Please Explain: Indian Classical Music

Friday, January 29, 2010

Hindustani music, a classical musical tradition of northern and central India, can be traced back to Vedic times, around 1000 BC. On today’s edition of Please Explain we’ll take a look at India’s rich culture of music and its trademark instruments. Tabla player Dibyarka Chatterjee, and sitar player K. V. Mahabala join us to talk about the history and traditions of Indian classical music, and to perform.


Dibyarka Chatterjee, and K. V. Mahabala

Comments [13]

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Sep. 09 2010 01:09 PM
David Halperin

Thoroughly enjoyed this segment, thanks to all concerned. For a musician with really only a superficial knowledge of Indian music, a very nice breakdown of both some technique and artistic/spiritual aspects, interesting stuff I didn't know. Patchy of course; how could it be otherwise in half an hour? I would gladly hear more along the same lines. Compliments also to the technical crew behind the scenes: I listened online after the live broadcast, and the audio quality, stereo image and presence were terrific.

Jan. 30 2010 12:04 AM
Girish Raj from NYC

This was truly an amazing conversation. We Barely get to hear someone explain Indian classical. Thank you WNYC.

Somebody asked the question: Where to access music. I came across this website long back:
its not the best user friendly :) There's lot of music on iTunes. But on iTunes you need to know what you buying.
If anybody is interested in "Music from India" and not just classical music, please visit my blog:

Jan. 29 2010 05:50 PM
sp from Cntrl, NJ

Great segment, though for a subject like Hindustani Classical Music you need far more time to explain. As the guests were trying to explain there is so much into it to understand.

for md from Manhattan, just search online any of the great names from Hindustani Classical names like Pt. Ravishanker(Sitar), Pt. Shivkumar Sharma (santoor), Ustad Zakir Hussain(tabla), Pt. Bhimsen Joshi (vocal), Pt. Hariprashad Chaurasia (Flute), Ustad Bismillah Khan(shehnai)

here is link of performance by Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma and Ustad Zakir Hussain during a Classical Music festival in India

Jan. 29 2010 01:05 PM
charlotte carter from nyc

Leonard: The Miles Davis tune you hummed during the Indian music segment was not So What. It was Freddie Freeloader.

Jan. 29 2010 12:49 PM
JB from Brooklyn

I listen to the LL show almost every day. This was my favorite segment that I can remember. Great work everyone, please have these guys on again. Such a great combination of beautiful performance and interesting explanation.

Jan. 29 2010 12:43 PM
Matthew from Astoria

Something to clarify about ragas:

One caller asked about how to change the sitar from E minor to E-flat minor. I think the answer is that you don't change from E minor to E-flat minor. There's no sense of fixed pitch level (meaning frequency): E minor and E-flat minor would be the same thing - the same raga - with the only difference being how high or low the singer or player feels comfortable pitching the voice or instrument.

Jan. 29 2010 12:43 PM
Nick from NYC

Also, or...

Does a performance of a raga undergo modulation through altered scale degrees, similar to what would occur during a Middle Eastern maqam?

Similarities, differences?

Jan. 29 2010 12:31 PM
md from Manhattan

Can your guests recommend any streaming online channels where we can hear this music? Thank you for the performance and explanation.

Jan. 29 2010 12:31 PM
kai from NJ-NYC

Nice segment and performance by your guests...

With the rise of India as international power because of the country's burgeoning economy, Bollywood's popularity, and its large diaspora, do your guests think that Indian music will be one of the most prevalent forms of the 21st century?

Also, have they noticed more recent interest in Indian music outside of the Indian subcontinent?

Jan. 29 2010 12:26 PM
soundlanguage from Jersey City / West Village

Ah, there's no finer way to cut through a bitterly cold day than listening to a (warm) classic raga. Mind over matter...

I offer a tip of the hat for discussing this amazing music, hope to hear more.

Why not create a early am or late pm weekend show? (Jonathan Schwartz's sad, sleepy, over sentimental show has monopolized the entire weekend for far too long!)

Jan. 29 2010 12:25 PM
Kathy from Morganville, NJ

Beautiful music. Just want to burn some incense, glass of wine in front of the fireplace and be with my love! Just lovely!!

Jan. 29 2010 12:24 PM
Nick from NYC


Could you ask your guests to comment on the way that rhythm is subdivided in their music?

For instance, in Western music notes are largely divided by 2's (whole note, half note, quarter note, eight note) and 3's (triplets, sextuplets).

Are divisions other than this common in Indian musical tradition? If so what are the main divisions?


Jan. 29 2010 12:24 PM

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