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Indian Music and Its Assessment (A Sociological Perspective)

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Item Code: NAL190
Author: Dr. Ishrat Jahan
Publisher: Kanishika Publishers
Language: English
Edition: 2014
ISBN: 9788173914613
Pages: 156
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.0 inch x 5.5 inch
Weight 300 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

Indian Music and Its Assessment: A Sociological Perspective deals with the origin of music and evolution of Indian music within social context. The book brings out the fact that music. Takes shape by specific changes in socio-political and economic systems.

The author’s study about Gharanas of the Muslims by the structure of family, gender right on music, in comparison to other social institutions and viewing guru-shishya parampara within framework of social relationship is an effort for the first time.

By explaining the attributes of music and its association with humans the author has sought for the role of music in society.

Investigation of understanding classical music in relation to the elite, the intellectual and audience is an original work. The material of the book brings words and opinions of musicians about various critical issues of the field.

It is hoped that the discourse of dilemma of India music along with a few suggestions will raise awareness and provide guideline for the learners, music educations, organizers and the classes associated with the production of music.


About the Author

Dr. Ishrat Jahan is an exalted vocalist of Hindustani classical music from Dhaka, Bangladesh. Dr. Ishrat has been giving professional performance on mass media and stage for many years. In her flight to artistic activities she has also been participating in music conferences/ festivals in India. The present work on music is a doctoral thesis accomplished under the guidance of Professor Krishna Bisht at Faculty of Music and Fine Arts, University of Delhi.

A master degree in Sociology has served her to fabricate sociological aspects of music.



When did human beings get involved with music? Did music come in use before language or language preceded music? Opinions differ on this issue among the scholars of India and the west as well.

Today, there is no society on earth without music. In primitive societies of this day, music is a vehicle to religious, social and symbolic life. Their music and dance together at times have the purpose to appease the objects or spirits they believe contain some sort of supernatural power. If these technologically backward societies can harbour music, a quest may rise, was there music when men lived in hunting and food gathering stage?

The way of thinking of Captain A. Willard is like this—at the earliest stage of human life in the absence of language, human beings would express emotions of weal and woe, passion, disgust, through vibration of notes.

Scholars of the world attempted to find out the genesis of music from the thinking line of their own. Therefore, different theories, opinions, inferences concerning the origin of music developed from time to time.

Charles Darwin thought, during the course of courtship some animals and birds, male or female endeavour to charm their mates of musical notes and rhythm. Charles Darwin assumed that by imitating sounds produced by birds and beasts during courtship men made music. This theory has been criticized on the point that music is not an offshoot of the process of love making.

Secondly, beats and birds are incapable of improvisation.

In Herbert Spencer’s opinion, emotional speech resulting in varied cadences gave rise to music.

Sigmund Freud commented—as a Child learns to express its emotions through, anguish so music originated to reveal attitudes in a natural process. Myths and legends of different lands of the world describe music as divine origin.

Speaking logically, neither the theories, opinions, Myths nor inferences about the origin of music can be supported fully, although there remains some clues, information, about music.

But, from the above mentioned discussion it is clear that concept and consciousness of music is not recent.

By virtue of their rationality, human beings are superior to other animals. Moreover, vocal organ is a powerful tool of expression in human beings which the animals and birds do not have.

Besides, some men are born with individuality. As any creation is the expression of individuality so is music. Perhaps from the beginning of social life someone with gifted vocal organ experimented and discovered smooth, regular sound where he might have enjoyed the delight of creation and was moved by the sweet sound of vocal organ.

Moreover, may be these gifted humans wanted to attain self-realization and freedom. Human life was bound with uncertainty, responsibilities of mundane life, from the journey of social life. It is the motivation of human beings to secure peace of mind. Perhaps, these creative humans discovered the passage of freedom, self-realization and peace by making musical sound.

Any kind of creative work viz. Music, Dance or Art has been highly encouraged by society.


All the members of a group or society who are not endowed with the gift of music or other arts possibly realized that the power of creation cannot be inherent in all.

Secondly, music also appeared as a medium of expression and also as a special language. If music becomes a language then what does music reveal? Reply to this question is that, music reveals abstract qualities of emotions which verbal language may not be sufficient to reveal.

What is the vehicle of this language? Its answer is Acoustics.

The widely used concept Sangeeta (Music) according to ancient Musicology means combination of Geeta (vocal music), Vadya (instrument) and Nritya (dance). But, the westerners mention the phrase ‘Music and Dance’, where music is divided into vocal and instrumental music. Perhaps with the influence of westerners, in India, now music also denotes vocal as well as instrumental music. Dance is entirely a separate discipline.

Tala (time measure) is the soul of music. Tala and rhythm are the inseparable from each other. A composition without rhythm may fail to arouse delight in listeners’ heart. A great musician’s expertise is not judged by musical aesthetic only but also skill in tala.

The author of the book has emphasized on basically classical music. For this purpose, twenty six musicians and four music critics were interviewed face to face from three states of India respectively, Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta with an interview schedule, which comprised open ended questionnaire. On the basis of purposive sample technique artistes and critics who were interviewed belonged to age group 35-85. Both gharanedar and nonhereditary musicians were included in interview. To reply the questions the interviewees took on an average two hours. The primary data during research were collected by calling on the artistes at their residences, where interview was held in an informal atmosphere. Personal observation technique was followed to gather information about their families environment and informal conversation was held with their women after the interview of the artistes. To study audience concerts, music conferences were attended and the reactions of the audience were observed personally by the author. It took over a period of two years to collect data. Through interview of the artistes, pragmatic pictures, present situation of music world was revealed. A few privileged artistes gave information with optimism, while the other deprived artistes interviewed with pessimism. From experience, enthusiasm of male artistes seemed to have better than the female artistes in facing interview. The technique of recording during interview was avoided to make interview spontaneous.

Today’s independent India is free from alien and colonial rule. Democracy is the power structure of India now. A popular notion about democracy is that democracy implies egalitarian policy. But a simple question, whether Indian democracy implement egalitarian attitude towards the music community?

Are there any principles of equity of state patronage of musicians? The answer can be given on one line that democracy is functioning for propagating classical music within the country as well as abroad. One more basic question remains—has democracy ensured a good economic life of musicians?

Earlier, traditional competent musicians were favoured with the status of being court musicians. Now a days, high status of musicians is measured by high honorarium they charge from each concert or the number of awards they have received.

Interestingly, it has been a recent practice of a number of privileged artistes to boast of receiving lakh or more than lakh rupees from one concert.

On the other hand, many hereditary qualified musicians are running life basically by holding tuition’s merely and on subsistence level.

The current work is concerned with some issues. These issues are as for instance—

(a) to interpret, analyze, music, musicians in socio-musical context. Music and musicians have been discussed here with relation to other institutions.

(b) to explore new facts or causal explanation which were derived from the interview of the artistes.

(c) interaction and relationship of music and musicians to other social classical.

(d) to view Indian music in relation to Indian culture and philosophy.

(e) to uncover terms and conditions of today’s musical environment by comparing with the past.

(f) to draw attention towards what is happening in the music world? This work rests on the assumption that music is a socio-musical fact, a social process, social behaviour within the culture of a society.

The work has been divided into seven chapters. Chapter one is a discussion that Indian music has emanated as a gradual process of development.

Chapter two focuses on Gharana from kinship system and with relation to other social institutions in the dynamism of social change.

Chapter three looks into the institution guru shishya parampara, terms and conditions of the parampara with the change of time.

Chapter four tries to view classical music in terms of the elite, the intellectual and audience from varied outlook.

Chapter five is basically a discussion about the standard of music criticism.

Chapter six tries to see music in relation to Bhakti Movement and Sufism.

Chapter seven attempts to discuss the attributes of music, its association with human life, human psyche and music as symbolic expression.

Epilogue has headed for the discussion of present situation of music world and behaviour of musical community. Some suggestive propositions have been presented here to raise awareness.

The author had to go through musicology for materials of the study. A brief glance of the relevant literature of musicology discloses multiplicity of approaches. Among these historical approach, philosophical approach and sociological viewpoint—the most recent approach. Ethnomusicology studies basically the music culture of tribal societies and view music as an integral domain of culture.

It will not be inappropriate to speak about that the current work is basically Historical Sociology of Indian Music, because it is inevitably concerned with change, process and development of music.

As Historical Sociology examines social conditions, social classes or groups and their interrelations from comparative angel so this book on Indian music has focused on music from Vedic age to democracy.

After overviewing the works of secondary literature on Indian music and related subject a few texts and central theme of these texts has been presented here.

A pioneering book, Musical Elaborations, where Edward W. Said has mentioned—“musicians as belonging to the intellectual class even though they are a distinct sub-group with their own procedures, associations, powers and standards, their contribution today is to the maintenance of society giving it rhetorical, social and inflectional identity through composition, performance, interpretations” (1991, 1992: 70-71)

Music has been conceived as group behaviour within community. The book Music the Arts and idea reflect—performer, composer and audience can be considered as musical community (Meyer, 1967:116).

A widely accepted conception about music is that, music is a means to communicate with others. B.C. Deva in his book writes “music like gregarious actions is a form of communication. It is motivated by an urge to express and communicate on the part of an individual” (1974, 1980:6).

The life of Music in North India by Daniel M. Neuman provides sociological background of North Indian Music in the light of classical music. A few of many other important books are—Indian Classical Music: Changing Profiles by Bimal Mukherjee gives a comparative discussion of the ecology of music from pre-independence period to post- independence period.

Bhartiya Ucchanga Sangeet (Bengali) by Utpala Goswami tries to trace out the origin of Indian music staring from Indus valley civilization to modern times.

Contribution of Saints and Seers to the Music of India by Shantsheela Sathianathan has focused on devotional music in the context of Bhakti Movement and Sufism. Apart from books on music the author went through several books on Sociology to draw a line of sociological perspective. These books are:


Society - Maclver and Page
Kinship and Marriage - Robin Fox
Sociology - T.B. Bottomore
Sociology - Harry M. Johnson

Since it is not possible to discuss about all books which were reviewed, a few of important literatures on Music and Sociology have been discussed here in short. These literature provided materials and ideas to carry on author’s pursuit at initial stage.

The concept of harmony will be used to make sense association of music with human life as an integral part of culture.

The term India has been applied to comprehend Indian sub-continent before partition and independent India also.




  Acknowledgements vii
  List of Tables and Diagrams xi
  List of Figures and Charts xii
  Introduction 1
1 Evolution of Indian Music 8
2 Gharanas, its Past and Present in the Process of Formation and Transformation 23
3 Guru-Shishya Parampara and Its Social Relationship 49
4 Classical Music in Relation to the Elite, the Intellectual and the Audience 64
5 Music Criticism 77
6 The Position of Music in the Context of Bhakti Movement and Sufism 89
7 What is Music For? 109
  Epilogue 120
  Bibliography 125
  Index 133


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