A Hindustani perspective on musical traditions

The department of music hosted a lecture by classical Hindustani musician Nagaraja Havaldar, allowing students to explore the music of India in Brodie Hall on Wednesday Oct. 9. The lecture consisted of Havaldar teaching and demonstrating Hindustani classical songs through vocal accompaniment.

Junior Rahul Thandla, a vocal performance and biology major, was responsible for bringing Havaldar to campus. Thandla first met Havaldar when he performed in Buffalo two years ago.

Thandla has since spent his summers in India learning the vocal styles of Hindustani classical music from Havaldar. He assisted Havaldar with the demonstration and performance at Geneseo, which was a part of Havaldar's current international concert tour.

But Havaldar said he recognizes it is very important for him to come to America and teach.

“Music is a social, cultural responsibility for me,” he said.

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Through his performances, Havaldar also took the opportunity to compare Indian styles to those in Western culture.

Western classical music will usually have a composition, a symphony or a movement that an orchestra will play from, while in India, they utilize ragas, or groups of ascending and descending scales. The singer goes through one or two lines, moving up and down the scale and continuing back and forth.

“We can sing compositions for any amount of time,” Havaldar said.

He explained that, although Hindustani and Western styles have similar scales, they differ because “apart from just single notes, there are embellishments.” Some notes will oscillate when sung in a Hindustani style.

And the musical syllables also vary with Western music using “do, re, mi,” whereas India has “sa, re, ga.”

Another difference between Hindustani and Western classical music is that the west has a conductor who directs the performer and reads from sheet music. In India, there is just one person performing, and they focus on the melody rather than harmony; therefore, “all roles go into one.”

And Havaldar added that, “When you listen to music keenly, you'll forget all of your worries; there is a strong relationship between the human mind and music. Music is the language of emotions.”

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