Indian music glossary

Be wary: transliterations vary wildly.

term definition
alap introductory opening section of performance (unaccompanied, unmetered)
antara second phrase of a fixed composition, emphasizing upper notes (Carnatic: anupallavi)
arohana ascending notes of raga
audava pentatonic
avrohana descending notes of raga
baj style, esp. instrumental style
bandish fixed melodic composition (gat)
bansuri bamboo flute
bayan left-hand lower-pitched drum of tablas (literally 'left')
bhajan Hindu devotional song
bols phoenetic syllables for drum strokes
Carnatic South Indian
chiz fixed composition in khayal
dadra 6 beat tal; light classical piece in dadra tala
dhammar 14 beat tal; dhrupad vocal piece in dhammar tala
dhrupad old, austere vocal style
dhun folk song
drut fast tempo
gamaka ornamentation of notes (embellishment)
gat fixed composition section with rhythmic accompaniment
gayaki vocal style (literally 'thing')
gharana family; clan; musical school; tradition; often named by city (Agra, Indore, Jaipur, ...)
ghazal light classical vocal genre based on Persian/Urdu poetry
guru teacher
harmonium small hand-pumped organ (primarily accompanying vocal performance)
Hindustani North Indian
jati number of notes in raga ascent/descent (5/6/7: audava/shadava/sampurna)
jhala fast performance section with repeated rhythmic figures
jor unmetered performance section (following alap) (jod)
jugalbandi duet (literally 'entwined twins')
kaida theme and limited variations for tabla
khali empty beat of tala (wave of hand)
khayal modern classical vocal form
komal flat
kriti Carnatic vocal form
madhya medium tempo; middle pitch register
mandra low pitch register
matra beat (within a tala)
mridangam two-headed drum used in Carnatic music
murki ornamentation technique
pakad musical phrase encapsulating essence of a raga (pakar)
pakhawaj two-headed drum used in dhrupad
Pandit honorific 'master' (Hindu)
parampara tradition (notably: guru/shishya parampara)
prahar time of day (3 hour time period) associated with raga
purvang raga with vadi in lower tetrachord (Sa to Ma)
raga melodic form (rag)
ragini female rag in old classification system
ragmala light classical form using mixed ragas
rasa essence; aesthetic flavor (literally 'juice')
sam first beat of tala (typically most important beat)
sampurna heptatonic
samvadi second most important note of raga (typically, 4th or 5th from vadi)
sangeet music or musical celebration (sangita)
santoor hammer-struck stringed instrument (hammer dulcimer)
saptak pitch register (low/medium/high: mandra/madhya/tara)
sarangi bowed string instrument (like violin)
sarod plucked fretless string instrument
sargam solfege (notes of the scale); also singing of names of notes (Sa Re Ga Ma...)
shadava hexatonic
shenai double reed instrument
shishya student
shruti microtonal pitch variation
shuddha natural (i.e., not sharp or flat)
sitar plucked fretted string instrument
sthayi initial phrase of a fixed composition, emphasizing lower notes (asthai; Carnatic: pallavi)
surbahar bass sitar
swara pitch (of a raga note)
taan fast vocal passage technique
tabla pair of drums; also the smaller right-hand drum (tuned) of tablas
tala rhythmic form (tal, taal); literally 'clap'
tanpura drone string instrument
tara high pitch register
thata melodic classification (thaat)
theka basic rhythmic phrase of a tala
thumri modern light classical vocal style
tivra sharp
Ustad honorific 'master' (Moslem)
uttarang raga with vadi in upper tetrachord (Pa to Sa)
vadi most important note of raga
veena plucked fretted string instrument; predecessor of sitar; many variations
vibhoga subdivision of tala
vilambit slow tempo
vivadi forbidden note of raga (dissonant)

Back to main Hindustani music page