vocal tradition is especially strong in Indian music. It goes
without saying that the song is probably the most ancient form
of music. Vocal music occupies a considerable part of the Natya
One may argue that the Vedas, especially the Samaveda, is the
oldest musical text in India. It is true that the Samaveda is
written in a crude musical notation. However, it is probably more
appropriate for us to look at contemporary music.
Contemporary musical forms are built up from very well defined
structures. These structures such as a primary theme, a secondary
theme and other elements form a structured framework in which
a largely improvised system of music can work.
There are many genres, some old and some new. Dhrupad and dhammar
are some of the oldest in use today; they go back to the Mogul
era (circa 16th century). Equally old, but stylistically quite
different, is the tarana; this is based upon meaningless syllables.
More modern (by Indian standards) are the highly improvised kheyal,
dadra, and thumri. Another classical style is the tappa of Punjab.
Most of the classical songs of north India are devotional in nature,
but there are a few genre which are especially oriented toward
religion. Most notable is the bhajan, dhun or kirtan for Hindus,
the kawali (qawali) for Muslims, and the shabad for Sikhs.
Not all the music is serious, for there are also many popular
genres. The gazal is one style which is known for it rich poetic,
and romantic content. the Hindi geet is basically just a song.
Undoubtedly, the most popular is the film song.
There are also a few genres which are oriented specifically toward
musical education. The most notable example is the lakshan geet.
In this style the words of the song actually describe the rag
which is being performed. Another genre which is used for pedagogic
purposes is the swarmalika. This style uses the sargam of the
piece instead of words.
India also has a rich tradition of folk music. These will vary
from region to region.