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September 8, 2016 1:58 PM   Subscribe

If I'm interested in exploring Indian music, particularly rhythmically and harmonically complex Indian music, are there particularly good places to start? Composers, bands, movements/scenes, whatever. I have no preference between classical/religious/film/pop music—at the moment, I know tragically little about the musical landscape, other than that it's gorgeous and really draws me in. I tend to be drawn to frenetic, intense music, but that's by no mean a need for me right now. I just need help figuring out where to look.
posted by rorgy to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Ravi Shankar might be a good start. I love his album Passages with Philip Glass.
posted by exogenous at 2:23 PM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

A R Rahman is a safe place to start for film and pop. Look through the popular songs on Spotify.
posted by redlines at 3:36 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you like frenetic and intense, South Indian (Carnatic) music might be your best bet. Check out L. Subramanian and L. Shankar for starters.
posted by karbonokapi at 4:15 PM on September 8, 2016

A few random links...

Completely amazing - Charanjit Singh's 1982 record, Ten Ragas To a Disco Beat, which more or less invented acid house by accident.

Just came across this major linkdump of Indian classical music resources, from just a few days ago so I assume it's up to date. I like what little I've explored from it.

Flat, Black and Classical - audiophile rips of classical vinyl and cassette finds. Some are major musicians, many are totally obscure but well worth listening to. Good notes accompanying all.

Seconding starting with A.R. Rahman for pop/film. Superstar composer/producer that just about everyone in India knows and loves. He's so prolific that I'm hopelessly lost on what might be essential from him. But you could do worse than "Chaiyya Chaiyya" from the Dil Se soundtrack (Mefi thread)

Just remembered the unexpected kinda-absurdist pop hit Why This Kolaveri Di (Mefi thread)

Recent piece on a small-but-growing Indian noise scene

Five lost gems of psychedelic India (NPR / Stones Throw)

The movie Junun might be of interest. It has Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead in it, but the main stars end up being the assortment of musicians from many different Indian traditions, and what they make when they all come together.
posted by naju at 6:35 PM on September 8, 2016 [7 favorites]

RD Burman's film scores. I repeat: RD Burman's film scores!
posted by nightrecordings at 8:26 PM on September 8, 2016

Bollywood: RD Burman and AR Rahman as composers, Lata Mangeskhar and Kishore Kumar as singers, maybe Udit Narayan for the classics of the 1990s. I recommend the whole score of Awaara, Abhimaan, and Yaadon Ki Baarat. More recently, I think the music of Omkara and Saathiya are representative of what's going on in Bollywood music at the moment. For the traditional lush nineties-style score, try the soundtracks of some Yash Chopra movies (Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayange, Dil to Pagal Hai, Veer-Zaara; you will find a very similar sound in Kuch Hota Hai, Kal Ho Na Ho and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham).

I also really like Shubha Mudgal, who is a bit off the Bollywood beaten track but has a beautiful and very unusual voice. She sings much of the soundtrack of Raincoat, and she can also be an entry-point into Indian music outside Bollywood. For example, she has a collection of Wedding Songs of Uttar Pradesh, which give you a taste of the folk song tradition in North India, and some albums of devotional music in the Hindu Bhakti tradition (in Sanskrit and Hindi).

For South Indian Carnatic music, there is M S Subbalakshmi. You may want to listen to her Bhaja Govindam to get a feel for the flavour of Carnatic music. (There is a rough translation of the Sanskrit words of the poem available online here.)
posted by Aravis76 at 11:47 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I can direct you towards a few musicians, mainly Vina, as it's my favourite instrument.

Vina/Veena - Chitti Babu (here is a documentary) and S. Balachannder (here). There are tons of female veena players. Here are Jayanthi Kumaresh and Nirmala Rajasekar.

Tabla - I only know of Zakir Hussain who is astounding.

Violin - Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan.

Here is some basic Carnatic music theory and some history about the great trinity of Carnatic music. I studied this a few years back at an Indian music school. I recommend going if you want a more immersive experience. The schools tend to include beginners of all ages in a class meaning you may be learning alongside 5 year olds. There are some private teachers in your area.

Here are some vocal lessons. There are many of these on Youtube. I tried some of these last year but i've decided to join a class at some point instead.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 5:03 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

You might find this YouTube series on Indian classical music theory, as it relates to the sitar, helpful.
posted by goo at 1:10 AM on September 10, 2016

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