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Glossary - What we mean when we use certain terms

To be able to talk about Indian music as if it were a single entity is remarkable, not so much because it inevitably simplifies an ancient and complex tradition as in effect the reverse: it shows that there are significant unifying principles in the musical culture of a huge subcontinent.

What we know as Indian music tends to be the classical traditions of the north and south based on the melodic system of ragas and the rhythmic system of talas. The reality in India is a diversity of styles, functions and instruments embracing an untold wealth of folk and tribal music, the hugely popular outpouring of songs from the ‘Bollywood’ film industry, a vibrant tradition of sacred chants and devotional songs, and all kinds of shades of classical music. Clearly it is not possible to do justice to this cornucopia of sound from one of the world’s most ancient civilisations and largest populations, who, to paraphrase one English commentator, have had time to forget more melodies than the West has had time to learn! The focus will remain on the kind of Indian music most actively fostered and carried to the four corners of the earth by Navras. The company is aptly named: the nine rasas (nava rasa) are the aesthetic bedrock of Indian classical music. They are more than emotional states: rasa denotes a taste or relish, the experience of which, to the initiated, will bring about a state of transcendental bliss. Hearing music live, with an appreciative audience adding its expressions of approval, is unquestionably the best - certainly the authentic - way to listen to this music, which is a reason for Navras’ decision to record at live concerts. Another reason is of course to capture the spontaneity of what is largely improvised music.

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