The Concert Experience

An interactive website to learn about classical Indian music

Featuring a concert with Alam Khan and Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri

The Concert Experience website is designed to increase understanding of North Indian Classical music by guiding the viewer through a classical Indian music performance in rag Bihag. The web site includes a full Indian classical concert video and lesson videos about Indian classical music given by tabla virtuoso Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri and sarod player Alam Khan, son of Maestro Ali Akbar Khan. The site also offers information about the Ragas of North Indian classical music, Talas or rhythms in Indian Classical music, and Instruments of India, including sarod, sitar, sarangi, tabla, pakhawaj, violin, bansuri, guitar, esraj, and shenai, with vocal and instrumental examples of each instrument, as well as interactive kid's games in Indian Music to teach children about the North Indian classical music traditions and about India.

The Concert Experience website is brought to you by the Ali Akbar College of Music, as a part of the Ali Akbar Khan Library project, to preserve the life and work of Maestro Ali Akbar Khan and the legacy of North Indian Classical Music in the tradition of his father, Ustad Baba Allauddin Khan.

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Understanding Indian Classical Music
The elements of the Concert Experience website:

The Talas or rhythms of India

The Tala section includes the ten most popular rhythms in North Indian classical music: dadra, rupak, keharwa, jhaptal, ektal, chautal (or chotal), chachar, dhamar, tintal and sitar khani.

These talas are the common rhythmic cycles used for accompaniment in North Indian classical music. There are said to be 364 different talas. We have given you an example of how the bols, or strokes, are spoken, how the talas are played on tabla or on the pakhawaj, and how the cycles are clapped and counted along with the divisions and tala marks such as sum and khali. The divisions within each tala provide a very useful framework for the instrumentalist, vocalist and drummer. The use of this symbol, +, represents the "sam" (pronounced "sum"), or the first beat, the 1, of each cycle. A composition is not considered complete until it ends on the sam. For example, if you are counting in rupak, 7 beats, a complete cycle will be counted, 12345671. You would not end on the seventh beat.

The Ragas of North India

The raga section includes 12 traditional ragas of North Indian classical music that can be played throughout the day: Bhairav - Early Morning, Ahir Bhairo - Morning, Bhairavi - Late Morning, Sarang - Afternoon, Brindabani Sarang - Late Afternoon, Bhimpalasri - Late Afternoon / Dusk, Yaman Kalya - Evening, Jaijaiwan - Late Evening, Bihag - Night, Malkauns - Late Night, Sohini - Pre-Dawn, Bhatiyar - Dawn. Here you can hear and learn the scales, or sargam, played on sitar, sarode, and violin as well as by singing. The ragas are also depicted by the time of day in which you can receive the most benefit to your soul and all around good health as was passed down before the Vedic period. The position of the sun plays a vital role in the structure of the ragas.

What is Raga? Raga literally means "color" or "mood", as the ragas are said to "color the mind" according to the specific moods evoked in the music. Ragas are essentially melodic modes used in Indian classical music, upon which the musician composes and improvises. Here we show the ascending and descending scales of just one selection of ragas for each time of the day/night. It is said that there are thousands of ragas in existence but approximately 150 or so in use today.  In the Indian musical tradition, each raga is associated with a particular time of day/night and some also with particular seasons. The instrumentalist or vocalist chooses the raga according to the time as well as the mood they wish to evoke. As well as the scale, each raga has it's own unique features, such as particular ornamentation, intonation, important notes as well as forbidden notes or movements.

About the Concert Performers:

Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri

Is one of India’s greatest tabla masters. He was trained in the Lucknow Gharana by Pandit Santosh Biswas. Swapanji has taught at the Ali Akbar College of Music, AACM, for the past 30 years. He also is the Chairman of the World Music department at California Institute of the Arts, Cal Arts, in Valencia, CA, where he also teaches.

Sri Alam Khan

Alam has accompanied his father, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, in many countries around the world such as: India, England, France, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Canada, and the United States playing both the sarode and the tanpura. He was trained by his father in the Seni Baba Allauddin Gharana of Maihar.

Sri Manik Khan

Manik is the youngest of Ali Akbar Khan’s sons. He was trained on the sarode or sarod by his father, Khansahib, at the AACM in San Rafael, CA.

About the AACM

Here you will also find links to: the Ali Akbar College of Music, the Ali Akbar College of Music Store, The Maestro and Me campaign, the Ali Akbar College of Music in Basel Switzerland, run by Ken Zuckerman, and the Ali Akbar Khan Library.

The mission of the Ali Akbar College of Music is to teach, perform and preserve the classical music of North India, specifically the Seni Baba Allauddin Gharana (tradition), and to offer this great musical legacy to all who wish to learn. We are a non-profit, 501 (C) (3) organization.

The Ali Akbar College of Music, first founded in Kolkata, opened its doors in Berkeley, California in 1967. It established its present location in San Rafael in 1977. Maestro Ali Akbar Khan, the founder of the College, came to this country in accordance with his father's wish to spread the unique music of North India to the world.

The Ali Akbar College is the only institution outside India that teaches classical music of the Seni Baba Allauddin Gharana in the traditional style. Ali Akbar Khan, known as Khansahib, taught the majority of the classes himself, until his death in 2009, along with tabla maestro Swapan Chaudhuri. Since its opening, over ten thousand students have passed through the College to learn. Some of these students have continued the discipline for years to become the current performers and teachers. Dedicated students have found the College to be a treasure house of learning opportunities. The College also sponsors concerts in Indian classical music featuring some of the best contemporary artists of India. Students at the College comprise a cosmopolitan community of people from all over the world.

The College has been fortunate to have a number of outstanding musicians come from India as visiting professors. In the interest of helping Khansahib and the College, they have shared their great musical knowledge and skill. Among these are musicians of such renown as Pandit Ravi Shankar, the late Pandit V.G. Jog, the late Ustad Vilayat Khan, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Pandit Nikhil Banerjee, the late Ustad Alla Rakha, Ustad Zakir Hussain, the late Pandit Jnan Prakash Ghosh, Pandit Shankar Ghosh; G.S. Sachdev, Chitresh Das, the late Ustad Bahadur Khan, Ustad Aashish Khan, Dhyanesh Khan, as well as Indranil Bhattacharya, Lakshmi Shankar, Lalita Ghosh, Sanjukta Ghosh, Pandit Jasraj, Satyadev Pawar, Sisirkana Dhar Chowdhury, Shweta Jhaveri, Rajeev Taranath, Partha Chatterjee and many others.

About the classical music of India

The classical music of India consists of two main traditions: in the northern two thirds of the subcontinent (including Pakistan and Bangladesh, plus Afghanistan and Nepal) the style known as Hindustani or North Indian is practiced, and in the southern regions (Karnataka, Tamil-Nadu, Andhra Pradesh etc.) the Carnatic or South Indian style is most prevalent.
Having a common ancestor, they share many traits: the use of melodic structures called ragas (played against a fixed drone) and rhythmic cycles called talas (differentiated by a series of claps and waves), the use of micro-tonality (notes in between those found on a piano keyboard) and poly-rhythm (rhythmic patterns in multiple metres played against each other), and the avoidance of chords or harmony.

They also share the belief that the performance and practice music is a spiritual undertaking, rather than mere entertainment. However, they diverge greatly in the specifics of both theory and practice; the names of ragas rarely correspond across the traditions, and the approach to ornamentation is quite different between the two styles. In performance, a Hindustani classical concert will usually have long renderings of one or two rags which include some improvisation by the performer (within the limits imposed by the rag), whereas a Carnatic concert will often have many short, fixed compositions in different ragas.

In both traditions, compositions are often introduced with an alap, or section without fixed rhythm. Once the percussion accompaniment begins, one can immediately notice a difference between the two styles: in the Hindustani tradition, classical percussion is usually provided by the pair of hand drums collectively referred to as tabla, but in Carnatic music it is usually the cylindrical mridangam, which tends to play constant variations rather than the theka which one hears in north Indian music (the repeated set of strokes which outline the rhythm cycle).

Indian Music Resources

One of the important aspects of this section are the Teacher’s Materials. There are curriculum materials based on the California Standards and Benchmarks for Music for the Visual Performing Arts, and the Artists in the Schools Program, a K-4 Curriculum Guide, Teacher’s Upper Grade Benchmarks to the Visual and Performing Arts, and an Upper Grades Curriculum Guide.

There are two documentaries available in this section of the website: one is about Ali Akbar Khan and the AACM produced by SPARK called ‘At the Feet of the Master,’ and the other called, ‘The Spirit of Sarode,” discusses the history of Sarode from the 2nd century to the modern day sarod that was re-crafted by Baba Allauddin Khan and his brother, Ayet Ali Khan.

There is also a Glossary of Indian musical terms such as: alap, banya or banyan, chikari, gat, gharana, java, jhala, komal, misra, rag or raga, ras or rasa, sarode or sarod, tabla or tablas, tala, tanpura or tanboura, taraf, theka, tivra, vadi, Acharya, Baba, Kalidas Sanman, Khansahib, Padma Bhusan, Padma Vibhusan, Pandit, Sangeet Samrat, Sri, Swar Samrat, and Ustad.

Indian Music for Kids

This is primary for younger children to play games and learn about India and understand North Indian Classical music, but kid’s of all ages will enjoy the fun. Games include learning about the talas or tabla rhythms, guessing which Indian instrument they are hearing, listening to the Happy Birthday song in sargam and on sitar, and facts about India

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