South Asia: Another Tree in the Wood
Andrew Killick [+]
University of Sheffield
A series of chapters on Asian cultures is introduced, once more, through music that will already be familiar to many readers. In this case, our point of entry comes from the Beatles’ song “Love You To,” which uses not just the instruments sitar and tabla but many structural elements of Indian classical music as well. These elements are then studied in their original context, exploring the workings of rag and tal in a way that builds on the earlier discussion of melodic and rhythmic modes in Middle Eastern music. A new theme emerges in the use of the drone, for although drones are present in some musical cultures discussed already (for instance in the bagpipes of Europe), it is arguably in Indian classical music that the drone principle has been exploited most fully, and it was through the exposure of that music to the West in the 1960s that drones became a common device in some kinds of popular music and film scoring. India’s international influence also includes the prestige of North Indian classical music as a high-status tradition in nearby countries like Afghanistan, the spread of “Bollywood” film music to many parts of Asia, and the development of the bhangra genre by South Asians living in the UK. On the other hand, the Indian tradition itself has been partly built on imported elements: to speak only of instruments, the sitar and tabla have ancestors in West Asia while the harmonium, a common instrument for accompanying singers, was derived from European models. Thus, India can be seen as a separate “music tree” with roots and branches of its own, one that has grown more or less independently of the American popular music tree discussed earlier. The same is true of China, as we discover next.