Types of Musical Performances

A typical vocal performance

All Indian music aspires to the condition of vocal music. Usually when a singer takes stage he/she is accompanied by a harmonium or sarangi player, tabla player, and one or two tambura players. After the musicians have tuned their instruments, the tambouras will provide the drone and the singer will start the raga.

The most common style of singing is the kheyalstyle. The singer will begin which an alaap with introduces the raga but without stating all it's melodic composition. During the alaap the singer will slowly emphasise the main notes and will improvise in between. Once the introduction of the raga is complete the first full composition will start. Here the tabla will enter with a slow tempo introducing the tala. This part of the tabla is called the jhor (medium tempo). After this the tempo may get faster and the tala may change, the tabla player will now be playing a fast beated tala and is called the jhala (fast tempo) section of the raga. The performance will now focus more on technical achievement such as taans (runs) and gamaks (ornaments).

After the raga is finished the singer may indulge in some light classical music such as bhajans (hymns), dhuns (folk tunes), ghazals (romantic poetry) and other types of music. These usually vary moving quickly from combinations of jhor (medium tempo) to jhala (fast tempo). Usually in light classical music there is emphasis on the text of the music rather then the raga composition.

Dhrupad - Another style of Vocal Performance

This is another classical style of singing known as Dhrupad, which is rarely sung. This style pre-dates the khayal style. Here the vocalist is accompanied by a taboura and pakhawaj player instead of a tabla player. The alaap of the raga is usually long and the style focuses more on the nuances of the raga and less on technical feats.

Qawwali - Song of Sufism

This is another type of light classical music. They are usually sung in Urdu or Persian and is related to Sufism, which is a mystical school of Islam. The performance will usually consist of one or two main singers, a harmonium player, tabla and/or dholak players.

An Instrumental Performance

When a musician takes stage he or she will, the majority of the time, be joined by a tabla player. The only exception to this is if the raga is done in the Dhrupad style, here instruments such as the bin and surbahar will be played accompanied or unaccompanied by the pakhawaj. Most musicians will use the tamboura, but some sitar and sarod players will rely on their open strings to provide the drone. First the instruments will be tuned to suit their environment and the raga to be played. After this the introduction of the raga will start, the alaap. In instrumental music this is usually fairly long. It concentrates on building the base components of the raga note by note. Once the alaap is complete, the raga will move onto the medium beated tempo, jhor. As the tempo increases the raga will move onto the fast tempo, jhala. Usually sarod and sitar players will introduce the rhythmic phrases into the drone strings.

For a tabla player, once the alaap is complete, he/she will start the tala, slowly building it up stroke by stroke, inserting the main parts of the tala in. The jhor section of the raga will be where the tabla player will increase the amount of improvisation and use the base tala as a reference point. When ever a flight of improvisation is finished, the player will always return to the raga composition on the first stroke of the tala being played, called sam. The composition will grow faster and faster until the fast tempo is reached, jhala. This may be followed by a second jhala to finish the raga.