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About Hindustani Music

The History


Hindustani classical music's history stretches back thousands of years. However, it is very much a living practice too! Hindustani music has many distinct genres and styles such as khyaldhrupad, thumrighazaldadra, and others. The complexity, fluidity, and versatility of the voice inspires all styles of classical instrumental in India, both Hindustani classical in the North, and Carnatic music in the South. 

Hindustani classical music uses a melodic and rhythmic system called raga and tala, respectively. These systems have developed and changed quite a bit over even in the past several hundred years. Fragments of the modern raga and tala system can be found in treatises written as far back as the 6th or 8th century AD. Other aspects of Indian music can be traced back much earlier. 


Emerging as a distinct style of music in the courts of Indian nobility sometime in between 600 and 1200AD, Hindustani classical music came into its own in the courts of the Delhi Sultanate, the Mughal Empire, and in modern colonial and post-colonial India.

Hindustani music is primarily an oral tradition. While some fragments and treatises of written knowledge exist detailing pre-1200AD musical practice, much of what musicians practice today is embodied in the teacher-student relationships that constitute the basis of Hindustani classical music pedagogy. 

After around 1700AD, Hindustani classical music entered its "modern" period. Many musicians today can trace their musical lineage back to at least this time. Since the teacher-student relationship is so central to the transmission of musical knowledge in the Hindustani system, tracing one's musical lineage legitimizes a musician's pedigree and is an indicator of the style of music they perform. 

For more information about the history of Indian classical music, you can visit the ITC Sangeet Research Academy's Story of Hindustani Classical Music."

The Practice Today


Maybe you have heard of such names as Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan, and Vilayat Khan? If so, you have heard the names of some of the greatest Hindustani classical musicians of the 20th century. But there are many more amazing and accomplished musicians practicing today!

Most practicing musicians today can trace their musical and, in some cases, familial heritage back to the time of the great Mughal court under the Emperor Akbar. In tracing their heritage, musicians these days are also telling you about the style of music they play. "Houses of music" or gharanas have played important stylistic and social roles in the life of Hindustani music and musicians in the recent past. Ravi Shankar (who, among other things, famously taught one of the members of the British rock band The Beatles), was a student of the great Allauddin Khan, who studied with the great veena master Wazir Khan. Allauddin Khan and his disciples Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan, Nikhil Banerjee, and others constitute what is known as the Maihar or Seniya gharana. 

The family of Imdad khan (the son of Sehabdad Khan, father of Enayat Khan, grandfather of Vilayat Khan, great-grandfather of Shujaat Khan, and so forth) constitutes another great instrumental gharana or stylistic lineage known as the Etawah or Imdadkhani gharana

The Imdadkhani and Maihar gharanas are but two of many instrumental gharanas alive today. There are many different stylistic lineages for vocalists, tabla players, pakhawaj players, veena players, and others. 

Among the many instruments used in Hindustani classical music, the sitar is by far the most popular. With a between 18 and 21 strings, the sitar has a beautifully resonant and shimmering sound. Evolving to its near-modern form in the 19th century, sitars today generally come in one of two types: the Ravi Shankar style and the Vilayat Khan style. These two towering 20th century musicians adapted the sitar to their individual needs by making small modifications to the strings and the bridge or jawari. The sitar, like Indian music, is still evolving to meet performers' needs and audience expectations. For more information, see Allyn Miner's excellent book on history and evolution of the sitar and sarod.

In private homes, in businesses, in symphony halls, and in outdoor concert venues, Hindustani music is performed from Canada to Australia, from Chile to Japan, and everywhere in between. With thousand upon thousands of  performers, Hindustani classical music is a tradition in transition, but alive and well. 

Andy's Teaching Style

Andy has studied for the past 24 years with three teachers: Roshan Jamal Bhartiya, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, and Ustad Shujaat Khan. 

In your lessons, Andy will teach you exercises, compositions, and improvisational techniques mostly flowing from his time studying with Ustad Shujaat Khan, the foremost musician representing the Imdadkhani gharana today. 


You will learn the basics of proper form for playing the sitar (or how to adapt your instrumental style to best fit the performance of Hindustani classical music). We will cover the concept of raga and tala by first learning the Hindustani solfege system known as sargam. We will learn to sing the sargam scale and learn the best practices of Hindustani intonation. Concurrently, we will learn several compositions in one raga to help understand the depth of the raga and tala system. We will then explore the beauty of several contrasting ragas by understanding the rules of movement, the sense of affect, the catch phrases, and other aspects of the raga system.

We will cover different exercises to expand your physical performance capacities and your mental/musical acuity. Like puzzles and games, these exercises can be practiced with or without your instrument and at all times of the day. 


Once you are comfortable performing compositions in a raga, we will explore some of the techniques of improvisation that constitute the bulk of Hindustani classical music.   

Andy is a warm and patient teacher. He has taught students from as young as 3 to as old as your grandma. Andy has a great sense of humor and knows how to make students feel comfortable expressing themselves in a style of music that might not be familiar. Contact Andy today to set up a lesson!

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