Ragapedia

Welcome to Ragapedia. Whether you're completely new to Indian music or just need a refresher, we've put together this brief overview of all things raga to help you feel at ease when you visit one of our concerts. 

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What is a Raga Music?

Raga music belongs to the world’s most evolved holistic and improvised classical vocal and instrumental music. In its simplest form, a raga is a composition of musical swaras (musical notes) with a sequence, form and structure that gives rise to a definitive personality and character just like a human being or spiritual entity. Every raga has distinctive serial notes for ascent (aroha) and decent (avroha) which determines the structure. The musical note that expresses the greatest character of the raga is called the jiva, or the soul of the raga. In the way that additional component notes relate to one another, creates a wave of passion or emotion. The degree of insistence or importance of a particular note through building of the raga gradually creates layers of emotions, and colour and bring the raga to life.

Where and how is Raga music performed?

Raga music is most commonly performed in small gatherings (bhaitaks) or concerts halls like the Barbican Centre in London, home to the Darbar Festival. Unlike an orchestra with a large number of musicians and a conductor, Indian classical musicians will sit cross legged on a small rostrum and perform their music. Typically, this small ensemble varies in size from 2 to 7 musicians. An important part of the performance is the venue in which the performance takes place, because the rostrum becomes a sacred space, which is why artists will traditionally touch the floor of the stage in reverence before they begin. Another vital part of the concert is the interaction between musicians and audience members throughout the concert, such as verbal and hand reactions, something shunned in western classical music. Today, the music is amplified to reach the audiences in theatres as the instruments themselves are very quiet.

What is Raga? More than a tune, more than melody

The lifeblood of all Indian classical music, whether Hindustani (North Indian) or Carnatic (South Indian), is the concept of raag (in English, spelt and pronounced 'raga'; after its Sanskrit form - although in modern North Indian languages...

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What is Rasa? The 'essence' or 'juice' - a flowing nectar of emotional experience

Rasa (also spelt ras) is the word for 'juice' in many Indian languages. In a musical sense its meaning is closer to the English words 'essence', 'flavour', or even 'self-luminosity'.

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What is Prahar? Time theory in Indian Classical Music

Apart from musical content and the esoteric concept of rasa ('juice, essence, flavour') Indian classical raags (melodic structures) are also assigned to particular times of day or night to maximise their emotional impact on the listener.

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Why do Indian musicians tune their instruments in front of the audience?

One famous story of an Indian musician tuning before his audience has now taken a permanent place in the annals of West-meets-Indian-music history:

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Indian Music Etiquette for Listeners: learn about the unspoken rules for audiences

As an ancient tradition, Indian classical music carries its own hereditary code of etiquette and, apart from the guidelines governing the master-disciple relationship (see Guru-Shishya-Parampara)...

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