Indian music, especially Indian classical music has its
roots in the state of Uttar pradesh. The history of music in Uttar Pradesh
is more or less equivalent to the entire history of Indian Music, as Uttar
Pradesh has been the centre of cultural, religious and political
activities for nearly 2000 years. The culture of the State reflects the
multi-faceted and multi-dimensional richness of Indian culture.
Situated between the two mighty rivers Ganga & Yamuna, this State was the land of the great sages and hermits. The singing of ancient hymns and mantras laid the basic tradition of unique and great music, which has blossomed into a musical tradition. Renowned as a centre of Indian classical music, Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh attracts students from all over the world and is one of the six great gharanas of tabla playing, with its own uniquely exuberant and powerful style.
THE MUSICAL JOURNEY
The age of the Great Guptas and Emperor Harsh Vardhan saw the pinnacle of music. It was during this period of time that the practice and theory of music evolved into an art and the famous 'Bharat Natya Shastra' was penned in Uttar Pradesh. This book continues to be the Bible of North Indian musicians.
The medieval age saw the emergence of two distinct strands of music. One was the court music, which found patronage in the Courts of Kings and Emperors and by other culturally inclined rich people. The second was the religious tradition emerging from the Bhakti Cult. The Court music throve in centres like Agra, Fatehpur-Sikri, Lucknow , Jaunpur, Varanasi, Ayodhya, Banda, Datiya and the Courts of the other local chieftains. The devotional music found roots and flowered in centres like Mathura, Vrindavan and Ayodhya.
Contribution of Amir Khusro
The early medieval history also saw the birth of famous writer and musician, Amir Khusro. He served in the courts of Slave Kings and Khaljis. He wrote innumerable books on music, which are now lost. He created a number of new raagas and started the tradition of 'Duhwali' in India. He has also been credited with the discovery of musical instruments like Tabla and Sitar. One of the most important features of the Indian music, 'Khayal' is also said to be the contribution of Amir Khusro.
Varanasi: The Ancient School Of Indian Classical Music
Musical tradition of Varanasi remains incomparable. Some of the greatest musicians of contemporary India were either born or were trained in this oldest living city of the world, which is associated with Lord Shiva. He is treated in Indian tradition as the king of all dances (Nataraj).
Allahabad: The Seat Of Music
Allahabad also became a famous institute of music in the 20th Century, with the setting up of 'Prayag Sangeet Samiti'. The Annual Music Conference of Allahabad, for very long time remained the flash point of the cultural activities in Uttar Pradesh. Among the artists of Allahabad, one of the most famous was Janaki Bai who is known in traditions as 'Chhappan Chhuri' based on legend that she was killed by an admirer who stabbed her 56 times, with a dagger.
The other prominent musicians of Allahabad have been internationally renowned. Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Raghu Nath Seth, Pandit Bhola Nath Bhat, Vishnu Khasalkar and B.N. Thakar, to name a few. The last two were disciples of the great musician, Pandit Vishnu Digambar.
Not only in classical but in light and folk music also, Uttar Pradesh is literally, a treasure house, with each and every district having unique music traditions. Rasia of Braj Region, Alha of Bundelkhand, Kajri of Allahabad and Mirzapur, Chaiti of Awadh Region, Hori of Mathura and Phag of eastern U.P. make Uttar Pradesh one of the richest State of India in terms of music. It will not be an exaggeration to say that the Hindustani Music of today is largely a contribution of Uttar Pradesh.
Rasiya exhibits the rich tradition of folk songs that is found in the Braj area. Rasiya songs describe the love of the divine couple, Radha and Lord Krishna. It is an inseparable part of the holi celebrations and all other festive occasions at Braj. The 'rasiya' is sung to the rhythm of huge drums, locally known as bump.
The Musical Accompaniments
The performances are marked by the strong singing and the beating of the nakkara drums (kettle drums). These drums are of two sizes and the musicians have their own method of controlling pitch. The larger drum is controlled by the application of a damp cloth to its head while the head of the smaller drum is heated over hot coals. Other instruments are the dholak drums, the harmonium, and cymbals while the sarangi (a string instrument) has been discontinued.