Dance in India is a rhythm. Eyes, faces, hands and feet move to varying moods, reflecting an idiom of the perfection of an ancient art.
India is the home of Bharatanatyam, once performed in temples by devdasis, and of Kathak, a testimony to the court of Lucknow and the pleasure-loving nawabs. Come watch the great care taken to express love and its manifold manifestations in the gestures of a Manipuri dancer. From Odissi to Kuchipudi to ballet and numerous folk dances, the Indian dance sequence weavers an intricate rhythm that is the philosophy of dance. In temples or in courts, from backyards to the great auditoria, Indian dance reflects an magnificent heritage, individually perfected by each dancer.
The major percussion instrument is the tabla, pakhawaj or mridangam played to an intricate beat by the artist's fingers. Other major instruments are the sitar and veena, stringed instruments, the harmonium, a keyboard instrument, and the tanpura - a stringed instrument used as a drone, the shehnai and nadaswaram are wind instruments used at weddings and associated with welcomes and joyous celebrations.
The excitement of the Bhangra from Punjab never ceases. The skirts of the women spinning to the Dandiya Rass flip-flap to the clack-clack of the sticks in their hands. Qawwalisingers clap their hands in time to the beat of the song. And the milk-maids look beseechingly as Krishna and Radha dance the Raas Lila.
The living arts of music and dance in India reflect the diverse cultures from which they have arisen: each is elaborate, improvised, yet formal and beautiful.
Indian music (Hindustani in the north and Carnatic in the south) has been evolving as part of India's culture for centuries. Aspects of musical from such as tonal intervals, harmonies and rhythmical patterns are the unique products of a wealth of musical traditions and influences; they are also very different from those familiar in the west. Much of the music recalls Indian fables and legends, as well as celebrating the seasonal rhythms of nature. Indian dancing, similarly unique and timeless, is also widely performed throughout the country, either at major festivals and recitals, or at the many cultural shows which are staged in hotels.
The classic Pakistani Qawwali music in its present form goes back to the 12th century, and the poet as well as composer Amir. But the qawwali music is perhaps even older. Qawwali, a sufi and religious music is closely connected to Islam. It is classic, but not in western meaning of the word. It is strictly built up in different stages. All with verse and chorus. The first stages activate the links with the living spiritual guides, the next with the departed saints and at last with God (Allah). It is believed that khayal form of music also originated from the qawwali style of singing.
The true rhythm of India lies in its folk music - the music of the masses. The extreme cultural diversity creates endless varieties of folk styles. Every event of life has a unique folk song associated with it - then be it festivals, advent of the new season, birth of a child, or day-to-day affairs like teasing one's loved one, admiring nature, etc. Music is an indispensable component of functions such as weddings, engagements, and births. There is a surfeit of songs for such occasions. The Indian folk music has today reached out to touch the hearts of masses across the globe with its melodious rhythm and endless energy.
Ghazal has its roots in classical Arabic poetry. Ghazal is an Arabic word which literally means talking to women. It grew from the Persian qasida, which verse form had come to Iran from Arabia around the 10th century A.D. The qasida was a eulogy written in praise of the emperor or his noblemen. The part of the qasida called tashbib got detached and developed in due course of time into the Ghazal. India has produced some of the exceptional talents in the field of ghazal singing like Begum Akhtar, Jagjit Singh, Pankaj Udhas etc.
The two fundamental elements of Hindustani classical music are raag and taal. Hindustani music is the music of North India, involving both Hindu and Muslim musicians. It is intimately associated with the north-Indian temple rituals and traces back its existence in the Shastras or ancient treaties in Sanskrit. The different forms of Hindustani music are - Dhrupad, Dhamar, Khayal, Tappa and Thumri.