Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Classical music vs Popular music



All the fine arts can be categorized in two groups. Namely, one, classical and two, folk arts or the arts of the masses. In this essay, we will discuss the art of music in its classical as well as the folk form.

Music is a fine art wherein, the medium of expression is the sound. However, not all sounds are used in music. Only musical sounds are permitted. In the terminology of music, the sounds that are considered musical are called 'tones' or 'naada'. These tones are expressed through musical notes. Names of these notes differ from place to place but in the present era, it is universally accepted that there are seven musical notes in one octave. These musical notes are the alphabet of music. We have just these notes to express ourselves musically. This is the reason, these notes are said to be so important. In the Indian subcontinent, the teachers as well as the scholars of music insist on the practice of these notes. This process of getting control over the musical notes is called 'Swara Saadhana'.

Before going deep into the technical issues, let me tell you that in the folk music, the art comes naturally and instinctively. The folk singers (excluding the professional ones) do not formally learn how to sing or how to take to 'swara saadhana'. In the countryside, people instinctively sing and dance to express their joy and other sentiments. This is the reason that we find folk songs for almost all the occasions. Be it marriage ceremony, occasion of birth of a baby, harvesting season, and what not; there are folk songs for every occasion? Festival songs, seasonal songs, songs associated with different rituals etc are passed on from one generation of folk singers to the one. Thus, the chain keeps on growing.

This is a fact that the origin of all other forms of music is our rich, vibrant and ever new folk tradition. The classical music, popular music, regional music, devotional music, theatrical music, movie songs, light music etc have been originated and evolved from the great ocean of the folk musical tradition. If we go through the first written references about Indian music (the Rigveda), we find that two streams of music have been mentioned there. 1. Aranyagaan and 2. Graamgeya Gaana. It is said that the first one represents the music that was sung by the tribes of the forest. These tribes were far from the urban life and therefore were not cultured enough to devise the rules of singing and dancing.

The second stream of music – 'the gramageya gaana' - was governed by a set of rules and hence it can be considered "nearer to the classical music".


Dimensions of music


Music is a multidimensional art form. In its origin, it comes directly in our instinct, stimulated by the natural surroundings as well as the specific stage of our cultural upgradation. Culture and civilization play a great role in the evolution of musical expressions. The more we develop culturally, the newer dimensions of music peep in. Hence, the music that was in its simplest form at the dawn of our civilization has now grown as if a big banyan tree, which has numerous roots and branches but is still, retains its originality. If we take note of the present era with regard to music, we find that there is a variety of musical forms. (Let us restrict the topic to the context of the Subcontinent for better studies). In India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal etc, we follow almost the same musical tradition. In the region, we have the popular music on one hand and the classical music on the other hand. In between, there are several give and takes, which, more often than not, go unattended.


Popular music


Generally, music that is popular amongst the masses can be called popular music. However, specifically, it is based upon those music Albums that are the most popular on the chart busters. These popularity ratings are given by the electronic media. Different TV networks, which have especially dedicated to the popular music, provide the weekly ratings for different Songs. These ratings are not very transparent and hence cannot be depended upon. However, these ratings contribute to the promotion of the Album and therefore influence and sometimes fabricate the taste of the audience. Thus, we can define the popular music as "the music which is composed keeping in view the taste of the masses; the rhythm and the beat in this music is such that one tends to dance with the music."

This music includes, the movie melodies, Indipop Albums, Disco music, Remakes of the previous Popular Albums etc. In this list of popular music, the folk music has no place. In fact, in due course of time, the folk and the traditional music has become outdated and hence is not the part of the modern popular music. Popular music, though, is said to be the music of the masses yet it is popular only in the youth of the urban localisations. Somehow, the countryside has gone with the music which is called the folk music. This is also true that as the electronic media has increased its penetration to the rural areas, the influence of the so-called popular music can be felt in the villages too. In short, the popular music has liberated itself from the folk music and has become a different form altogether.


Classical music


This discourse about the classical/nonclassical music is a new phenomenon to the music of the subcontinent. In fact, in the ancient as well as the medieval periods of the history of the music of the region, there has no such word as "classical or nonclassical". These words have ushered into our music from the Western musical fraternity. These days, the music that is governed by a strict set of rules and is based upon the one or the other Raga, is called the classical music. It is also called "Ragdari sangeet". This kind of music is targeted at a very thin audience which is appreciative of the classical music. There are different musical establishments which continuously endeavour to extend the audience base for the classical music but day by day, it is getting thinner.

There are other forms of music popular in the Subcontinent like the jazz music, the Rock music and other Western experiments with music but such forms too have not been able to find an encouraging audience base. Therefore, we can establish the fact beyond any doubts that the only musical form which has a strong audience base is the popular music. Popular music is called the pop music in its shorter forms. To attract more and more audience, the composers of pop music experiment with new ideas and come up with innovations. This results in newer musical forms like the Sufi Pop, the Indipop, the Arabian Pop, remake of the previously popular songs, Disco Bhangda, Disco Garba etc. These composers reproduce the folk music in a new manner and with new beats and rhythms. Punjabi Pop Star Daler Mahndi has reproduced many Punjabi songs in the so-called popular style of music. Garba, Daandya etc are some of other examples where the pop composers have presented "the old wine" in a new and attractive bottle. On the first observation, it looks that by the aforesaid experiments, the composers of the pop music are promoting the folk tradition of music but after a deep analysis we reach the conclusion that these experiments are destroying the sentiment and the ethos of the real folk songs. They are producing such music just for the sole purpose to make their compositions sellable. Thus, they wish to earn more and more out of the artificial or the synthesized kind of the folk music. Therefore, let us discourage such trends.