The north Indian system of music is known as Hindustani Sangeet or sometimes Hindustani Sangit. It covers an area that extends roughly from Bangladesh through northern and central India into Pakistan and as far as Afghanistan.
The usual interpretation states that theHindustani system may be thought of as a mixture of traditional Hindu musical concepts and Persian performance practice. The advent of Islamic rule over northern India caused the musicians to seek patronage in the courts of the new rulers. These rulers, often of foreign extraction, had strong cultural and religious sentiments focused outside of India; yet they lived in, and administered kingdoms which retained their traditional Hindu culture. Several centuries of this arrangement caused the Hindu music to absorb musical influences from the Islamic world, primarily greater Persia.
Although this is the usual view, there are reasons to think that this is an over-simplification. This view gives excessive weight to the religious differences between the Hindus of South Asia and the Muslims of the greater Persian empire (present day Iran, Afghanistan, and portions of the former Soviet Union.) At the same time it ignores long standing linguistic, economic, and cultural ties which existed between the areas of present day northern Indian and the greater Persian world.
There are a number of musical instruments that we associate with Hindustani sangeet. The most famous is the sitar and tabla. Other less well known instruments are the sarod, sarangi and a host of others.
Some of the major vocal forms associated with Hindustani Sangeet are the kheyal, gazal, and thumri. Other styles which are also important are the dhrupad, dhammar, and tarana. This is just a small sampling for there are many other vocal styles that we will have to discuss elsewhere.
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