Inspite of such a variety of cultural interactions, our music has remained essentially melodic. In melody, one note follows the other, making for a continued unity of effect, whereas in harmony musical sounds are superimposed on one another. Our classical music has retained its melodic quality.
Today we recognise two systems of classical music: the Hindustani and the Carnatic. Carnatic music is confined to Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The classical music of the rest of the country goes under the name, Hindustani Classical Music. Of course. there are some areas in Karnataka and Andhra where the Hindustani Classical system is also practiced. Karnataka has given us in the recent past some very distinguished musicians of the Hindustani style. It is generally believed that the music of India was more or less uniform before the 13th century. Later it bifurcated into the two musical systems.
Hindustani Classical Music
The present Indian music has grown from ancient times. Almost every tribe or people have lent their own share in this growth. What therefore, we now call a raga might have started as a tribal or folk tune.
It is usual to begin the history of Indian music with the melodic patterns of vedic chanting. The oldest music, which possessed a grammar was the vedic. Of course, the Rig-Veda is said to be the oldest: nearly 5000 years old. The psalms of the Rig-Veda were called the richas. TheYajur Veda was also a religious chant. But actual music in Northern or Southern India, of those bygone days could not have only been of this kind. There were non-Aryan people with their own art. For instance, Santhal music from the Eastern region of India may have been passed down from them. While the differences are obvious, there is no doubt that such music of the people contributed to the formation of what we now call Hindustani Classical Music.
Carnatic Classical Music
The ancient Tamils of South India had also developed an highly evolved system of music with its solfa methods, concordant and discordant notes, scales and modes, etc. A number of instruments were also used to accompany song and dance. The Tamil classic of the 2nd century A.D. titled the Silappadhikaram contains a vivid description of the music of that period. The Tolkappiyam, Kalladam and the contributions of the Saivite and Vaishnavite saints of the 7th and 8th centuries A.D. also serve as resource material for studying musical history.
It is said, that South Indian Music, as known today, flourished in Deogiri the capital city of the Yadavas in the middle ages, and that after the invasion and plunder of the city by the Muslims, the entire cultural life of the city took shelter in the Carnatic Empire of Vijayanagar under the reign of Krishnadevaraya. Thereafter, the music of South India came to be known as Carnatic Music.
Cultural traditions from various regions of the country reflect the rich diversity of Regional Music of India. Each region has its own particular style. Tribal and folk music is not taught in the same way that Indian classical music is taught. There is no formal period of apprenticeship where the student is able to devote their entire life to learning the music, the economics of rural life does not permit this sort of thing. The musical practitioners must still attend to their normal duties of hunting, agriculture or whatever their chosen profession is.
Music in the villages is learnt from childhood, the music is heard and imbibed along with numerous public activities that allow the villagers to practice and hone their skills. The music is an indispensable component of functions such as weddings, engagements, and births. There is a plethora of songs for such occasions. There are also many songs associated with planting and harvesting. In these activities the villagers routinely sing of their hopes, fears and aspirations.