As a fan of all of the arts (especially music, you should hear me rock out), I was approached by Amar Singha, who wanted to share his take on Indian Classical Music. (Fact: I LOVE classical music!). I will be completely honest, I know nothing about this subject, so this expertise is completely his.
About Amar Singha
Amar Singha is an Indian artist who has been working in the contemporary art world since 2013 and awarded in several times from international art galleries and organizations. He is one of those artists who not only define himself in painting rather his creative spirits forced him to work with several platforms of art such as photography, design, digital art and even blogging. To enjoy his paintings and other creativities, please visit his site here @ www.amarsingha.org or Follow him on Twitter here.
The Uniqueness of Indian Classical Music
By: Amar Singha
From the primitive era to our modern period, music has the widest impact in human life. According to my experience, I have not found anyone who does not love music. It has a splendid power to overcome our frustration of mind and soul moreover; it can change the certainly discomfited atmosphere into a pleasurable mood.
By this article, I am just intending to disclose a unique concept originated by the oldest Indian sages in regards to the figurative form of a musical tune. This idea even mutually related to the six seasons of Indian weather. I came across some of the most ancient mythological books of painting that deals with the grammatical aspects of art. In those books, the author clearly explains the role of Indian monks and yogis, behind the creation of a wonderful concept of figurativeness based on the Indian classical music.
There are many opinions concerning this actual conceptualization of those unknown monks, however, I haven’t found any clear documentary evidence regarding those unique ideas but it is clear that the concept is great and unique. By adopting this concept, great Indian singers and critiques have considered that it is quite possible to portray a specific visible figurative form of a musical rhythm that would be comparable or similar to a specified tune.
I too made a series of paintings by following the figurative concept of musical tunes, however, during the 16th century, miniature artists of India depicted world’s largest series of paintings that followed the figurative description of oldest sages. That series of paintings included more than 1500 paintings. It was the first time when Indian classical music converted into visible form and rhythms were alive on the canvas!
What was the concept?
In India, artists created a human-like figure of God by adopting the unique beliefs and imaginary descriptions of Hindu monks, which they clearly extended in mythological Vedic scriptures. After that, they thought, if it is possible to create a figure of God (which is non-visible matter), then why it would not possible to create a human-like model of musical tunes? We have experienced that music creates an impact in human body and mind. In modern medical science, music therapy is a well-known procedure for treatment.
Indian classical music is divided into six basic rhythms and thirty-six sub-rhythms, which consequently indicates the six seasons of Indian climate. Not only that, the creators of these rhythms, also described their unique feelings behind the creations. They discovered that each season creates a specific feeling in the human mind, and by following it, they created some rhythms, which are very near to that specific seasonal feeling. They also define the specific time of use of every rhythm, which they consider the perfect for that specific rhythm.
According to their definition:
Sree Raag (first rhythm) – perfect time – 5 pm to 8 pm.
Basanta Raag (second rhythm) perfect time – 9 am to 12 am.
Vairaba Raag (third rhythm) perfect time – 4 am to 6 am.
Magh Raag ( forth rhythm) perfect time – after 9 am.
Pancham Raag (fifth rhythm) time not found.
Nattanarayan Raag – no time mentioned, because this rhythm created for the battlefield.
I requested a few Indian singers for the time of Pancham Raag, however, they were not sanguine regarding the perfect time associated with the rhythm. Moreover, I haven’t found the time on that ancient book.
Here I need to clarify the inner thought of the figurative model of musical tunes. The above basic tunes are assumed as the male figure. Each basic tune recomposed and divided into six sub-rhythms based on that basic tune. Those sub-rhythms are imagined as the female figure and described as the wife of the male figure (basic tune). The basic musical tune performed as RAGA (male) and sub-rhythms were RAGINI (female). Here is an example. The first basic musical tune is Sree-Raga (male) and his wives (sub-rhythms) are respectively Malasree, Triveni, Gouri, Vupali, Barati, and Kalyani. Those musical tunes separately recomposed based on the primary tune Sree-Raga. RAGA means rhythm and RAGINI mean sub-rhythm.
However, then they designed a human-like figure with their imagination by keeping up the relation with a particular season and consequently artists were proficiently going to represent them on their canvas.
We are very easily able to understand behind the reason of this thought because we usually have felt that a specific time of a day creates a specific effect and mood in our body and mind. At the time of the sunrise is not similar to the time of high noon and our mind goes to change by following the time of a day. The author of those figurative concepts also specified the body color of each male and female figure based on the color of the specified season. An example, – the figurative representation (Basant Raga)of spring season carries the bright yellow body color. The body color of the figure of the fall-winter season(Sree-raga) is blue etc. The goal of such concepts was to represent the figurative forms of musical tunes in actual mood that conveys the harmony of the season and its sense.
The oldest Indian sages primarily motivated by the nature and its elements in the time of their each creation. When they were started thinking about the music, they got their primary concept of musical scales from the sound of animals and birds. It was the first time when they were started establishing the actual perfect scales of music. Before disclosing this unique discovery, here I would like to introduce with the terms of Indian musical scales.
The first scale performed as SA. It is the lowest scale and step by step from lower to upper is – RE, GA, MAA, PAA, DHA, NEE, and the most upper scale is again SA. Usually, the NEE is the highest scale but sometimes SA used as the highest scale depends on the composition. The oldest monks and yogis established those scales by following the sounds of animals and birds, –
SA came from the cry of the peacock;
RE came from the lowing of the bull;
GA came from the bleating of a goat;
MAA came from the call of the heron;
PAA came from the call of the cuckoo;
DHA came from the neighing of the horse, and
NEE came from the trumpeting of the elephant.
We have heard those sounds of animals or such usual sounds every day in our life, but a real music lover can identify the rhythms of nature, the song of nature, and the whisper of nature by their sensitive mind.
In the conclusion, I would like to share a historical truth related to the Indian classical music that occurred at the time of Mughal era. It’s not only the historical truth rather the hidden secret behind the Indian classical music and most of all, the power of music.
The Mughal Emperor Akbar was illiterate but he had an unbeatable inquisitiveness as well as he cherished talented persons and honored them to dedicate a position in his courtroom. There were nine talented creative persons made glorious the king’s court at that period of Emperor Akbar. From the bottom of his heart, he was a lifetime learner. He learned from them and proudly considered as “nine-jewels”. However, once a day, he revealed his curiosity concerning the figurative concept of music. In fact, he wanted to examine the secret reality behind the figurative concept, but he intensely announced that it is just a poetic imagination out of any reality. Therefore, he would not consider it as a significant or memorable creation of Indian monks and yogis.
Among the talented persons of the “nine jewels” named Tansen who was the all-time greatest singer answered that he could prove the reality behind every musical rhythm if Emperor kindly orders him to represent it. Perhaps Akbar was in joking mood therefore, he asked Tansen, “I’ll grant you a special honor if you ever able to prove the hidden reality associated with the musical rhythm. You have to present now the musical rhythm based on the rainy season during this hottest summer. I wish to observe how it works in summer”.
By following the demand, Tansen requested to Akbar to go along with him in an open place to start the demonstration. Committing with his request, Akbar came to an open field with his fellow members of the royal court and started observing the activities of Tansen. By taking a few moments to prepare him, Tansen started the Megh-Raga with his outstanding voice. At this point, I would like to clear the meaning of Megh-Raga. Megh indicates Cloud, suggesting mainly the rainy cloud and Raga means rhythm. So, the musical rhythm composed for the rainy season. It had been a wonderful situation, that after approximately one hour, Akbar along with the other members of the king’s court noticed that a few blackish rain clouds were gently overlaying the sky from the corner side of the west. Tansen was continuing with his closed eyes and completely immersed in his song also it was out of his knowledge what happening during that time in his surrounding nature. After a certain time, those blackish clouds entirely covered the sky and confirmed its presence by the gravely cloudy voice. Straggly cold winds were bearing the message for the emperor regarding the esoteric truth of this rhythm and suddenly rainwater jumped over the spacious grassland just like an adolescent girl. Akbar astonished to saw the revelation. Tansen stopped his song and started watching that amazing emotional expression of nature. Akbar manifested his gratitude to Tan Sen for the outstanding experience and proudly announced, – the world will be aware of your talent forever. People of that historical era believed Tan Sen is a blessed son of Saraswati, the goddess of art, education, and song.
Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to Drew Tolbert who kindly has given me the opportunity to write something about Indian music on his nice blog and as a painter, instead of my series of musical painting, I am happy to share in second time my musical experience with the awesome readers and music lovers of this blog.
Special thanks to Amar Singha for supplying this awesome post!
Thanks for reading,