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Gurmat Sangeet


GURMAT SANGIT or sacred music of the Sikhs. The founder of the Sikh religion, Guru Nanak (1469-1539), composed his religious verse to settings of Indian rdgas mostly from the classical tradition. Successive Gurus fol-lowed his example and considered divine worship through music the best means of attaining that state which results in commun-ion with God. Religious music is that musical expression which is appropriate to and pre-
sented as a definite part of a formal service of worship. Devotional music may have reli-gious texts, but is performed primarily by individuals usually in secular surroundings. Also it need not fulfil the requirements of religious music in form and structure. Kirtans, bhajans, sufidnd kaldm and qawwdtt na'at, among others, are examples of devotional music. Vedic chant, Quranic chant, the litur-gy and hymns of the Christian churches and the sabda kirtan of the Sikhs are examples of religious music. A unique feature of much of the Sikh music lies in the fact that the texts therein present the teachings of the Gurus and a large number were composed simulta-neously with the music. This dignified ex-pression of faith comes out in its full impact in the gurdwdrd where its import and mes-sage may be fully realized by a devoted ad-herent to the faith. Even those who have no knowledge of the Sikh religion are impressed with the fresh and vital sounds of this music. Retention of the purity of form in perfor-mance as set down by the Gurus more than 400 years ago makes possible this remark-able impact today.
While the Gurmat sangitwas proba-bly influenced by devotional styles prevalent during the 15th and 16th centuries in north-western India, its main cliaracteristics came from Indian classical music. The history of the classical idiom can be traced back to 1500 BC to the Vedic chant and its concep-tion of the effect of the combined sound of music and the text on the individual. Vedic rites used singing accompanied by dancing and instruments to express the meaning of the verses. The "sound" was as important in certain ceremonies as the meaning of the word. In the Rgiveda, only two or three differ-ent pitches were intoned. For the later Sdmaveda, a fixed descending scale of five, six, or seven notes was the basis for samgdyana, the musical aspect of Vedic chant. However, another sort of music developed from the materials of the samgdyana sometime around
600-500 BC known as marga. This art of music contained a system of new melodies and rhythms. Seven suddha (pure or unaltered tones) jails formed the basis of this style and these jails can be looked upon as the first rdgas.
Knowledge of the historical develop-ment of classical music may be derived in part from a succession of Sanskrit treatises, each describing the musical practice of the particular time in which its author lived. One of the earliest is the Ndradasiksd, dat-ing from the first century AD which serves as a bridge between Vedic chant and early art music. These early treatises document how very old the classical music system is. Probably one of the most complete author-ities and one that is frequently referred to in modern times is Bharata Muni's Ndtyasdstra, a study of dramaturgy in which music, dance and drama are treated as a single major art form. The date of its com-position is controversial, but is usually placed somewhere between 200 BC and AD 200. Other texts beginning with Panini (cir-ca 500 BC) and extending to the king Harsavardhana (AD 589-647) continue to support the use of the three arts together for court and temple performances.
For melodic purpose the Ndtyasdstra gives seven jdti rdgas and three gramas (scales): sadja, madhyama and gandhdra, with the option of producing more jails by over-lapping of the scales. The system included all the twenty-two srutis. Time measure (tala) and drumming are discussed and three speeds are described. Of the instruments given, the vmd types seem to be the most prominent but the vmd was not as highly developed as that in use today. Dhruvas (songs) were of seven types and these were described in relation to the part of the drama where used.
Matarigas's Brhaddesn (AD 400-600) seems to be the first writing actually to use the term "rdga" and Narda's Pancama-Sara-Samhitd
(circa AD 600-900) is the first to call subordi-nate rdgas "rdgims." The main rdgas of Narda's work are: Sri, Vasanta, Mdlava, Malldra, Hindola and Karndta. Somesvara in his Abhildsgdthd-Chintdmani (AD 1131) describes the concept of rasa (mood) and includes performance times from the six seasons of the Indian year for the rdgas.
Mesarkarna in his Rdgamald (1509) des-ignates the parent rdgas as: Bhairav, Mdlkauns, Hindola, Dipaka, Sri and Megha. This classifi-cation corresponds in most respects with the one found in Rdgamald at the end of the Guru Granth Sahib. Pundarika (1595) has four volumes to his credit and in these works he gives the performance time for each rdga. His classification uses 19 thdts (parent rdgas). He also discusses the picturization of rdgas, an idea exemplified in the rdgamdid paint-ings of the Punjab hills and other places. Muhammad Raza Khan in Naghmdt-i-Asafi (1813) rejects the rdga-rdgim system and sim-ply groups rdgas according to tonal relation-ship but still retains the term "rdgim". His suddha scale is Raga Bilaval of the ancient Mukhari. Bilaval has remained the standard scale for North Indian classical music since his time.
These scholars were mainly concerned with the theoretical development of the clas-sical idiom. The actual performance of Indi-an music was strongly influenced by other factors. By the year 1,000 music had gradual-ly become separated from dance and San-skrit drama. The growth of regional languag-es was one of the main causes of the decline of Sanskrit. Few people understood the an-cient language and its prdkrit.
Foreign invasions brought about new de-velopments in Indian music. The Arabs came to North India as early as AD 710 when Muhammad bin Qasim crossed through Baluchistan. The Arabs had been fired by Prophet Muhammad (569-632) to spread their religion all over the then civilized world. By the time of the establishment of early
Delhi Sultanate in 1206, the impact of Islam-ic music had become distinctly noticeable. Sometimes Persian naghmds were combined with Indian rdgas to make new rdgas. Persian was the language of the court, and music was based on Persian poetry with its poetic metre and romantic texts. Moreover, another musi-cal influence came from the Islamic lands with the Sufis. About 100 years after the death of the Prophet, Islamic religion split into sects, some adhering strictly to the Prophet's teachings, while others like the Sufis pre-ferred other types of religious expression. The Chishti Sufis believed that man could best reach God-consciousness through the use of devotional poetry set to music for meditation. The Sufis spread all over the Middle East, congregating in those places where they might find another Sufi saint. Towards the close of the 12th century, Hazrat Khwaja Mu'in ud-Din Chishti with a group of his followers came to Ajmer in Rajasthan. At his shrine devotees still gather to honour the saint and celebrate his 'Urs (anniversary of death)-with qawwdh singing. From the 14th to the 17th century, the Sufis estab-lished a chain of monasteries in Rajasthan, Punjab and parts ofUttar Pradesh. Qawwali Na'at, a Muslim religious music, developed during this period and was well known in the time of Guru Nanak.
Foreign musical systems did not change the structure of Indian classical music. Even though men like Amir Khusrau created new rdgas with Persian names, the larger part of the material used for these was of Indian origin and the form too was Indian. The Emperor Akbar (1556-1605), a liberal pa-tron of the arts, collected both Indian and Persian musicians at his court. The 16th cen-tury thus became a period of unusual flower-ing of the art of music and the famous Tansen at the Emperor's court still remains one of the most celebrated Indian musicians in his-tory.
The availability of support for the arts
has a definite effect on their quality, prolifer-ation and development. Historically, patron-age for the arts came mainly from royal courts and temples. Music, a divine art, has always been a part of temple worship. Temple mu-sicians as well as concert artists perform in the classical idiom for festival celebrations. These concerts may be held in temple mandapams and courtyards within the temple complex. In South India some rulers donat-ed liberally for the support of temple music rather than maintain numerous musicians at court on a permanent basis. Some temples with long programmes of services in such areas as Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa did not allow temple musicians to perform at the court.
The musical programmes of northern re-gional courts tended to follow the pattern set by the imperial court of Akbar, but on a less elaborate scale. With the decline of Mughal rule in the 18th century, hundreds of musicians left Delhi to join those regional courts where the rulers were patrons of music. Considerable rivalry existed between these courts to secure the best musicians. A large court might have as many as 300 performers on call and the music department was in the charge of a superintendent who arranged all the court music for social and ceremonial occasions. Some rulers wanted music sound-ing continuously from very early morning until late in the evening.
During the 19th century ghardnds devel-oped in several court towns. Famous musi-cians attracted students from far and near and thus a sort of school of music with em-phasis on certain aspects of performance was created. Among the best known of the Indi-an courts that patronized music were Jaipur, Rampur, Patiala, Hyderabad, Mysore, Gwalior and Baroda only to name a few. The smaller states in the Punjab hills were vulnerable to frequent attack and few of these chiefs had time to cultivate the arts on a large scale. However, several of the smaller courts pa-
tronized painting and picturization of the moods of the different rdgas.
With the advent of Independence, sup-port for the arts underwent a complete change. Immediately following the withdraw-al of the British the princely rulers had to hand over their territories to the State, thus losing the income these provided. During the early 1950's these former rulers were left only with their privy purses and a few other privileges, and in most cases they were not sufficient to maintain the elaborate musical programmes which had been the custom in the past. Within a few years' span, hundreds of musicians all over India were suddenly left without any means of support. All-India Ra-dio did a phenomenal piece of work in quick-ly setting up the machinery for auditioning and training the court musicians to fit the time schedules of broadcasting. Concerts paid for from public subscriptions were orga-nized by social groups in cities and towns to collect funds for destitute artists as for other causes. Musical evenings in the homes of wealthy professional and business people provided other income for favourite classical musicians. Temple music had to face also the problem of paucity of funds, because the largest contributions had earlier come from the princes.
Today musicians teach and perform on a freelance basis both for religious occasions and classical concerts. A growing interest in the classical idiom brings many students, al-though few are willing to practise the long hours that the former guru-sisya system demanded. Those few who are able to manoeuvre Western concert tours usually do well.
The bases of Indian classical music are rdga (melodic measure) and tola (rhythmic metre). A rdga is a group of notes derived originally from Vedic hymns and folk and tribal melodies and arranged in the asccnd-ing-descending order as a scale. A rdga rep-resents much more than a simple scale, be-
cause its origin is melodic and the individual notes have specific types of approach in as-cent and descent. The distinguishing melod-ic phrases and characteristic figures are a fundamental part of the total rdga structure. Two rdgas might have the same basic tones, but the melodic phrases might differ along with mood and performance style.
Great care has been exercised in the past centuries as well as in modern times with regard to the preservation of exact pitch relationship between the tones of any established rdga. The belief exists that this relationship must be precise practically to the exact number of vibrations in order to produce the mood ascribed to a given rdga. The performance-time theory is a result of these pitch relationships and the powers re-putedly indicated for specific rdgas are pos-sible only when a careful shaping of melod-ic sequences is present. A recent experi-ment investigating brain waves with elec-tronic equipment showed that vibrations resulting from the subject listening to seri-ous music w^ere of the same type as those occurring when the subject was practising yogic meditation. The Indian musicologi-cal theory of the past, still adhered to by the purists today, claims that the ultimate effect of a rdga performance can only be obtained when every detail of the rdga has been properly presented.
The standard scale for Indian music con-tains seven tones, viz. Sa-Sadja; Re-Rsabha;
Ga-Gandhara; Ma-Madhayma; Pa-Panchama;
Dha-Dhaivata; Ni-Nisada; and Sa-Sadja, etc. in a higher pitch. Sa is the tonic or funda-mental tone which is the basic note for the drone accompaniment. When a tamburd is used, the four strings are tuned to three Sa's and one Pa. However, for some rdgas, per-formers prefer that Ni replace one Sa. Other notes which figure largely in composition are vddi and samvddi. The vddi is a central focal point in rdga phrases and the samvddi'is the next most frequently heard tone. The location of the vddis within the scale may have some significance in the performance-time theory.
Tala, the rhythmic organization of beats, is based on the cyclic principle. Just as the world movement by day and night is based on a 24-hour cycle of the earth rotating around its axis, so does Indian music main-tain its rhythmic movement by time cycles which may be of long or short duration. Tin tala, one of the most popular, has 16 beats divided into four groups, 4+4+4+4; dddrd tala has six beats with two groups of three beats each. However, groups within a tala are not always even. Jhaptala has ten beats grouped 2+3+2+3. Primary and secondary accents with-in the tala should fall upon important notes of the rdga. Therefore, strong and light beats have significance for the soloist.
For fin tola:
"1-2-3-4 52-6-7-8 9°-10-11-12 133-14-15-16
The heavy accent falls on the sam or first beat of the cycle, followed by three light beats. Beat 5 receives a secondary accent followed by three light beats. Beat 9 is unac-cented as is the whole group, 9, 10, 11, 12. Beat 13 again is a secondary accent followed by 3 light beats arriving with a heavy accent on the sam. The heavy accent on the first beat of a cycle is highly significant for impro-visation where the soloist must time his phras-es so that the end falls on the sam. The khali serves as a warning that the sam is coming and the soloist should prepare his composi-tion so that his phrases coincide with the framework of the tala. The iabid or pakhdvaj vddak has means for elaborating his part of the composition when time is given for this. Tala compositions are based on designed subdivisions of the beat with repeatable pat-terns as part of the design. Tans or short rhythmic figures played at fast tempo form a part of virtuoso drumming which has a num-ber of fixed compositions for solo performance. When following a soloist, the
drummer guides his playing to match and complement what the soloist is performing. He may enhance the artistic result but may not detract from it by trying to overshadow the melodic meaning of the composition. Most great artists, when accompanied by an exceptionally good drummer, give him a chance to display his own capabilities at some point in the performance.
Drumming is learned through a system of mnemonics called bols or drum syllables. These indicate the fingers to be used, the place on the drumhead where the stroke should fall and whether the stroke is light or heavy. When playing the tabid (pair of drums), the right hand index finger (for right-hand drum) is used for Na, Tha, Dha, Nuh, and Tin; the right-hand middle finger for Ti, Ta, Te, Dha. Combination ^^representing both hands (one for each drum) begin with Dha. Drumming involves an elaborate and precise system; these items are small illustrations. Not all elements are given in the bols because some sounds cannot be recited quickly enough. Also certain bols always follow cer-tain other bols. All this is understood only by those who practise the art of drumming un-der the guidance of a competent teacher.
The ever-sounding drone of Indian clas-sical music is important both musically and philosophically. Some people consider the drone as symbolic of the primordial sound of the universe, ndda, from which all other sounds have emanated. When Pythagoras (c. 582-507 BC) experimented with a monochord, he proved that all tones could be produced from one primary-tone by stop-ping a single string at different points. How-ever, this fact was known to the Indians long before the time of Pythagoras. In more re-cent times, Helmholtz (1821-1894) demon-strated the same principle with his overtone series.
The performing musician must be con-stantly aware of the drone or sa or sadaj tone because this is the note against which he
measures all other pitches so that completely accurate intonation of the rdga tones is achieved. Each singer may place sa where most comfortable for his voice, which is some-where in the neighbourhood of the Western middle C. The pitch level for instrumental-ists is about the same.
Classical compositions have a formal or-ganization which begins with aldp, or exposi-tion of the rdga. Each tone of the rdga is shown with its proper approach beginning with the lower tetrachord of the octave and continuing with the upper four notes. Then small figures from the melodic phrases be-gin to appear and all of this is without drums. As more complete phrases are introduced, the soloist adds the rhythm by strumming on an accompanying instrument (vocal) or the chikdri strings of the solo instrument. In a vocal composition this slow opening section is called vilambit (includes aldp); for an in-strumental piece aldp, jon, jhalld. In concert performance, the skill and understanding of the artist are revealed in the treatment and development of the aldp.

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