“Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy” – Ludwig van Beethoven.
It’s a well-known fact that music has a soothing effect on the human brain. Listening to music is good for our mental well-being, playing is even better. Neuroscientists have proved multiple benefits of music. It can even help you heal by letting you get in touch with your emotions. Various positive effects of music on the human brain such as enhanced learning and quality of life, increased intelligence and concentration, curing disorders such as Alzheimer’s, to name a few, are well-documented. Even plants and animals are known to react positively to music.
As you guys will move from one place to another, which is unavoidable in today’s age, you will come across different music forms. To be able to appreciate various forms of music, it is best to know a bit about each. Let’s take a look at the various forms of popular music forms and how expanding our musical horizons and enjoying different forms of music can positively impact our psyche and offer us fresher perspectives.
Let’s start with our very own Indian Classical Music.
Indian Classical Music Forms
Indian classical music especially appeals to the elderly and is known to have a calming and therapeutic effect. The two main pillars of Indian Classical Music are Carnatic Music, which has its roots in the peninsular region, and the Hindustani Music, which originated in the Northern, Eastern and Central parts of India.
The Carnatic music is commonly associated with Southern India but it is also practiced in Sri Lanka. Ragas (melodic scales) and Talas (rhythmic cycles) form the basis of Carnatic Music. There are seven Talas and 72 fundamental Ragas, all other Ragas are considered to have originated from these. Carnatic Music offers a challenge to the intellectual mind in terms of its numerous compositions, Talas, and Ragas. Subbulakshmi & Dr. M. Balamuralikrishnana are popular artists of Carnatic Music.
Also known as Shastriya Sangeet, this music form has been evolving in North India since 12th Century CE and has also spread to a large extent to many neighbouring countries. Hindustani system of music is based on rhythmic patterns called Tala and the melodic foundations are called Ragas. ‘Thaats’ are the parent scales under which Raagas are classified based on the notes they use. The Hindustani musicians name these pitches using a system called Sargam. Some major vocal forms associated with Hindustani Classical Music are Dhrupad, Khayal, Tarana, and Dhamar. Distinguished artists of this form of music are often bestowed with titles such as Pandit (in Hindus) and Ustad (in Muslims). Ustaad Rashid Khan & Kaushiki Chakraborty are contemporary vocalists of Hindustani Classical. Ustaad Zakir Hussain is renowned worldwide for his Tablavadan.
The various ancient schools of Hindustani classical music have long upheld the merits of ragas in evoking diverse emotional responses among audiences. Scientists have now confirmed that Ragas indeed evoke a gamut of responses from ‘happy’ and ‘calm’ to ‘tensed’ and ‘sad’ among listeners.
Light Classical Music
Light Classical Music refers to the more popular form of Indian music, which is meant for the entertainment of the common man. Light Music is an important part of Indian Music and has evolved and developed through ages in various parts of the country, with influences from varying cultures, traditions and languages. Light Music doesn’t necessarily require very strong detailing or dependence on Ragas. Some of the Light Classical Music forms include Indian Folk, Tribal, Bhajans/Devotional music, Ghazal & Qawwali, Ganasangeet (Patriotic Songs), Bollywood music, and regional music like Rabindra Sangeet, Bihu, Lavani, Dandiya, Bhangra, etc.
The light music is generally used as an accompaniment to dance, festivals, celebrations or just as a means of entertainment and relaxation.
Now, let’s take a look at the various popular Western Music forms and the artists who play those.
One of oldest surviving modern music forms, European Classic Music lays emphasis on tradition and set renditions of melodies, without much room for improvisation. Some popular forms of the western classical music are Symphony, Sonata, Concerto, Suite, Cantata, etc. These are either played on instruments such as piano, violin or are sung.
Western Classical Music is further categorized by period i.e. Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Modern.
Notable Composers: Ludvig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johann Sebastian Bach, Frederic Chopin, Antonio Vivaldi
We can safely term Rock Music as the most popular genre of music in the history of mankind. Various musical styles are described under the umbrella term ‘Rock’. The fusion of two other genres viz. Blues & Country, along with significant elements of Jazz Music led to the origin of this hugely popular form of music. The ‘rock and roll’ movement of the 1950s revolutionized the music scene in the west.
Notable Rock Bands: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Pink Floyd, U2, etc.
Notable Performers: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Kurt Cobain, etc.
The blues genre originated from African Americans’ work songs and was built around the premise of simple lyrics sung in a simple tune. The simple, plain structuring of a blues song is open to innovations and improvisations; this has led to the emergence of several completely different styles, such as rock music. Since the blues genre was ingrained in local calls and work songs, the subgenres of blues music are often named after places.
Notable Performers: Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Robert Nighthawk, Bessie Smith, etc.
Often referred to as the ‘classical version’ of blues music, Jazz developed among the black community of the Southern U.S. The huge African influence on this indigenous American style of music is evident in the emphasis on improvisation and a combination of different but simultaneously played rhythms, which is very unusual in the western tradition of music.
Jazz is often performed in ensembles with emphasis on their ability to play off each other, and improvise ex tempore. The improvisational element of jazz links it to Indian Classical Music, which values improvisation over repetition of set melodies. This inherent commonality has produced numerous collaborations between jazz and Indian Classical artists. Pt. Ravi Shankar, who frequently collaborated with western musicians, is one of the most famous Indian musicians in the west.
Notable Performers: Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra, John Coltrane, etc.
Just like Blues, Country music has its roots in the folk songs of Southern USA. Immigrants, who had brought along instruments from their own countries, merged their art forms to form the famous genre of country music. Hence, country music had elements from various countries such as Ireland, Italy, Germany, and various African countries. Country music left much scope for innovation, and like the blues, it has been adapted and moulded in different forms. Elvis Presley, who started out as a country singer, helped the genre develop into the more energetic, upbeat rock-n-roll.
Notable Performers: Bob Dylan, Jimmie Rodgers, Elvis Presley, Vernon Dalhart, Roy Acuff, etc.
One noteworthy point about Jazz, Blues & Country Music forms is their root is believed to be associated with freedom of those communities.
Reggae music can be traced back to the Jamaican music style called Ska, based on R&B, Jazz, and Caribbean musical traditions. Ska originated in 1960 and later set off the world-famous genre of Reggae.
Like all Caribbean music forms, there is an extensive use of drums in Reggae, typified by high- pitched snares. Reggae also incorporates popular instruments such as guitars and synthesizers
Notable Artists: Peter Tosh, Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, Jimmy Cliff, etc.
Hip Hop is one of the most popular music forms. Hip Hop music emerged as an offshoot of the hip hop movement in the 1970s. Centered in the Bronx, the movement soon spread to the rest of the US, and hip hop reaped the benefits of the expansion, becoming one of the most followed genres of the 1970s-1980s.
Notable Performers: Public Enemy, Black Eyed Peas, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Akon, Kanye West, Ludacris, etc.
One of the modern music forms, electronic music is based on electronic samples. These samples include synthesizers, the electric guitar, and the theremin. Electronic music is more popularly known as House or Disco Music. It gained popularity in the 1970s and 1980s. During recent times, this has been used for scoring.
Notable Artists: Halim El-Dabh, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Robert Moog, Brian Eno, etc.
Music is a part of our everyday life. No matter what your preferred choice of music is, there is no denying the value that music adds to our lives and our physical, mental and emotional well-being. Music, like mathematics, is a language which can make it easy to understand which otherwise are non-comprehendible.
We hope you enjoyed this piece on the popular music forms. Feel free to contribute to the article by leaving your feedback in the comments’ section.