Indian communities in Kenya: brief histories and sonic samples

Peoples of Indian descent have been present in East Africa for a very long time. Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama encountered Indian merchants on the African coast in the late 15th century, and even managed to hire a Gujarati-speaking sailor in Malindi – part of modern-day Kenya – to help him continue his journey onwardsContinue reading “Indian communities in Kenya: brief histories and sonic samples”

Tappa music: romantic outbursts of the Punjabi camel riders

All music seeks in some way to summon feelings of forward motion and momentum. But the tappa genre, derived from the folk songs of Punjabi camel riders, does this in a more literally than most – vocalists ‘jolt’ and ‘bounce’ their way through its twisting melodies, as if still sitting on the animals themselves. Here,Continue reading “Tappa music: romantic outbursts of the Punjabi camel riders”

Subcontinental sampling: Indian sounds in hip-hop, disco, and beyond

India’s traditional instruments are famed for their vivid, captivating textures. Unsurprisingly, open-minded beatmakers from around the world have long been turning to the Subcontinent in their search for new sounds.  Despite being a pretty regular occurrence nowadays (laptop production has created a wide world of sonic overlaps…), stumbling across instances of this always feels somehowContinue reading “Subcontinental sampling: Indian sounds in hip-hop, disco, and beyond”

Marathi folk traditions: Abhang, Natya Sangeet, Lavani, Gondhala, and more

Maharashtra has long been known for innovative, pioneering musicians. One of the Subcontinent’s largest and most populous states, it features wide, rolling desert plains and vast cities, including Gwalior, a musical hub, Pune, a centre of education, and Mumbai, home to Bollywood. Notably, the region has produced some of Indian classical’s most esteemed modern vocalists, spanningContinue reading “Marathi folk traditions: Abhang, Natya Sangeet, Lavani, Gondhala, and more”

Bharatanatyam: the graceful, empathetic dance tradition of South India

Bharatanatyam has a very long history. Thought to be India’s oldest surviving form of classical dance, it originated in the temples of Tamil Nadu, taking aesthetic root from Sanskrit philosophies including as the 2,000-year-old Natya Shastra. Bharatanatyam is deeply entwined with Hindu myth – dances are often spiritually focused, exploring the lives of Hindu gods includingContinue reading “Bharatanatyam: the graceful, empathetic dance tradition of South India”

Versatile vibrations: how the tabla can mimic anything

The tabla is unquestionably one the world’s most versatile percussion instruments. Like the classical dance traditions it has been associated with for centuries, it blends abstract mathematical tension with the immediate, childlike joys of quick movements, conjuring an amazing array of visceral sound textures in this mission.  Juxtapositions like these have a long history inContinue reading “Versatile vibrations: how the tabla can mimic anything”

Indian classical ‘protest music’: snapshots from the North and South

All music is an inherent reflection of its circumstances, shaped through the routines, beliefs, and lives of those who create it. Indian classical is no different – while undoubtedly a contemplative, meditative art form, it never exists in isolation, and cannot help but respond to its changing contexts. Classical artists often speak of inspiring compassionContinue reading “Indian classical ‘protest music’: snapshots from the North and South”

Why do so many Indian classical musicians love playing board games?

Sarod pioneer Ustad Ali Akbar Khan famously turned to board game metaphors when teaching students his own Raag Chandranandan: “The ascending and descending are fixed, but in more [in] a curved way…like the game shatranj [an ancient form of chess], you can go in so many ways. The raga you have to play like that…but in the endContinue reading “Why do so many Indian classical musicians love playing board games?”

Tales of the tabla: The Mughal Emperor and the Red Fort Kayda

It is fabled that the great tabla masters of the past could summon divine powers through their drums, captivating even the birds and beasts with their sonic ingenuity. According to one famous tale, the Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar (1775-1862) once summoned the finest tabla players from across his kingdom to his palace at Delhi’s Lāl Qila (the ‘RedContinue reading “Tales of the tabla: The Mughal Emperor and the Red Fort Kayda”

Heresy or progress? Electrified instruments in Indian classical music

Indian classical music is often described as an ‘all-acoustic’ tradition. This designation is somewhat vague – while the pre-electrical era was definitely an all-acoustic time, virtually all of today’s ‘acoustic’ instruments arrive to audiences through microphones and powered amplification systems. This, in turn, feeds back into the choices and intuitions of musicians as they takeContinue reading “Heresy or progress? Electrified instruments in Indian classical music”