‘Raga in Context’ presents a series of ragas in their associated contexts of season and time.
Raga, from the Sanskrit word ‘ranj’ (meaning ‘to colour’ or ‘to delight’), is defined (in the words of Joep Bor) as ‘a tonal framework for composition and improvisation in Hindustani classical music’. In addition to specific tonal and musical qualities, ragas have also been long associated with extramusical features such as time, season, aesthetic attributes, and other contexts. Ragas in Karnataka music also have seasonal associations. While performers today do not strictly adhere to these temporal associations, the belief that a raga is most beautiful at its prescribed time is widely accepted.
The term raga is, however, not restricted to classical music traditions and is found in regional music traditions as well, where it varies in its conceptualisation and should not be seen as a mirror of its classical counterpart. ‘Raga in Context’, thus also presents the ragas of the Manganiar and Langa musicians of Rajasthan, who follow a raga tradition with temporal attributes, though these differ at times from the classical system.
Ritual Traditions provide much of the context of music making in India. They include recitation of fixed texts, performance of special songs and dances, processions, use of special dresses, consumption of special food and drink, and much more.The performance of ritual creates a theatrical-like frame around the activities, symbols and events that shape the participant's experience.
Oral/Folk epic songs have three primary features: An epic is narrative, it is poetic, and it is heroic. Although epic performances are dominated by song, many also include significant prose and non-sung sections (vacanam, varta, arthav), which are used to explain or elaborate the sung material.
Work songs are songs connected to a form of work, either sung while conducting a task or a song linked to a task which might be a connected narrative, description. There are songs, and even ballads that are associated with being sung during long or repetitive tasks such as working in the fields, and at times for creating rhythms to coordinate movements. They range from long songs to short syllabic verses.
Most of the musical genres in India are in some way related to ritual, religion, and devotion. Bhajan, kirtan, hymns, and sung verses exist in each part of the country. Though there are specific regional traditions, like the Bauls of Bengal, or Sopanam Sangeetam of Kerala, there are the saint poets such as Tulsidas, Surdas, Kabir and Mira who are sung in many parts of India. The Vaishnav traditions, the Bhakti, and the Sufi traditions are also known for music as a means of devotional practice.
Oral/Folk epic songs can be characterized with three primary features: An epic is narrative, it is poetic, and it is heroic. Although epic performances are dominated by song, many also include significant prose and non-sung sections (vacanam, varta, arthav), which are used to explain or elaborate the sung material.