitya (text) of a song must be subsidiary to attention to the sounds. Making this point in an exhortative manner is musicologist Sandhyavandanam Srinivasa 28 / 1998 YEARBOOK FOR TRADITIONAL MUSIC. Rao, here speaking during the 1967 conference of the Madras Music Academy:
In all forms of high class music there should be a minimum of words and a maximum of music . This unfortunate trait of listening to sahitya [text] and trying to get food for literary thought even while listening to art music made the listeners unduly sahitya-conscious ... I appeal to all lovers of art to listen to raga and tala in music primarily and bestow only secondary thought to words while listening to their musical rendering. Examining the texts for their import should be a secondary study In contemporary South Indian, as distinct from North Indian, performance, a corpus of texted devotional compositions [kritis] forms the basis for both vocal and instrumental repertoire. Whether a concert features a vocalist or instrumentalist, rasikas in the audience will be aware of the texts of the compositions. Here it is note-worthy that the basic scale of Karnataka music and the Hindustani music are different, but when we come to folk music, this difference vanishes. The difference is that of language and accents. This difference is more climatic than of scales. That is why; the prominent music composer A. R. Rahman composes the same tune for Hindi as well as Tamil lyrics. Here I think I should present the viewpoint of one of my friends Rakesh Jain, who teaches English language at Lucknow University. This will show what is the general perception about the classical music. According to Rakesh Jain, "The term classical music is an illusive one. However, it simply means a strict compliance of the rules and regulations with regard to production of fine arts including music, literature, etc. Any divergence from these old rules (ragas) may be considered as being a disregard to classical music, but does that mean no new ragas have been "evolved" over a period of time? Orchestra is a form of presentation of notes and if it produces any music in strict compliance of ragas, why can't it be called a piece of classical music? Did any of the rules of classical music prohibit orchestra from playing / presenting of classical music? It is, however, possible some of the musical instruments that we make use of in orchestra were not available at that time and classical musicians did not give them the status of a musical instrument, for example, sitar has been in our country since long but guitar and Congo are inventions of modern times. Notwithstanding, music is music, be it orchestra that is producing it?"# Apparently, those who are not musicians or musicologists and simply appreciate music like Rakesh Jain, hold that the music based on Raga is classical and all other music can be put in some other category. But the point that new Ragas innovated by the finest performers of music of modern times should or should not come in the category of classical music. If our classical music has adapted itself to the new musical instruments and western instruments like guitar, Mandolian, harmonium, and other such examples have become an integral parts of our classical music, then why is it not possible to accept the popular music of the present era as classical music. All music which is composed on the basis of a set of recognised rules and is pleasant may by all means be called the classical music. There is no harm in it. This way, only we will expand the scope of our classical music and in the long run, it would benefit the world of our music. On the basis of the above study, it can be concluded that all music which is governed by a set of rules laid down by eminent artists and musicologists, supported by cultural traditions and recognised by musicians as well as by Rasikas or the learned appreciaters of music is classical music. It may or may not be based upon Ragas. As before the advent of Ragas themselves, the Shastra had existed and if hypothetically we assume that Ragas give way to another musical form in future, the Shastra will still remain. Hence, it is the Shastra, [theory] and not Raga or for that matter any singing form which is important. Thus any music based on Shastra, which abides by the rules set by shastra, is classical music.
Literature and music
Most of the vocal musical forms are woven around some poem or words arranged in meters giving a rhyming touch, thus giving a rhythmic-meter on which the musical notes or Swaras are decorated creating the melody. Some vocal musical forms are based upon meaningless words like Taranas. Although some musicians insist upon that Taranas have some meaningful inferences. Famous Tarana rendered by Ustad Ameerkhan Sahib composed in Raga Darbari Kanhada, is based upon some Soofi poetry. Likewise, some times, Sanskrit words are also inserted in Tarana. But broadly speaking, Taranas have no wordily meaning. They may have some abstract inferences, but the literature of Taranas is more or less based on meaningless words.
Taranas apart, vocal music is based upon a piece of literature. All vocal forms need words to be set in a musical pattern. Thus the vocal musical compositions have two components: 1. Dhatu [literature], and 2. Matu [melody]. That is why; it is said that music and literature have interdependence. In ancient times, when the writing scripts had not been developed, all literature had been based on poetry. These poetic works were sung some times by specifictrained singers and some times by masses. This way the literary works of great importance, were memorised by various persons and were orally transferred to the next generation. This transfer of literature and music from one generation to another, was called the oral tradition. Great epics like odyssey of Homer, Ramayana of Valmeeki, Mahabharata of Vyaas, were created in poetical forms so that they could be sung. The word lyric was derived from Greek musical instrument lyre, which was accompanied while these literary works were sung. In the Middle Ages also this trend continued. Literature used to be created in such a way that people could sing the same. Barah mMasa of Mallik Mohammed Jaysi, Heer Ranjha of Vaarik Shah etc are some of these examples. Soofi romanticist stories like "Laila Majnu" have been and are still sung by folk musicians of Indian as well as Pakistani side of Punjab. Movies have been made on the stories of Heer and Ranjha, Laila Majnu, etc. this shows that poetry when composed in music, attains more power. Thus the relation of literature and music is very old. From the Vedic period, till date, literature has been an important part of music. Bharata clarified it in the Natyashastra that music plays a very significant role in "Rasa Nishpatti" that is, creating Rasa or pleasure in the minds of Rasikas or audience.
This relation of music and literature was so strong that Geeta which was defined as melody in Sangeet Ratnakar was adapted in literature also. Today, many poets compose these geetas and Prageetas. In Urdu and Persian languages, most of the classics are written in poetic form or Shayiri. Ghazals of Ghalib or Meer Taki Meer are popular amongst the singers as well as listeners of so-called light-music till date. Many folk-theatrical forms like Nautanki of Uttarpradesh, Saang of Haryana, and Karyala of Himachalpradesh etc are filled with songs which are sung by specialist musicians. In Parsi theatre, dialogues were written in poetry so that they were easily remembered and there were many songs in the plays based on the Parsi theatre.
To wind up, it can be said beyond doubts whatsoever, that the fine arts , music and literature, have been intermingled. Music is supposed to enhance the effect of literature and literature provides the basis for the compositions of vocal forms of music. Hence, both of these arts are interdependent.
There has been a long debate amongst the musicians over the question whether the words [Matu] or the musical notes [Dhatu] is more important in a musical composition. Although in the lighter forms of music say, Bhajans, Ghazals etc, the words are more important yet in the music which is based upon the Raga, words do not have much significance. Then comes instrumental music. One may call it the music without words. But the Karnataka style of music may be an exception. In Karnataka music, it is the vocal forms like Kritis etc, which are played on the musical instruments too.
In contemporary South Indian, as distinct from North Indian, performance, a corpus of texted devotional compositions [kritis] forms the basis for both vocal and instrumental repertoire. Whether a concert features a vocalist or instrumentalist, rasikas in the audience will be aware of the texts of the compositions. What is being argued by Srinivasa Rao is not that instrumental concerts are superior to vocal concerts or that music without words is superior to music with words, but that the true initiate-connoisseur focuses more on the music than on the text. We can see the currency of this feeling among performing musicians as well, in statements by stalwarts such as the eminent vocalist Musiri Subramania Ayyar that listeners shouldn't "go overboard for sahitya" and violinist D. Venkataswamy Naidu that "It is true that sahitya in Karnataka music has a minor role which however cannot be said to be negligible"
A strong emphasis on the importance of direct contemplation of sound is certainly not at all surprising in the South Asian context, given the antiquity of the concept of nada and the centrality of sacred sound in the practice of yoga Further, this sentiment was certainly reinforced during the colonial period by the elevation of instrumental music in the nineteenth-century European imagination. At the same time, an irony presents itself when we consider this stream of thought alongside another equally venerable and valued one, in which Karnataka music is celebrated as a corpus of sacred sung poetry. As hymns to Hindu deities, the texts of the ubiquitous concert genre kriti are by definition of a devotional nature, and major composers of the tradition such as Tyagaraja have been canonized as saints. The felt need to downplay the bhakti (devotional) Hindu texts in concert performance creates what we might call a cognitive dissonance for some observers, such as Raghava R. Menon, who suggests that even in the Karnataka school where a great deal is made of the saintliness of its composers technical virtuosity is the chief preoccupation of the qualified student. The sad, despairing call of Tyagaraja, asking to be quenched of his thirst for [the Hindu deity] Rama becomes a frond of leaping Solemnity, syncopations and cross rhythms, masses of intricate Gamakas [ornaments] and exploding Arpeggios . It would seem that Hinduism did not want to use music without first sanitising it, making it all into Raga and Tala Vidya [knowledge of melody and rhythm] and offering it through the complex drill and format of the performance. So that even where a tradition almost exclusively of singing saints exists as in the Karnatak school where not a whisper of an earthly or a profane concern is allowed to enter music, it becomes difficult to experience the piety and the vision of Tyagaraja without having to fight your way through thickets of Swaraprastharas [manipulation of tones], through whole gaggles of grace and trills, through too much obscuring skill and craftsmanship. So that you have a situation in which even after the most exalted concert, the listener gets Bhakti only at second hand, slightly shopworn and tried on by too many customers
The diversity of opinion on this particular issue speaks to the complexity of the discourse on Karnataka music and the multiplicity of voices that have an interest in it. While with equal wit and passion Menon advocates close attention to the texts of Tyagaraja's kritis, many rasikas would clearly answer him that such attention properly moves the experience from the realm of classical concert music (kriti) to the category of kirtana or bhajana, devotional group singing. An implicit tension between substreams of the discourse also reflects, I think, the resituating of Karnataka music performance over the last century and the resultant synthesis of formerly separate performance traditions.
But twentieth century witnessed a drastic change as far as the instrumental music is concerned. Instrumental music or music without words, as some of us may call it, has got more and more prominent in the last century and this march is still continuing. Not a single factor can be held responsible for it. There are many aspects which led to this forward march of the instrumental music. Science and technology is one of them which will be discussed later. Here we would like to impress upon the fact that instrumental music has got an edge over the vocal music not only in the subcontinent but all over the globe. It has been a universal phenomenon. It is the tune [melody and harmony] which has got importance over the words. Even in the Raga music, the vocalists do not bother the meaning of the words they are singing. Neither does the Rasikas [audience] trouble their brains to look upon the meanings of the words sung by the vocalists. Their only preference looks to be the pleasant patterns of notes of the sweetest melodic value. In this era of the globalization, artists have to give their performances round the world. They have to encounter an audience which is multi-lingual, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. Therefore, words of one language may not be understood by the audience speaking a different language. That is why, in the performances beyond the subcontinent, instrumental music is getting popular.
In fact the scope of music is so intricate that it is very difficult to sum it up. We have seen that the classical music has so many dimensions. Film music, folk music, regional music, devotional music, tribal music etc are many kinds of musical permutations and combinations. Then these days, Indipop is also getting very popular. Pop music is the short form for the popular music. Now-a-days, so many experiments are being done on musical compositions and music itself that it has been very difficult to ascertain the scope of music. With the advent of the satellite channel of televisions and spreading of cable-TV-network, a kind of cultural invasion is being done upon us. Everybody in the subcontinent is getting influenced by this cultural invasion of the west. Indian subcontinent, having been affected by the colonial regime for hundreds of years, is more prone to such invasion. We in South Asia, have a general inclination towards the western culture. That is why; we have adapted many good as well as bad facets of the western culture. These days, our music is also getting affected by this invasion. We are going away from our own folk traditions and indiscriminately copying the west. Our rich folk music is in danger thanks to the globalization. On our festivals, disco music is played instead of the traditional music. Masses are forgetting the sweet melodies which for centuries echoed in our folk tradition. Music of the masses is fast-changing let alone the music for the classes that is the classical music. In the field of the classical music also, many new experiments have been taken up. These include the fusion of the Indian and the western music, orchestration, forming new musical groups to perform universally etc. these experiments has expanded the scope of our music. We can say that the music of the subcontinent has become the music of the world. Our artists are going in all parts of the world to give a performance. We are exchanging cultural tradition within ourselves through SAARC [south Asian association for regional cooperation] cultural exchange programme. In all, music-scenario in the subcontinent is fast-changing. Some of these changes are in the right direction. Some may be considered not so good. But it is a fact that we have to recognize these changes. We cannot deny them. That is why, it would be better for us to adapt these changes to the betterment of our music.