About the Music


Hindustani Music is an old tradition dating back to the Mughal Courts of the 15th century of Northern India.  It is an improvised music made up of two main movements: the grammatically structured melody of the raga and the mathematically structured rhythm of the tala.

Raga – is a picture painted on the mental canvas of sound using musical colors to evoke a particular emotion.  They can be deeply meditative and healing.  They can also be fun and exciting.  Ragas are seasonal and time sensitive.  There are morning and sunset, spring and autumn, as well as fire and rain ragas.  They can be considered a medium for abstract art using the ears instead of the eyes to convey a feeling.

Tala – is to take this painting and bring it to life through the dance of rhythm.  It is a cyclical mathematic structure set to a certain amount of beats.  It is also a frame work in which one can compose on the spot mathematical passages and rhythmic feelings.  This is where one could make use of compositions and folk songs.

Sitar and Surbahar – are classical string instruments traditionally from: Northern India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Afghanistan.  They are plucked instruments designed to render both melody and rhythm.  They are also quite capable of imitating the human voice and capturing microtones called shruti.  Each instrument has about 20 strings and 20 movable frets all made from metal.  They have a hollow neck made from teak or tun wood and a sound resonator made from a gourd.  They vary in size, but the sitar is about 4 feet and the surbahar about 5 feet in length.  Their western counterparts would be the violin and viola.

Yoga with Sound

There was an ancient practice where yogis incorporated asanas with sound.  They would use the sound to tune the nadis and the chakras: leading to meditation and prepare them for samadhi.  The bases of these sounds were microtones called shrutis.

When the Mughals invaded India, they came and took these sounds and shrutis into the courts.  Once in the courts the shrutis were organized into a classical music (becoming more entertaining and less spiritual) developing into the raga and tala system that we know today, Hindustani Music.

When Michael performs at yoga studios, the class makes use of the more traditional Dhrupad style raga development of Hindustani Music.  This is deeply meditative and healing.  It is also very useful for breathing, calming of the mind, and realignment of the body.  The raga will focusing on three movements:

  • Alap – slow speed, free flow, and shruti oriented
  • Jor – medium speed, pulse, simple rhythms
  • Jhala – fast speed, hypnotic, complex rhythms

Hindustani Concert Description:

Michael will begin the performance with the sitar/surbahar developing the 3 main movements of a raga: Alap, Jor, and Jhala.  This raga can last for a few minutes or nearly an hour and will be rendered in the Dhrupad or Khyal style.  The raga will be chosen based on the time of day and the microtones (shrutis) used will evoke a particular emotion felt by the body.  Once the raga has been established, the percussionist will join in.

Now the music will focus more on the cyclical rhythm patterns called tala.  The melody from the sitar/surbahar will weave around the rhythm of the tabla.  This will create a certain dialogue between the two instruments as they improvise.  As the music progresses, it will gradually increase in speed and complexity, building to a final climax.

Traditional instruments of Hindustani Music: tanpura, sitar, sarod, surbahar, sursringar, rudra vina, esraj, dilruba, sarangi, santoor, shehnai, bansuri, harmonium, tabla, pakhawaj, and the human voice.