Author: Lunar Delay

Smoothing Out the Edges: Indian Classical Music

In my previous post I documented my first experience with Indian Classical Music, to summarise, I listened to the World Music Network’s Rough Guide to Indian Classical Music, this experience left me with the following questions:

  • What are the key instrumentation used?
  • What role does human voice play?
  • How is this music recorded?
  • Why was it noted that one track was recorded live?
  • What is the difference between Bollywood music and Indian classical?
  • Why does the music sound like a mix between psychedelic rock and folk music?
  • Why is there a lack of Indian Classical Music available online?

While experiencing my first active listening session of Indian Classical I found myself fascinated by the different instruments used. Through some exploration I know understand that these instruments are generally broken up into groups of whom plays the raga and the tala. While Northern and Southern Indian musicians may use different instruments these same principles apply. The raga being patterns of notes, a combination of what I’d personally recognise as melody and scale (BBC 2014). Instruments capable of playing the raga are varied as anything capable of playing multiple notes could be used; however, traditionally the use of sitar, sarod, sarangi or violin, flute, shehnai, and harmonium. For the record, the piano I thought I heard was most likely a harmonium, a large keyboard which works mechanically similar to a church organ. The tala refers to the rhythmic patterns, generally made by percussion instruments (BBC 2014) including tabla, jaltarangam, mridangam and ghatam (Cultural India n.d).

In my experience, I was blown away by the way the human voice was used as a rhythmic element in El Taal, performed by Allah Rakha & Zakir Hussain. Through looking into this further and trying to find further examples of this in other pieces of Indian Classical I discovered that this style is called Tappa, a rolling piece of high paced vocal, while I thought it was simply a rhythmic element it is indeed a narrative driver. While I personally enjoyed this use of voice, it is definitely not common place. Vocals are generally used as religious narrative drivers, whether that be Hindi or Islamic.

As there is limited information available describing the process of recording Indian Classical Music I have taken the time to analyse early recordings and compared to later recordings to find out if there is much difference in terms of techniques and equipment used. By listening to pieces recorded around the 50s and early 60s the music seems to be recorded using one ribbon microphone at the back of a performance space, as the sound of the room, the reverberation and performances are captured in the recordings. Listening to more recent recordings, post-1990, I have found that the music is recorded in a much more sterile environment often with each element recorded separately and brought together on multitrack tape or digitally. Which explains the World Music Network’s eagerness to highlight that El Taal performed by Allah Rakha & Zakir Hussain was recorded live, as to explain the lack of polish within the recording. I find this particularly interesting as European classical music is very much reluctant to adapt to multitrack recording, valuing the authenticity of the performance captured rather than the polish capable of being achieved (Faber 2017).

Bollywood music, also known as filmi, is music obviously synonymous with the Indian film industry. Currently, filmi represents 72% of music sales in India (BBC 2010). In the early days of Bollywood the music used was totally reliant on the musical traditions of India; however as recorded mediums of music from all over the world became more available musical influences from elsewhere began to flow into the music of Bollywood. While Indian classical music is still a cornerstone of filmi the adoption of songwriting, lyrics, stylistic elements and production techniques created in Europe and the United States have become increasingly common within filmi (World Music Network 2013).

One of the first things I noticed when listening to Indian Classical Music was how much I could hear elements of psychedelia streaming forth. The World Music Network (2013) explains that “evidently the Western psychedelic movement owed much to Indian inspiration.” While I’d known that The Beatles were influenced by Indian music and culture, it had never dawned on me that the flow of Indian music throughout Europe and North America was India to the UK and America through the Beatles’ British Invasion to the American and German underground rock, psych, and krautrock bands expanding on the tonality and rhythmic elements further and adapting it to suit their needs ().

Interestingly, since the sunset on the British Empire’s stranglehold on India, the traditional music recording and distribution industry has largely not been claimed by the Indian people. With works seemingly only recorded and distributed by the BBC and other British and North American companies with an interest in monetising Indian culture elsewhere, with only India’s Navitas Records entering the market 15 years ago. While companies like Real World Records and World Music Network aim to share music from around the world, my theory as to why there is a very small number of Indian recording labels focused on traditional music is that the Indian people are more concerned with these pieces being performed live than they are hearing recorded reproductions of these performances; however, Navitas Records’ entry into the market recognises the demand for this music from the diasporic Indian community.

BBC 2014, Indian Raga, viewed September 8, <>

BBC 2014, Indian Tala, viewed September 8, <>

Cultural India n.d, Indian Music Instruments, viewed September 7 2017, <>

Faber R, 2017, Classical Music Recording Methods: A Conversation with Yuri Lysoivanov,, viewed September 7 2017, <>

Puterbaugh P, 1998, The British Invasion: From the Beatles to the Stones, The Sixties Belonged to Britain, Rolling Stone, viewed September 8 2017, <>

World Music Network 2013, The Rough Guide To Psychedelic Bollywood, viewed September 7 2017, <>


The Rough Guide To ‘The Rough Guide To Indian Classical Music’

It all started at work on Friday night. The floor was dead, which fortunately gave me the freedom to escape the customer service desk and find the time and opportunity to quiz and discuss with my manager, N, on what or whom he would consider being seminal classical Indian pieces and performers and where I could find hear them. N was very enthusiastic about my endeavour to explore the sonic history of India and mentioned a few pieces and wrote a list of performers he considered important on a piece of scrap cardboard, which I would later lose in a brain explosion; however he made it clear that it would be difficult to find examples of these pieces and artists as they were more than likely never recorded to tape let alone converted digitally, explaining that he enjoys his subscription to the World Music Network as they aggregate a variety of Indian music, but he was unsure if I would be able to find classical Indian music through the service.

It was 10:30 pm on Friday night when I sat down to explore and hopefully begin my adventure into classical Indian music, open to the fact that I may not find exactly what I was hoping to experience but would find a piece of Indian music I’d never imagined existing. I began by Googling the World Music Network, and explored their website, finding their Rough Guides to world music. I found it interesting that there were separate classifications of Indian and Bollywood music. Finding guides to Psychedelic India and Psychedelic Bollywood peaked my curiosity, however, I managed to hunt down a title called The Rough Guide To Indian Classical MusicBeing a student I tossed up the idea of signing up for the paid subscription service or purchasing the album outright, eventually deciding to do neither of those two things and attempt to find the album on Spotify. Thankfully for my back pocket, the collection of songs was there.

Before I listened to the album, I took my time taking in the cover art. Depicting an elder Indian man wearing a red religious head scarf, playing what I assume is a flute in a what looks like a temple. The guide features nine songs, lasting a duration of 74 minutes; but includes a bonus ‘disk’ six track album by Debashish Bhattacharya which if included as part of the collection doubles the duration of the album. The last decision I had to make, given it was now 11 pm was whether I could listen to the full album or simply the guide then and there, weighing up the pros and cons I decided that I should listen to just the guide as the team who designed the sequence of the guide and the inclusion of the bonus ‘disk’ intended for them to be separate entities before streaming services entered the mainstream and altered the way people experience recorded music.

The guide opens with Annapoorne an instrumental track which I found sounded familiar yet jarring like folk music exploring crazy temporal elements and utilising violin, hand drums, bells and what I think is those drums that have a beater on a string attached which make noise when shaken. Track two represented the most familiar musician on the compilation, Ravi Shankar, performing Devgiri Bilawal Dhun, a track I’m confident I have unconsciously encountered in Hollywood film soundtracks, I definitely appreciated this track a lot more than the first, while it is another instrumental track it features use of hand drums and sitar. The track sounds like acoustic psychedelia composed using an unorthodox scale much higher than what I am normally comfortable with but ultimately it is a very enjoyable listen. The next cab off the rank was a live performance of the El Taal by Allah Rakha & Zakir Hussain. This is the first Indian classical piece I have consumed which features a vocal of sorts, while it is difficult to describe the vocal seems to be used as more as a rhythmic element rather than a melody or narrative driver; however, I could be misinterpreting this as I am not familiar with Hindi or the genre of Indian classical. The melody seems to be created through a flute or a stringed instrument I am unfamiliar with, the melody is looped throughout the track while the rhythms created using drums and the human voice intertwine, and drive the track toward a crescendo to finish. El Taal is an interesting track which leaves me looking forward to researching instrumentation and Sadhathava Pada is the fourth track on the guide, and is the first track to recongnisably incorporate human voice as more than just a rhythmic element and allow it to act as a narrative device and lead the melody played on violin. Ahir Bhairav represents the biggest surprise as what I consider to be traditional instrumentation is intertwined with piano passages I did not expect to hear in this sonic adventure. Thumri Bhairavin and Dhun Punjabi Ang are similar in nature to track two, heavily centred upon sitar use but sound more soulful than psychedelic. The closing track to the guide, Raga Chhaya Nat, is the longest song on the album, it features an English narration as well as all other instrumental elements and rhythmic devices heard throughout the guide. It is an incredibly nice way to summarise my first experience of Indian classical music.


I’ve thouroughly enjoyed ‘The Rough Guide to Indian Classical Music, and will definitely seek out more and dive deeper into the genre. I am in love with the psychedelic elements present in what I have heard so far. I would like to further understand the difference between Indian and Bollywood music. I look forward to finding out more about the instrumentation and speaking to N about my experience and begging him to give me another list I should check out.




Autoethnography and Underground Music

Autoethnography is a type of research and writing unlike any other. Combining the process of ethnography; the study of culture, and autobiography; the product of personal experience. It is the study of one’s own experience with a culture outside of their own. It is a fairly new research process, first becoming popular in the 1970s, which expanded upon anthropological studies of the past which were conducted in a far less personal, experiential, or reflexive manner. Autoethnography is seen as an ethical form of research as it focuses on ones’ own experience with a culture rather than making anonymous observations which may breach privacy, disrespect customs and simply be untrue.

As autoethnography is the combination of autobiography and ethnography it adopts elements of both practices in its methodology. In commencing an autoethnography one must ensure that they communicate with the community or culture they are studying, this is a matter of ethnically giving those who do not wish to participate a chance to voice their concerns and opt out if need be. As per traditional ethnography upon communicating intentions, the researcher must then interact with the culture, making note of observations and interviewing persons within the culture, becoming participant observers. In conducting an autoethnography one must also practice reflexive behaviour which is the practice of questioning their personal the biases and cultural framework that shape their observations. The aspect of autobiographical aspect of autoethnography refers to the epiphanies as to how one understands a culture; its social conventions, practices, values, and beliefs.

The Asian media I am interested in participating and observing is its underground rock, at this point in time, I am unsure of what region or country I am wanting to pinpoint in my practice as a researcher. My interest in the Asian underground music community has been spurred from this Vice documentary which focuses on a group of Indonesian street punks upon their release from a moral rehabilitation centre. As I want to limit my bias I will aim to avoid Indonesian underground music in my study as I would like to go into this study with as little preconceived ideas that may skew my observation, analysis, and insights as possible.


Wall, S. (2008). Easier Said than Done: Writing an Autoethnography. International Journal Of Qualitative Methods7(1), 38-53.

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1.



Gojira (1954) Through the Eyes of an Ethnic Australian

Gojira (1954) is the film that kickstarted the never-ending production of narratives and reimaginings of Godzilla. In viewing the film in this week’s seminar with the aim of exploring not the film itself but the way in which I make sense of the film.

In viewing the film I was able to deduce that the narrative of the film in itself was a metaphor for the impact of nuclear warfare upon the Japanese people. I was able to interpret that through my knowledge of the events of WWII and the year the film was released, seemingly at a time when Japan was still immediately grappling with the immediate aftermath of the hydrogen bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as the firebombing of Tokyo. Godzilla can be seen as the superpower of the United States. 

While as stated above I am able to understand the nature of the film through looking at the historical perspective and the Japanese zeitgeist at the time of production I more closely understand the film through my personal identity. As a second-generation Australian whom has often struggled to navigate mainstream Australian culture with a “strong” ethnic name and has constantly searched for something to belong to I found myself empathising with Godzilla character. Godzilla is portrayed as blindly destroying buildings and infrastructure, only becoming violent when agitated by gunfire and electric attacks, and if intercepted and integrated onto the mainland in a manner that suited both Godzilla and the Japanese people a much more peaceful outcome could have been reached. Throughout the film I felt that the Japanese officials did not spend enough time trying to understand the supposed monster; turning to violence far too soon, not giving any thought to the nonviolent means which could be used to resolve and de-escalate the situation. 

Upon reflection I feel that at the time of production and release, Japanese culture was in a state xenophobia, whether that was the case or not, as an ethnic Australian whom grew up at the time of and in close proximity to the Cronulla Race Riots I cannot interpret the film or Japanese culture in 1954 any other way. While I know that these postwar attitudes are not at all carried in 2017 Japan through personal interactions and consumption of Japanese media Gojira provides a snapshot of the attitudes of Japanese peoples in 1954.