By Parisha Narang | 20th Jun 2023 | “Culture and its involvement in Music”

Indian culture is an amalgamation of color and splendor. The rise of Indian culture about 4500 years ago has shown developments in the academic field, infrastructure, and the arts. Specifically, music. Indian classical music is one of the most ancient forms of music. As an Indian, my childhood has been filled with sweet melodies and ragas (the fundamental element in Indian music) that have influenced my character and solidified my position as an Indian. Without Indian music, I would not feel as connected to my community as I do today.

Indian music is based on melody, Westerners might interpret Indian Western music has played a significant role in how Indian music is today. Western ideas can be found in Bollywood music primarily, while Indian classical music retains its original structure, which is a migration and mix of cultures that pertain to the Indian Subcontinent.

The diversity of India is a major factor in the construction of its music, the broad term of Indian music can be separated into south (Carnatic) and north (hindustani) music, however, there are only slight differences. Whereas western music accounts for the areas of Europe and the United States.


Western scales generally consist of seven notes and five variations which are arranged in an order of increasing pitch to form a scale or a gamut, termed an “octave” in Western music.

The ragas and talas are essential to any piece of Indian music. Talas are different from ragas in a way that it is the basis of rhythm, while ragas are the basis of the melodic

framework. The pitches also differ, with Western music having an equal temperament while Indian classical music has a complex system of scales.

There are similarities within the notes, as both types of music have 7 basic notes and 5 variations.

The basic Indian scale (Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni) corresponds with the Western C major scale (Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti)


There are also differences in the way the music is performed, The musicians of Indian classical music frequently play in a call-and-response style, where one musician plays a phrase and the other musician responds with a phrase that is similar. This enables the musicians to engage in conversation with one another which also engages the audiences simultaneously.

The musicians are typically expected to play their parts both independently and in unison in Western music.

Socio-cultural perspective

The influence of Western musical ideas on Indian music has led to a dilution of cultural identity and Indian culture being more showcased in the international world.

Ancient Indian music was based on religious and cultural themes, the contemporary westernized music incorporates themes of love, social issues, personal experiences, etc.

The idea of concerts, bands, underground artists, and more was unheard of in India until now. The culture of Western democratization of music allows smaller artists and labels to have an opportunity to display their talent and skills. This has shown up in Indian media as well, where up-and-coming artists have it easier than before to produce an inclusive and diverse music culture in India. Hence, both Western and Indian music has currently created a culture of inclusivity and diversity with the decentralization of music. Small bands or young artists take the stage through platforms such as American Idol and Indian Idol, as well as America’s Got Talent and India’s Got Talent. It might seem like blatant plagiarism however there are many advantages to applying a Western idea into Indian media. However, the disadvantages could lead to a complete dissociation from Indian culture, and losing sight of tradition while on the cusp of musical globalization.

Indian music has also become more modern, the production techniques and sound quality have significantly improved by the influence of Western culture. This allows the overall musical work to be much better than before, however, this has also led to the commercialization of music in India.


To focus on the differences between culture and classical music, we have to go back to ancient times to explore the birth of Western Classical music and Indian Classical music.


1000 AD provides a convenient starting point for Western music. The idea first occurred of combining voices to sing a melody. Early western music was based on Greek and

Roman influences.

The church was an important reason for the growth of music, with its single-line unaccompanied chants in sacred ceremonies. Gregorian chant is the traditional music of the Western church, derived from traditional Greek songs. The church grew a need for musical unification, and Guido d’Arrezo provided for this need, inventing music notation.

After this, a burst of musical concepts emerged including the rules of harmony during the era of the Troubadours (secular music) . This was accompanied by the Renaissance which witnessed the birth of Opera.

Then comes the Classical Era, with infamous composers such as Bach, Handel, Telemann, Haydn, and most well known: Beethoven and Mozart.


The origin of Indian Classical music dates back to Vedic times, where musical notes and found within Vedic scriptures. Samaveda is called the Veda of music and is considered to have provided the foundation for Indian music. Music was simply chanting of verses in musical patterns in the late Vedic period.

Natyashastra was the first musical work in written format that divided music into octaves and 22 keys. In around 400 BCE.


The early music of India was under two basic categories: religious music or Vedic Music and secular music or Loukik Music.

When new instruments like the Sitar and Tabla came into existence, it was the medieval time period. This allowed the birth of many different types of musical aspects and ragas. This was influenced by Persian culture and the practices of the Mughals.

After this, the division of Indian music was formed; Carnatic and Hindustani.

In conclusion, both types of cultures have bred a well loved form of music in different parts of the world. As well, their influences on each other have created cultural developments, which can be good and bad. Overall, Western music and Indian music are not as different as they seem, and the people who enjoy and perform are a part of the culture of music that has emerged over many centuries

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