Baba Nam Kevalam,
My new friend Kiran from the Philipines posted this article from Ravi Shankar on the comments page and I wanted to share:
Prabhat samgiita kiirtan tunes I always find, are the best for early morning (paincajanya) and late at night times. There is something subtle about thier vibration that seems appropriate for those times of day. In fact, I just now went and looked up Ravi Shankar’s website and here is what he has to say about the way that Indian spiritual songs are organised (I have cut out a few bits for sake of brevity):http://www.ravishankar.org/indian_music.html
“Indian classical music is principally based on melody and rhythm, not on harmony, counterpoint, chords, modulation and the other basics of Western classical music.
The system of Indian music known as Raga Sangeet can be traced back nearly two thousand years to its origin in the Vedic hymns of the Hindu temples, the fundamental source of all Indian music. Thus, as in Western music, the roots of Indian classical music are religious. To us, music can be a spiritual discipline on the path to self-realisation, for we follow the traditional teaching that sound is God – Nada Brahma: By this process individual consciousness can be elevated to a realm of awareness where the revelation of the true meaning of the universe – its eternal and unchanging essence – can be joyfully experienced. Our ragas are the vehicles by which this essence can be perceived.
Ragas are extremely difficult to explain in a few words. Though Indian music is modal in character, ragas should not be mistaken as modes that one hears in the music of the Middle and Far Eastern countries, nor be understood to be a scale, melody per se, a composition, or a key. A raga is a scientific, precise, subtle and aesthetic melodic form with its own peculiar ascending and descending movement consisting of either a full seven note octave, or a series of six or five notes (or a combination of any of these) in a rising or falling structure called the Arohana and Avarohana. It is the subtle difference in the order of notes, an omission of a dissonant note, an emphasis on a particular note, the slide from one note to another, and the use of microtones together with other subtleties, that demarcate one raga from the other.
There is a saying in Sanskrit – “Ranjayathi iti Ragah” – which means, “that which colours the mind is a raga.” For a raga to truly colour the mind of the listener, its effect must be created not only through the notes and the embellishments, but also by the presentation of the specific emotion or mood characteristic of each raga. Thus through rich melodies in our music, every human emotion, every subtle feeling in man and nature can be musically expressed and experienced…
In addition to being associated with a particular mood, each raga is also closely connected to a particular time of day or a season of the year. The cycle of day and night, as well as the cycle of the seasons, is analogous to the cycle of life itself. Each part of the day – such as the time before dawn, noon, late afternoon, early evening, late night – is associated with a definite sentiment. The explanation of the time associated with each raga may be found in the nature of the notes that comprise it, or in historical anecdotes concerning the raga.
In terms of aesthetics, a raga is the projection of the artist’s inner spirit, a manifestation of his most profound sentiments and sensibilities brought forth through tones and melodies. The musician must breath life into each raga as he unfolds and expands it. As much as 90 percent of Indian music may be improvised and because so very much depends on understanding the spirit and nuances of the art, the relationship between the artist and his guru is the keystone of this ancient tradition. From the beginning, the aspiring musician requires special and individual attention to bring him to the moment of artistic mastery. The unique aura of a raga (one might say its “soul”) is its spiritual quality and manner of expression, and this cannot be learned from any book.
It is only after many long and extensive years of “sadhana” (dedicated practice and discipline) under the guidance of one’s guru and his blessings, that the artist is empowered to put “prana” (the breath of life) into a raga. This is accomplished by employing the secrets imparted by one’s teacher such as the use of “shrutis” (microtones other than the 12 semitones in an octave, Indian music using smaller intervals than Western music: 22 within an octave): “gamakas” (special varieties of glissando which connect one note to the other), and “andolan” (a sway – but not a vibrato). The result is that each note pulsates with life and the raga becomes vibrant and incandescent.” Ravi Shankar
Hope you enjoyed that shortened explanation. I loved the last bit personally – which was why I put it in italics.