Types of Music in India – A One-Stop Guide for All Music Lovers

Ever wondered about the types of music in India? India is a country rich in culture, diversity and of course – music. Indian music has been around for centuries, and today it still draws thousands of people from all over the world. It encompasses many different genres such as Hindustani classical, Carnatic classical, Sufi, Qawwali, Bhajan, Ghazal, Filmi and more.

No matter what kind of music you’re interested in, it’s likely that there is something in the Indian musical tradition for you to explore. Hindustani classical music has a long history and is widely accepted as one of the oldest forms of North Indian classical music. It is a genre that is based on improvisation and expression, and its melody relies heavily on the modal system of Indian classical music.

Carnatic Classical Music is another form of North Indian classical music which has been around for many centuries. This genre is known for its melodic beauty, intricate improvisations, complex rhythmic patterns and rich tonal qualities. It is often said to be the foundation of Indian classical music and has been passed down through generations.

Sufi music, or Sufiana qawwali, is a form of devotional music that originated in India during the 13th century. The genre is based on Islamic teachings, and it can be very moving and inspirational. Qawwalis are usually performed in large gatherings, and they often feature a lead singer and chorus of backing vocalists that sing in a call-and-response format.

Bhajans originate from the Hindu religious tradition. These songs are usually sung in praise of gods or goddesses, and their melodies are often based on Indian ragas. Bhajans are often performed in temples, and they can also be used as a form of spiritual meditation.

Ghazals are another type of Indian music which draws influence from both the Hindu and Islamic religious traditions. Ghazals are typically composed of poetic verses set to a melody that is repeated throughout the song. This genre is often romantic and soulful, and it has become one of the most popular forms of Indian music in recent years.

Also Read: Best dancers in India in 2022

Filmi music is a style that draws influence from both North and South Indian classical music. This genre was created for use in Bollywood films and has become an important part of India’s musical culture. Filmi songs usually feature a catchy and upbeat tune, with vocals that are often sung in a mixture of Hindi and English.

No matter what type of music you’re interested in exploring, India has something for everyone. From the ancient roots of Hindustani Classical Music to the modern sounds of Filmi music, there is no shortage of music to discover. Whether you’re a music lover or simply an explorer of cultures, the diversity and beauty of Indian music has something to offer. So why not take a dive into the types of music in India, and find out what all the fuss is about?


History of Music in India

Indian Music History


India is a nation with a long and storied history of music, stretching back centuries. Throughout its diverse regions and cultures, music has played an integral role in the lives of people. From ancient Vedic hymns to modern-day Bollywood hits, Indian music has evolved over time to become one of the country’s most beloved cultural traditions.

The Vedic period saw the emergence of various ragas that were used for religious chants and rituals. These ragas were based on a combination of seven notes and focused heavily on improvisation. As time went on, more complex forms of music developed such as dhrupad, khyal, and tappa. This evolved into the Hindustani and Carnatic classical styles, both of which are still popular today.

The influence of folk music is also evident in Indian music, with various regions having their own unique styles. This includes the Sufi-inspired Qawwali music from North India, Baul songs from Bengal, Lavani dance numbers from Maharashtra and many more.

Today, with the rise of Bollywood films, Indian music has become even more popular and accessible to a global audience. Pop songs are often infused with traditional instrumentation and styles, making for an exciting blend of old and new sounds. In addition, there is a vibrant indie music scene that is home to some amazing artists who draw upon a variety of genres and influences.

No matter where it comes from, music in India is an integral part of the country’s culture and identity. Whether its classical ragas, folk songs or Bollywood hits, Indian music has been captivating audiences for generations – and will continue to do so for many more to come!

Classical Music

Some of the more commonly known types of music in India are the classical music type. Indian classical music is an ancient musical tradition that has been passed down through the ages. It is known for its use of intricate rhythm, scales and modal scales. This style of music is built on improvisation and performance within certain structures. The melodic patterns are often complex and have a spiritual quality to them which can be very soothing to the listener.

Indian classical music is also heavily influenced by the various religions of India and its culture. The ragas (melodic patterns) used in this style of music often have different meanings which can be interpreted differently depending on the context. Indian classical music has become increasingly popular around the world due to its intricate rhythms and spiritual qualities. It is a beautiful art form which can be enjoyed by all.

Indian classical music is a tradition that has been preserved and celebrated for centuries. It reflects the spirit of Indian culture, bringing people together in peace and harmony. The different ragas used have a profound effect on the mind and body, creating an atmosphere of relaxation and peace.

Today, Indian classical music has become an integral part of many cultures around the world, offering a unique listening experience and providing solace to those who seek it. Whether you are looking for something to enrich your mind or just want to unwind after a long day, Indian classical music is sure to provide comfort and relaxation.

1. Hindustani Music

Hindustani classical music is a rich and diverse art form, with its complex melodies, intricate rhythms, and compelling improvisations. It is characterized by the use of ragas (melodic frameworks) and talas (rhythmic cycles) that are intertwined together to create an exquisite musical tapestry. Each raga has its own unique character, evoking different emotions and moods. Musicians often use improvisation to create imaginative variations on a raga, allowing them to express their own creativity within the framework of the tradition.

The core instrument used in Hindustani classical music is the fretless lute-like instrument called the sitar. The sitar is known for its distinctive sound, with its resonant strings and intricate sympathetic strings which resonate alongside the main melody. Other instruments commonly used in Hindustani music include the tabla (a two-headed barrel drum), tanpura (drone instrument), sarangi (bowed stringed instrument), and harmonium (keyboard).

Hindustani classical music has been an important part of the cultural heritage of northern India for centuries. It has also influenced a wide variety of genres, including film soundtracks, contemporary fusion music, and popular Bollywood songs. Today, Hindustani classical music continues to capture people’s imaginations and inspire them to explore its beautiful nuances.

2. Carnatic Music

Carnatic music is known for its intricate rhythmic patterns and complex melodic solos. It has a rich and diverse history that dates back centuries, to the earliest forms of Indian music. Carnatic music is said to be the foundation of all modern forms of Indian classical music. Instruments commonly used in Carnatic music include veena, tambura, mridangam, violin, and ghatam.

Carnatic music is known for its strong emotional content and special emphasis on improvisation. The raga (melodic form) system forms the basis of Carnatic music’s melodic structure and provides a structural framework for composition and improvisation. In addition to raga-based compositions, the Carnatic repertoire includes krithis (songs), javalis (light songs), varnams (compositions that combine raga and tala), tillanas (rhythmic pieces), mangala vākhyas (auspicious stanzas) and ashtapadis (verses composed in a particular raga).

Carnatic music is typically learned by memorizing and attending classes or performances. In the traditional method, a student listens to their teacher sing or play an intricate piece of music, and then attempts to imitate it. Students also practice improvisation with guidance from their teacher. Today, there are many Carnatic music schools and courses offered online, allowing for more accessible learning.

The beauty of Carnatic music lies in its ability to evoke powerful emotions and provide a unique form of musical expression. It has become a source of great joy and inspiration for many people in India and around the world, making it one of the most beloved forms of music.

Folk Music

Indian folk music is steeped in a rich cultural history, and its sound has been shaped by thousands of years of tradition, and is another one of the types of music in India. From the streets of Mumbai to the rural villages of Madhya Pradesh, Indian folk music can be heard everywhere – and it’s just as vibrant and varied as the country itself. Featuring captivating rhythms and soulful melodies, it serves as an expression of life’s joys, struggles and stories.

The music is often passed down through generations, lending each performance a unique flavor that speaks to its roots. Whether you’re at a crowded concert hall or in the backstreets of an ancient town, Indian folk music is sure to move your soul and transport you to another world. So, let the music take you on a journey – you never know what stories might unfold.​

1. Bhavageethe – Karnataka, Maharashtra

Bhaavageete or Bhavageeth is an important part of Indian culture, as it has been around for centuries. This form of music emerged in the 17th century and continues to captivate listeners today.

As a genre, Bhaavageet differs from other forms of poetry and pop music because its lyrics are mostly written and composed in Kannada, a language native to the Karnataka region of India. This gives Bhaavageete a unique cultural identity and sound.

The majority of Bhaavageet songs are romantic ballads, but some also feature themes from Hindu mythology, nature, or philosophy. These lyrics often take on an introspective quality, as they delve into complex emotions and ideas.

While most Bhaavageete songs are accompanied by basic instruments like the harmonium, tabla, and strings, some modern performers incorporate synthesizers and other electronic elements to give their music a more contemporary feel.

2. Bhangra and Giddha – Punjab

Bhangra is an exuberant and enthusiastic music and dance style originating from the state of Punjab. Of all the types of music in India, the music associated with this tradition and culture, is best known worldwide.

Combining fast-paced beats that are typically accompanied by loud percussion instruments, Bhangra has become a popular style around the world for its intense energy and captivating moves. Giddha on the other hand, is a more traditional folk-based music and dance that has been around since the 16th century.

It is a joyful, lively dance style usually performed in as group and featuring intricate hand movements and energetic footwork. Both of these traditional dances are often showcased during weddings and other important celebrations, ensuring that each event is filled with joy and energy. With their contagious enthusiasm, Bhangra and Giddha are sure to create a lively and vibrant atmosphere no matter where they are performed.

3. Dandiya – Gujrat

Another one of the types of music in India is Dandiya music. Dandiya music is an integral part of traditional Gujarati culture and is played with two sticks called dandiyas. While the men play the rhythm on a drum, the women dance in circles to the upbeat tempo of popular folk songs like “Garba”, “Sarangi”, and “Jhanjarana”. Dancers move in a clockwise direction, completing intricate steps and hand movements to the beat.

The exuberant performance of Dandiya is accompanied by laughter, joyous shouts, and occasional showers of rose petals or marigold flowers. This vibrant dance form symbolizes the spirit of Navratri celebrations and is sure to bring an extra splash of colour to any special occasion. So, put on your dancing shoes and join in the fun of Dandiya Raas!

4. Jhumair and Domkach – Nagpur

Jhumair and Domkach are two of the most popular forms of Nagpuri folk music. This unique genre of music is filled with vibrancy, energy and passion. It has been passed down through generations in the region and continues to captivate audiences today. The traditional instruments used in this type of music include dhols, mandars, bansis, nagaras, dhaks, shehnai, khartals and narsingas.

Each instrument has its own distinct sound and when combined with the singing of the performers creates a musical experience that is truly unforgettable. Jhumair and Domkach folk music is sure to bring joy and life to any event. Let the syncopated beats, intricate rhythms and soulful melodies of these forms of music take you on a journey filled with delight.

The Nagpuri folk songs are often full of stories that tell about life in rural India, about love and longing, joys and sorrows, tragedy and triumph. The passionate voices of these talented singers evoke strong emotions in the listeners and make them feel connected to their roots. As the music of Jhumair and Domkach flows through the air, let it transport you back in time to a place where tradition is celebrated and culture is alive. Be sure to add these beautiful types of music in India to your next event for a truly unique and memorable experience.

5. Lavani – Maharashtra

Lavani has grown to be one of Maharashtra’s most renowned folk art forms. With its lively beats and captivating lyrics, this musical form is known to evoke the hidden emotions of listeners. The traditional Lavani songs depict stories from rural life, often with a humorous touch.

The popular Lavani dancers are considered showstoppers in the entertainment industry. They flaunt their graceful moves and colorful costumes to create an experience that is both mesmerizing and joyous. Lavani songs are usually accompanied by vigorous hand-clapping, twirls and acrobatics adding a dynamic flavor to the performance.

The upbeat music of Lavani has enthralled audiences for centuries now, and continues to be a source of entertainment and joy for all. There is no doubt that this vibrant folk art will continue to bring smiles to the faces of many for years to come!

6. Sufi Music

Sufi music is a genre of spiritual music that has its roots in the devotional practices of Sufi Islam. It draws heavily on both Islamic religious sources and traditional folk music, creating a unique blend of sound and lyricism that speaks to the soul.

From the mesmerizing rhythms of qawwali – the best-known form of Sufi music – to the soulful melodies of ayin, a vocal and instrumental piece set to the Sema ceremony of whirling dervishes, and the hypnotic grooves of West African gnawa, Sufi music has captivated listeners across continents for centuries.

Whether you’re looking for devotional pieces or simply an entrancing listening experience, Sufi music has something to offer everyone. Step into a mystical world and explore the beauty of this timeless sonic tradition!

7. Sufi Folk Rock Music

Sufi folk rock is a unique and captivating blend of traditional Sufi music with modern rock elements, and a more recent addition to the ever-growing list of the types of music in India. It has become increasingly popular in the last two decades, due to its ability to effortlessly combine contemporary sounds with ancient melodies.

The combination of guitars, drums and percussion alongside devotional chants creates an uplifting atmosphere that can transport listeners to a tranquil and spiritual state of mind. Sufi rock is renowned for its positive energy, making it a great choice for those who want to express their spirituality through music.

It’s also the perfect platform to share stories of faith, passion and devotion with others. Whether you’re an experienced musician or a passionate listener, Sufi folk rock has something special for everyone.

8. Pandavani – Orissa, Andhra Pradesh

Pandavani is a traditional folk singing style from India that has been around for centuries. It tells stories from the ancient epic Mahabharata through narration, which is accompanied by musical instruments such as the harmonium, dholak and manjira.

The main character of the stories narrated in Pandavani is Bhima – one of the five Pandavas. The singing is usually accompanied by hand gestures to help the audience better visualise and understand the stories being told. The singer will often act out the scenes from the story in order to make it more interesting. Pandavani has been passed down through generations and is still a popular form of music today, appreciated for its rich traditions and enchanting tales.

The true beauty of Pandavani lies in its unique storytelling style that has been captivating audiences for centuries. It is a treat for the senses – one part entertaining and one part educational, taking the audience on an epic journey through time. It is also a great way to keep our rich cultural heritage alive and teach younger generations about these timeless stories.

9. Bauls – West Bengal

The Bauls are an ancient musical tradition that has been around for centuries. With its roots in Bengali culture, this unique style combines elements of Hinduism, Buddhism, Vasinavism and Sufi Islam to create a captivating sound. From the ethereal vocals to the intriguing lyrics and mesmerizing rhythms of percussion, the music of the Bauls is truly mesmerizing.

It’s a spiritual experience that transports listeners to another realm and helps them find their relationship with God. With its soulful melodies, the music of the Bauls has been known to bring people closer to one another and create a sense of connection with something greater than themselves.

Bauls is an essential music style to discuss when talking aout the types of music in India. Experience the power of this ancient music and be transported to a new realm. Let the music of the Bauls help you find your divine connection.

10. Bhatiali – West Bengal

Bhatiali music is an integral part of Bengali culture, and has been around for centuries. It reflects the rich history and heritage of Bangladesh and West Bengal, depicting the everyday lives of fishermen, boatmen, farmers and ordinary people. The songs tell stories of love, loss, joys and sorrows – they speak to the soul of all who listen.

One of the more soothing types of music in India it is simple yet deeply profound, with its harmonious beats and melodies transporting listeners to a world of beauty, peace and reflection.

From the captivating rhythms of traditional instruments like dotara and dhol, to the soulful singing of boatmen along the riverbanks – Bhatiali music has something special for everyone. Whether you’re an avid listener or a curious outsider, it is sure to bring a unique and magical experience.

11. Garba – Gujrat

Garba music is an invigorating and fun form of traditional Indian dance. Its energetic beats, vibrant rhythms, and uplifting lyrics make it the perfect soundtrack to any joyous occasion. From its origin in the Gujarat region of India to its modern forms found today around the world, Garba music has long been a source of spiritual renewal and celebration.

Its lively tempos and evocative lyrics create an atmosphere of joy and togetherness that brings people from all cultures together in a shared experience. Whether it’s part of a religious ceremony, a cultural event, or just an evening out with friends, Garba is sure to get everyone on the dance floor!

12. Dollu Kunita – Karnataka

Dollu Kunita is an unbounded expression of joy and reverence for the divine. The music is characterized by fast-paced, powerful drumming that evokes energy and enthusiasm in both performers and audiences alike. It consists of a group of dancers performing in unison with synchronized movements to the beat of hand drums known as Dollu, creating complex and dazzling rhythmic patterns.

The dancers are dressed in elaborate costumes and wear bells on their feet, which adds to the mesmerizing effect of the performance. As the tempos increase, so do the movements of the dancers who move with grace and agility as they move around in a single line formation, sometimes clapping as well. It is truly an enthralling sight to behold!

Dollu Kunita has been performed for centuries and continues to be a beloved part of Karnataka’s traditional culture. Not only does it provide entertainment, but it also serves as an important symbol of the community’s shared values, beliefs and rituals.

13. Kolata/Kolattam – Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu

Kolata or Kolattam is an expression of joy and celebration. The dance is accompanied by fast-paced, exuberant music that inspires dancers to move with tremendous energy. This form of folk music has endured for centuries and is still performed in traditional festivals and events across Karnataka.

The dance itself consists of two groups of dancers, usually men and women, forming a circle. They use two sticks of about two feet long each that are thick and strong so they can withstand the vigorous movements. The dancing is synchronized to the beats and rhythms of the traditional folk songs as both groups move in opposite directions while hitting their sticks against one another.

Kolata is a mesmerizing spectacle and has been recognized for its spiritual and cultural significance. It is believed to bring joy, peace and harmony as it brings people together in celebration of life and its many wonders.

14. Uttarakhandi Music – Uttarakhand

Uttarakhandi music is an integral part of the culture of Uttarakhand, a state located in Northern India. It has been passed down through generations and is still celebrated today. The traditional songs sung in Uttarakhandi music are composed in various regional languages such as Kumaoni and Garhwali. These songs usually carry important messages that are relevant to the state, such as tales of local heroes, love stories, war tales and religious hymns.

These songs use various instruments like dhol damau, turri, ransingha, dholki and bhankora to make them vibrant. The tunes used in Uttarakhandi music have a distinct rhythm and are known to be very captivating. The vibrant rhythms and soothing sounds of Uttarakhandi music evoke a sense of serenity in the listener, making it an immensely enjoyable experience. Whether you’re attending a traditional function or just listening to Uttarakhandi music on your own, it’s sure to put you in a relaxed yet energized mood.

This musical heritage is still celebrated and shared today, whether it be through traditional gatherings or through modern recordings of these songs. It’s a great way to connect with the culture of Uttarakhand and appreciate its unique music that has been passed down for generations. So why not take some time to explore the beauty of Uttarakhandi music and be transported to the rich culture of Uttarakhand.

15. Veeragase – Karnataka

Veeragase is an electrifying dance form that brings to life the Hindu mythology. Accompanied by intense beats from percussion instruments like maddale and thavil, it involves dancers performing leaps, jumps, turns and acrobatic movements which are quite exhausting.

The art form helps in connecting with gods while invoking blessings through its performance. Veeragase is a visual treat and has been mesmerizing audiences for centuries. The perfect combination of energy, grace and devotion make it one of the most beautiful traditional dance forms in India.

It’s not just a dance form but also an integral part of Karnataka’s culture which is celebrated on various occasions with great enthusiasm. So, if you ever have a chance to witness this amazing art form, do not miss it! It’s sure to leave you spellbound.

16. Naatupura Paatu – Tamil Nadu

Naatupura Paatu is a unique art form within Tamil Nadu’s rich folk music scene. It is a style of traditional singing which combines the villagers’ gamathisai and city dwellers’ Gana styles of music together to create an expressive, melodious sound.

Generally sung in pairs, Naatupura Paatu follows a meter of alternating syllables and is accompanied by traditional drums such as thappu, tavil and shehnai. What sets Naatupura Paatu apart though, is its high pitched tones that are sure to captivate any listener.

Its lyrical content often reflects on the struggles of daily life in rural Tamil Nadu with a humorous and light-hearted twist. Naatupura Paatu is also a frequent accompaniment to traditional dance performances, making it an integral part of Tamil Nadu’s vibrant cultural heritage. So if you’re looking for an upbeat and captivating form of folk music with a unique history, look no further than Naatupura Paatu!


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the two kinds of music in India?

Carnatic and Hindustani music are the two main styles of Indian classical music. While both genres share many similarities, there are also distinct differences between them. Carnatic music is based on a system of 72 basic scales and emphasizes improvisation within a framework of melodic patterns called ragas. Meanwhile, Hindustani music was heavily influenced by Persian and Arabic music and is more improvisational in nature. It is based on 10 basic scales, known as thaats, and also incorporates elements of rhythm called talas. Both styles are rooted in ancient traditions dating back centuries, making them integral to Indian culture.

Is India’s music famous around the world?

India’s music is renowned for its beauty and diversity all around the world. From the classical Hindustani and Carnatic styles to folk songs from the hinterland, India has something for everyone. Many Indian musical forms have gained global recognition, with iconic artists like Ravi Shankar, A.R. Rahman, and Zakir Hussain playing an important role in popularizing Indian music abroad. In recent times, Indian artists have collaborated with international acts and their songs have featured on top charts worldwide.


Conclusion

Overall, India has a rich, varied and diverse music culture. From the romantic melodies of Bollywood to the traditional folk songs of villages, there is so much for us to explore. Music brings together people from different backgrounds, unifying them with its melodious tunes. In a way, each type of Indian music has something special to offer, making it a great way to discover the country’s cultural heritage. So go ahead and explore India’s musical offerings – you’re sure to find something that resonates with your soul!

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Written By Tanya

Avid gamer, movie buff and cook, Tanya enjoys nothing more than reading all about the latest gadgets. She is passionate about writing and traveling and likes to spend her free time indulging in creative activities including photography, videography, journaling and painting.

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