Music beyond borders – Part 1

World music – as it’s been termed has continued to gain popularity. The term today encompasses, practically anything that’s not of Western European or North American origin.

Whether Ravi Shankar in the sixties, Sting’s flirtations with Moroccan music in the 70s through Ustad Fateh Ali Khan, Yanni in the 80s and 90s, an endless stream of regional or world music has gained a global audience. My own exposure to world music began with Gregorian Chants, in many ways reminiscent of my childhood experience of vedic chanting and grew thanks to my husband’s interest in Qawwali.

I have been exploring how ragas – be they carnatic or hindustani – figure in music from different parts of the world. Starting this week, over the next several columns, I will share with you some of my more interesting findings. The biggest insight I’ve gained in this exploration is that boundaries are only in our minds. Music is beyond borders.

I’ll start with the Gregorian chants that I spoke of. The Benedictine monks who do the chanting create an immensely meditative atmosphere. They were the precursor to other genres of music such as Hungarian and Spanish music. This particular link, the Gregorian chant “Dies Irae” reminds me of raga Abheri.

Raga Simhendramadhyamam is commonly heard in Spanish and Hungarian gypsy music. The origin of Hungarian music can be traced to Transylvania in central Romania, a place that is synonymous with the fictional character of Count Dracula. Do listen to these musical notes and whether raga Simhendramadhyamam resonates in your mind.

There will be an interlude here before we move onto Africa in the next post.

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