A Passage Through Indian Music

Lashonde Lavelle Christian
November 13, 2020
4 minutes
Once upon a VERY long time ago, during the Vedic and Ancient Era, Indian music was born.
It ripened with time, and came the 20th century, the music genre had not only moved a step up, but traversed to other parts of the world, namely Europe, North America, Asia, and America.

Image via Unsplash

A short timeline: In the 60’s Jazz musicians experimented by using the sitar (an Indian music instrument), in their songs. The early 70’sand 80’s, rock and roll fused their music with Indian beats throughout Europe and North America. In the late 80’s, Indian-British artists mixed up Indian and Western sounds and by the 2000’s, American Hip Hop also found their way to usher in the genre.
Generally, Indian music can a little bit or rather be divided into five different types, classical, folk, filmi (Bollywood/Tamil Cinema),rock and pop. Due to the multifarious population within the country, India actually encompasses a diverse variation of music types. Besides that, Indian music also uses a substantial number of musical instruments.

Regardless of its many types and instruments though, the most jutting upon its origin, has been the big two; Carnatic and Hindustani music.


Carnatic music actually began from the south side of India. Known as the godfather of Telugu (a language from India), Annamayya was the first ever composer of the music. It was a type of music which focused more on fixed compositions as well as improvised variations.
Often performed during an eight-week long annual cultural event in Chennai, most compositions in Carnatic music have been for the purpose of singing out. Setting grounds for the region of South India and mainly using the violin in its execution, the music has also been influencing film music for more than 150 years.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Some popular Carnatic music singers today include, Aruna Sairam, M. Balamuralikrishna, M.S. Subbulakshmi, and many others.


Hindustani music on the other hand, is the melody of the north. Initially together, Hindustani music then diverged from Carnatic music due to its existence and influence from different regions.
Unlike Carnatic which only came from India, Hindustani music also attained some of its influence from Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Drawing from ancient Hindu musical traditions, historical Vedic philosophy and native Indian sounds, some part of its music also included Persian performance practices, of the Mughals.

Image via What I'd Say

Today, some of the more popular Hindustani music singers include, Ravi Shankar, Anoushka Shankar, Zakir Hussain and more.
Setting aside them OGs, the Indian music which very much hails in this time and age, isn’t so much the big two, but rather filmi music (the songs you get from both Hindi and Tamil-language films), as well as Indian pop music.

In India, the film industry has always played a huge role in the growth of its citizens, whether it’s for entertainment or the nation’s economy. Both Bollywood and Tamil Cinema emerged throughout the 30s-40s and quickly gained traction, throughout the country and eventually on international waters.
With its long hours, giddy romance, a strangely many number of songs and a magnanimous flair for the dramatic, Indian filmi songs went on to slowly become the top type of Indian music.

Another type of Indian music which also all the hype, was Indian pop music. Indian pop music is music that is independent from filmi soundtracks like Bollywood and Tamil Cinema. It came about in the 60’s with famous song ‘Ko Ko Korina’ by South Asian pop singer Ahmed Rushdi. The song was then later adapted in Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
In the early 80’s Indian pop music began to gain recognition in the Indian subcontinent and with the launch of MTV India in the late 90’s, Indian pop music reached great heights.

Image via Associated Press of Pakistan

However, with time, the genre very much faced competition from filmi music, and so, many major pop singers began releasing albums as well as also singing for film soundtracks, to remain in the game.
Some top Indian pop songs today are:

1. Garmi

2. Sakhiyaan

3. G.O.A.T.

So, with a multitude of melodies, oftentimes story-telling lyrics, and a sick beat, Indian music is by far, a music type which just continues to be a gift that keeps on giving.
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