Various Connotations of Music
World music is a term that may refer to
the indigenous classical forms of various countries of the world. It may be
said as the term itself talks of the music of the world. In the past eras it
was more seen as the coming together of different music of different
cultures of the ethnic world, mostly in reference to non-western ethnic
music, including modes and scales of the ethnic root with instruments of
ethnic origin like sitar, didgeridoo, tabla etc. Gradually the face of the
world changed with globalization including mutual trade, business, travel
etc. and world music came to be known as the music of each nook and corner
of the world’s cultures and societies.
Today World music involves collaboration of artists and their music from all
over the globe. The artists of World music form ensembles and amalgamate
native music mainly from continents as Asia, Europe, America and Africa.
This naturally also involves the native indigenous instruments of the globe
as sitar, violin, tabla, drums, viola, tambourine, gongs, lutes, zither,
oboes, trumpets, clappers, cymbals, flutes, viol etc. World music mainly
absorbs styles of cross-cultural origin.
World music can be viewed as a descriptive word and it describes two major
- A particular kind of developed music form, from indigenous music of the
countries of the world.
- The distinctive pattern of its association with a set of values, culture
and behavior, fashion, identities, aspirations, lifestyles, indigenous
Richard Nidel in his book "World music:
The Basics", says that the term refers to traditional, folk or root music as
- Created and played by indigenous musicians
- Part of virtually every culture or
society on the planet
- Naturally incorporating other musical
It can be said that world music
involves various forms of music of different cultures that originate and are
inspired by the native traditions and cultures of that particular region.
Nidel also explains that once any folk music is uprooted from the medium
that produced it, it gets transferred to an artistic production and
performance (rather than used in its original form). Thus it naturally gets
altered and transposed into a new shape and form.
We can say that Indian classical is a part of world music as much as world
music is its part somewhat in the same manner as harmony depends upon melody
and vice versa.
In his book, "Ancient Traditions -Future Possibilities: Rhythmic Training
Through the Traditions of Africa, Bali and India," Matthew Montfort, the
leader of world music ensemble ‘Ancient Future’, coins a new word ‘world
fusion music’ and defines it as music that combines ideas from many of the
world music circle describing the genre
Music Traveling Wide
In the primitive times migration was a part of livelihood and the people of
one culture shifted with specific purpose of earning money to far off places
with different cultures. This resulted into a natural transport of native
indigenous culture and music to foreign places. Further it mixed with the
traditional music of that particular place and attained a new name. A
contemporary example is Bhangra of Punjab which is an indigenous form of
folk tradition of dance that reached the ethnic landscape of England and has
naturally developed its new form of disco-infected Bhangra and Bhangra pop.
Another instance is, Flamenco music which is perhaps a product of the
cross-cultural exchange that resulted from the Calé people migrating from
India to Andalucía.
So many traditions of world ally with each other in some or the other way.
Al Andalous a classical form that is more than 1000 yrs old music of Morocco
in Africa is composed of 24 parts one for each hour of the day is
reminiscent of north Indian music. In modern times just 4 parts have
survived. The children of the Algerian Diaspora developed a music genre ‘Rai’,
which has been derived from the Bedouin folk music of the Cheikhas. The
lyrics are written in Arabic and French and it is improvisational.
Indian music owes much to Irani and Arabic music. Arabic musician followed
the Greeks in theory of consonance. An important aspect of Arabian music is
‘Maquam’ that is equivalent to modes of Indian classical music. Even the
rhythm of Arabic melodies is more or less same to Indian music. On the other
hand the names of 12 primary modes if Iranian music made by Ibn Sina
indicate an Arabic origin. Lots of Persian instruments have been adopted by
India. Viol is Indian Sarinda and Persian Daubal is Indian Mandolin. Indian
Veena was used in Persia with the name Kigira/kinkila.
Egyptian music and theory exercised great influence over Greek music. The
high standards of Egyptian culture have been written in the reports by Plato
and other Greek writers.
Japan owes its culture and music to China. In China the system created by
Huag-Ti still exists as in the Pythagorean cycle of 5th. In the Turkish
music and the music of middle-east various tones and scales are calculated
mostly on the basis of the Pythogarean system and thus differ from music of
Musicians have been exchanging knowledge across national boundaries since
the people and cultures came in contact. In the contemporary sect of
musicians, we find that a deliberate effort to mix, fuse or blend various
styles of music from different native cultures has crept in. Probably we may
find in future a genre of music namely Cross-cultural music, that is vaguely
today Fusion music. All the music sharing is because of Globalization which
is a very old phenomenon but today it connotes widely. All its wide vistas
have triggered off a blend of national identities evident in contemporary
Indian classical music. It has enabled cultural, social and economic
exchanges between the orient and the occident. Globalization in Indian music
definitely enhances mutual international understanding and communication
Few Major Works In World Music
There is a growing interest in world music among people but we find very few
books that give information or an overview of world music. The 10 volume
‘Garland Encyclopedia of world music’ is the leading work in the field. It
is an ethno-musicological treatise. Another guide is ‘The rough guide to
world music’ from England is a popular work. Yet another book is ‘World
music: The Basics’ by Richard Nidel, which is a good reference book for the
music of all the countries of the world. One of the book written by Mathew
Montford on a world music genre, World Fusion music is “Ancient Traditions-
Future Possibilities: Rhythmic Training Through the Traditions of Africa,
Bali and India ” that includes Indian, African, Balinese, Middle Eastern,
and South American rhythm, the rich harmonies of Europe, the peaceful
melodies of Asia, and other musical traditions within a contemporary
England is known to be the leading information centre for world music as it
brought forth the known as well as unknown artists of world music. Ian
Anderson’s magazine froots (Folk Roots) is another important chronicler of
world music artist’s profile, reviews, CDs etc. Simon Broughton released
‘The rough guide to world music’ in 2000. Another informative world music
bimonthly magazine is ‘Songlines’.
Indian Classical Artists And World Music
Music is an important, significant and profound force of developing
understanding between the cultures around the world. So many artists from
all over the planet are interested in growing their music wide through world
music. In the present music scenario where people are getting connected
globally with each other, the artists are expanding their work area. There
is an urge to make their mark, to grow and progress with time. Music has
acquired the shape of a widespread appeal in the new millennium. Fusion
music is a yearn for shared experiences of the world music. In such a vast
Global world the possibilities of fusion are limitless.
Indian Classical music is attaining a special place in foreign countries
opening friendly doors for European listeners as well as learners paying a
way for its popularization. Indian music is creating a cultural bond between
the orient and occident. Smt.Subbalakshmi, Pt. Ravi Shankar, L. Subramaniam,
Pt. Vishva Mohan Bhatt, Brijbhushan Kabra, Zakir Hussain, Shri Ali Akbar
Khan, Bikram Ghosh, Gaurav Majumdar, Shujaat Hussain Khan and many others
are world renowned artists who have popularized Indian classical music
around the globe. The young generation of artists such as Anoushka Shankar,
Salil Bhatt, Aman Ali and Ayaan Ali Bangash, Abhijit Pohankar, Niladri
Kumar, Meeta Pandit have made successful experimental endeavors with Indian
Classical and world music as a part of creating novelty in the changing
In the 20th century, the album “West meets East” by Pt. Ravi Shankar and
Yehudi Menuhin flashed on the world music scene as of one of the pioneering
works of fusion in Indian classical music. Later he also collaborated with
the George Enesco and Andres Segovia, American minimalist composer, Philip
Glass and various other artists.
The experiments and collaborations of both Violinist L. Subramaniam and L.
Shankar in the World Fusion music with foreign artists have proved as
successful ventures since mid 20th century. Where L. Subramaniam has worked
with Jazz musicians John Handy and Larry Coryell, Japanese koto player Miya
Masaoka, Chinese violinist/Erhu player Jai Bing Chen and others, L. Shankar
has collaborated in “Shakti” a world music ensemble of Zakir Hussein with
John Mc Laughlin and Vikku Vinayakram . Zakir Hussain’s other world music
bands are “Diga Rhythm Band and Tabla Beat Science”.
Swapan Chaudhuri (Tabla player) launched a project in 2004 namely Meeting:
Two worlds of modal music (Harmonia Mundi), in which he collaborated and
joined Dominique Vellard and Ken Zuckerman to fuse medieval music with
Habib Khan a contemporary Indian sitar player has collaborated with
scalloped fretboard Guitar player Mathew Montfort of ‘Ancient Future’ (World
music band), for 2 albums “The Longing” and “Ecstacy” with artists from all
over the world as Irina Mikhailova (Russian vocalist), Swapan Chaudhari (Tabla
player), George Brooks (saxophonist), Alan Kushan (Persian santur player),
Danny Gottlieb (Jazz drummer), Ira Stein (Pianist).
Dr. Lakshiminarayana Subramaniam (Violinist-Carnatic music) is known for his
experimental fusion of music from cultures across the globe. As a part of
experiment for the younger generations, he has amalgamated musical from
Irish, Swedish, Danish, Chinese, African, Japanese and Iranian music.
Trilok Gurtu, son of the legendry singer Shobha Gurtu, is a world music
percussionist who has collaborated with many traditional music artists of
the world and has many CD’s to his credit. There are innumerable musician
known/unknown who are into experimentations and world music.
The methods that are being applied today in Indian classical music including
the grafting of the principles of harmony of the Western music attracts the
artist as a part of experiment with music and also the audience for it
becomes a colorful experience for them. For the variegated shades and vast
spectrum offered by harmony, it is today being applied to the oriental
melodic line. Today Classical music is being merged into various genres
coming from all over the globe. The blend of European, African and Asian
country's music with Indian is common face of today's world fusion. Jazz and
pop with Indian music that is Indo-Jazz & Indi- Pop is quite popular.
Various Bands and Groups have emerged who are experimenting with a wide
variety of music of the world.
A very important aspect is to protect the local culture and Indian music
from the homogenizing effects of globalization. Native arts and traditions
are important for us as according to art critic Ashok Vajpayi, local
commodities create a world, rich, noble, austere and plural. The question
therein lies that, to what extent can the quality & originality of music be
maintained and also that what would be the parameters on which the growth
and popularization of indigenous or Classical music be adjudged? Merging
alien elements in Indian Classical music is still debatable among peers. Few
are purists and regard it as worthless; others appreciate and experiment
with it as an initial step for attracting young artists and audience with a
It can be postulated that novelty is something that makes us go through all
past experiences. Because of novelty we tend to look back towards already
established rooted tradition, i.e. world music.
Courtesy: Venus Umesh