Indian Culture

Western choirs perform Carnatic music thanks to this music professor

ShareAmerica’s serious acquaintance with, and acceptance of, Indian classical music began in the late 1950s through musicians such as the sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, the sarod virtuoso Ali Akbar Khan and the tabla master, Alla Rakha. These artists belonged to the Hindustani school of Indian classical music. Eventually, musicians from the other school, Carnatic, toured America and Europe, and musicians and audiences in the West became familiar with both musical styles. The audiences weren’t always drawn from the elite: battalions of long-haired shabbily-attired hippies swayed and rocked and gyrated to Ravi Shankar’s dazzling performance at Woodstock in 1969. Familiarity brought out the differences between Western and Indian classical music. Indian music was monotonic, based on ragas, musical scales comprising specific notes, which the musician played, moving up (aarohana) and down (avarohana) the scale. Western music was polyphonic, based on harmony where …

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