12 – Indian Music Systems – Decorative Elements
There are various sorts of decorative elements that are used while singing/ playing a song. These decorative elements are what distinguishes Indian music from the western. One of the key such elements is the concept of embellishing some of the notes of the song with a fleeting touch of an immediately lower or higher note. This gives a sense of smoothness and continuity to the song. When you hear Indians singing western songs you can see this effect inadvertently slipping in! This element is dependent on the raga the song is in and also the instrument on which it is played.
Another decorative element is the glide from one note to another. This again, is more prevalent in Indian music than western. When you glide from one note to another, all intermediate notes and microtones are touched on, but some notes are given more prominence depending on the raga.
Another element (especially while singing) is vibrating the singing of a note. This is very common in Carnatic music.
Another element is like stuttering, that is, a note is sung as a cluster of notes.
There are many such decorative elements that give Indian music its unique quality.
Performing / Playing / Singing a piece of music
Normally, there are two important sections in a performance. One where the raga is introduced and developed without bringing in the time element. That is the rendering is not set to a tala. The performer creates the rhythm through the expert use of the notes of the raga. This part normally does not have lyrics attached to it. Just the notes are elaborated.
Another section is where the music is set around a tala. This is where the song (with lyrics) is sung.
There may also be sections sung in slow tempo and later in a faster tempo.
Check out this video from David Bennet where he talks of how the Beatles used Indian music theory, and at time stamp 9:50 you can hear how “Within You, Without You” would sound like in the ornamented Indian style.
Visit the following pages for notes on particular elements of music.