Raga and Tala in Indian music

Indian has long music history; Northern Indian music, in particular is over 2000 years old. It has been developed in temples and royal palaces. As a result, it is closely related to the Hindu religion. Improvisation plays a bug role in Indian music. Indian music has 2 basic component, which are RAGA (the melody) and TALA (the rhythm). There are over 350 talas and the irregularity in the the tala system may seem to be a challange to Western musicians. However, if we learn the basic composition of the tala, it is not hard to follow some Indian music by tapping along! Please click HERE to see 13 popular talas and their designated syllables. Let's listen to a tabla player explaining the basic of tala:

RAGA on the other hand represents melodies that carry different moods in Indian music. Indian music is full of microtones or quarter tones which makes it foreign to Western music listeners because we go by the definite 12 tones in our music.

The SITAR is a plucked stringed instrument commonly used in Indian music; it is like a guitar with 21, 22 or 23 strings. One of the most famous sitar player in history is Ravi Shankar (born 1920), who also brought sitar music to European countries. Let's lisetn to his performance.

The Tabla drum is also very important to Indian music. Let's hear a demonstration introduced by Ravi Shankar. You will start to notice how differently the Indian musicians feel rhythms. (For teachers, click to view an Indian Music Worksheet)

The Western world is inspired by Ravi Shankar's virtuostic playing. Perhaps his musical gene is in his blood; he has definitely passed his musicality onto his daughter. Miss Shankar has established a very successful singing career in the USA; we know her as Norah Jones. You may click HERE to hear a lullaby that's from her 2007 album "Note too late."