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Music of India


North Indian classical music is built on melodies which are varied by improvisation [Improvisation: The creation of a musical passage by a musician whilst it is being performed. ].

The end of an improvisation is shown by playing a tihai. A tihai is a short phrase played three times, often across the beat, before it lands on sam, the first beat of the cycle.

The length of a piece is not worked out beforehand. Some concerts are very long and all night concerts are popular in India.

A typical raga performance starts out in a calm mood, gradually getting more exciting as the tempo and rhythmic complexity increase. The opening section is known as the alap.

The alap:

  • is a slow introductory section which helps to set the mood
  • has a free rhythm with no regular pulse
  • is unaccompanied apart from the drone
  • usually moves from the lower notes to the higher notes
  • gradually gets faster

The alap is followed by the gat. A gat is a fixed composition which is often varied by adding improvised decoration.

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