Indian “Gitam”

Gitam” or vocal music of India (or anywhere in the world) is defined as the expression of inner feelings. It has always been a medium of expressing the traits of human mind like love and hatred, joy and sorrow, humor and wit, selfishness and devoted service and even feelings like hope and disappointment. But “Gitam” or vocal music in India had been a complex preposition as expertise in the same was attained after years of practice and dedication in the same field.

"Gitam" is defined as the expression of inner feelings. Image courtesy Flickr “Gitam” is defined as the expression of inner feelings. Image courtesy Flickr

There are many qualities and requirements associated with being a good singer of Indian music. The first and foremost quality is a melodious voice and an aptitude for music. Other qualities, as defined by Bharata, are as follows:

  • Susuara: Tonal element of voice should be good.
  • Sravak: Voice should not crack
  • Svaradhaneravan: Musical voice should be able to render several notes harmoniously.
  • Trisihemoshobhi: The voice should originate from the chest, throat and heart.
  • Madhura: It should be melodious.

There are scores of schools of music or “Gitam” popularly known as “Gharana” but two gharanas are predominant. One is Hindustani School of music and another is Carnatic School of Music. Theory of Indian music centers around the acoustic quality of the word ‘om’. As per ancient texts, sounds are created by either friction or without friction. The sound created by friction is called “Ahat Nad” or instrumental music and the sound created by non friction is the sound from the vocal chords called “Anahat Nad” or vocal music.

Theory of Indian music centers around the acoustic quality of the word 'om'. Image courtesy Flickr Theory of Indian music centers around the acoustic quality of the word ‘om’. Image courtesy Flickr

The “nad‘ or sound can be soft i.e. ‘komal‘ or brisk i.e ‘tibra‘. Note that each sound has seven vowels called ‘Saptak‘ which generally represents various sounds produced by animals and birds. For example Peacock cries in Shadaz (Sa), cow produces Rishav (re), goat bleats in Ghandhar (ga), the heron sounds in Madhyam (ma), cuckoo sings in Pancham (pa), horses neigh in Dhewat (dhe) and elephant screams in Nishadh (ni). The laya or pronunciation of these saptaks (Seven vowels) are generally done in feeble (mandra), intermediate (madhya) and continued (tar) swars.

These rendering of the seven vowels produces the desired effect of ragas sung in the Indian music. The mode of rendering differs from region to region which gave rise to different schools of musics or gharanas. Please note that the basic tenants of music remained the same whether being sung in different regions of India. What differed was the mode of rendering only.

Also note that these schools of musics/Gharanas were greatly affected by the civilizations. Hindustani School of music is an ideal combination of Aryan institution and Muslim intervention. Whereas Carnatic school of music is a beautiful synthesis of Aryan and Dravidian civilization. Thus it can be said with complete confidence that despite of the outer differences there is an element of unity in these schools of “Gitam”.

Author: Resham Virk

Resham virk has served as a Captain in the Indian army for 5 years and has explored the best parts of India while in the Army. Daughter and wife of an Army officer, her tryst with Indian cultures and heritage is still not complete. She has been part of the retail industry as the Inventory controller of Walmart India stores but presently she is a full time homemaker satiating her desire to explore new things, places and to pen down so as to share.

Comments

  1. Amazing facts about Indian music, thanks for sharing it. Please do write about Santoor instrument, one of my favorite instrument.

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