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What is the history of American music?

American music is the most unique and dynamic sounds in the world, but most of all rooted in the history of its people.

America dominates the world in many areas, but the one area of American domination that the world accepts the most is its music. American popular music forms; Blues, Jazz, Country, Rock, R&B, RAP, and Hip-Hop, are loved, and studied world wide.

When the British Invasion of the 1960`s hit America, almost to a man each group or individual stated their love of American music as their primary influence. The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Tom Jones, Dave Clark 5, and many other British groups and individual performers, all claim American music as their source of inspiration. But the music they loved had its roots in the one true cultural melting pot of America, its music.

Rock and Roll grew from the melding of Black Rhythm and Blues with Country and Western. This mixture was so volatile that several southern congressmen went on record stating that Rock and Roll was a plot to destroy American values by encouraging race micing. Originating in the Northern Urban centers in predominately black areas, Rock and Roll started out being labeled as rebellious, primative, black music. Some white artists like Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper introduced Rock and Roll to the "mainstream" youth in the early 1950`s, and their influence along with others began the first true multi-racial and multi-cultural movement in America. It was legendary Elvis Presley bursting on the scene in the middle 1950`s that signaled that Rock and Roll had began to become accepted as legitimate.

Rhythm and Blues (now called R and B) can trace its roots directly from Jazz, Ragtime, and the old black Gospel and Spritual standards. The narrative form and rich beat of these forms also form the basis for today`s RAP and Hip-Hop. It is this music which form the basis of the rhythms of modern American Popular Music. From New Orleans Jazz, to the Motown Sound, to Urban Hip-Hop and Rap, black music forms the core of comtemporary music in America. There is hardly a Rocker anywhere who can`t trace their music`s roots to the sound of black America. The emphasis on rhythm and storytelling has always been part of what made this music popular. Black music in America is argueably the most original and traceable music form in America. It reflect the sum of the Black experience in a way that is truly unique and American.

Modern Country and Western music has its roots in the folk songs of the rural south and the cowboy music popularized by the singing cowboys of the 30`s, 40`s and 50`s. It was also influenced by many songs born of the strife and conflict of the impoverished miners and farmers or the depresssion era. Moving from the rural areas and focusing on southern urban centers it found a home on the radio nationwide predominantly from Nashville on the Grand Ole Opray. Finding a broader audience in post-war years and Country Music began to move from "hillbilly music" to more sophisticated and polished form that exist today. Rock-a-Billy, Country, and Bluegrass,all came from the simple form of story telling by music.

The 1980`s and 1990`s saw a rebirth of the influence of the Latin rhythms in American Music. The Miami Sound and the Mexican influence swept into American Music. Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Mexican artist in all forms added their music to the mix. Rap, Country, Rock, and R and B have all been touched by the Latin beat.

The media explosion of the 1950`s and 1960`s was fueled by Rock and Roll on Radio, Television, and the movies. The beat of Rock and Roll became the dominant force of American music, and the lines between the forms began to blend. Music forms are no longer segregated by race today as the forms have merged across the lines of culture in America. Today the effect of this mixing of music and culture can be seen everywhere in the culture. Jose Felicano sings the Doors "Light My Fire". Whitney Houston soulfully sings a song written by Dolly Parton, Lionel Richey writes Country songs for Kenny Rogers. Ray Charles has had some of his greatest hits from Country and Western standards like "Your Cheatin` Heart". The movie "Back to the Future" has its hero, Marty McFly`s a young white man who loves Rock music, have his life changed and in turn changes history by introducing Chuck Berry to the style of Music that made him (Berry) famous. Marshall Mathers, better known as Eminem, is a white Rap artist who crosses al l lines. The Miami Sound Machine moves everyone to a big Salsa Party. The Sound of Motown becomes the turning point in American music history.

Today America`s Music does what it always has done, bring people together. In American Music every aspect of life, etnicity, and culture is merged, mixed, and highlighted. The rich diversity of American culture and life is reflected in its lively beat filled rhythms. American music is the story of the country, a reflection of a nation alive with change, filled with curiousity,and lead by hope and excitement. As it continues to grow and change, including more and more of all that America is, American Music continues to attract and entice the whole world, because it is truly the best of all that is America.

Written by Charles Grimmett -

"Ramrang"- A Bouquet of Compositions

This montage is in response to the rather strong demand for an encore of the files of Pandit Ramashreya Jha "Ramrang" posted awhile back on the Usenet group rec.music.indian.classical (RMIC). Many of the earlier clips are reprised and there are several new entries. The complete text of the composition is provided in some instances.

Before we partake of the audio banquet, a small digression is in order. A couple of earnest and well-meaning correspondents have referred to Jha-sahab as a "musicologist." This is a big error. He is first and foremost a vaggeyakara (pronounced 'vAggeyakArA'), a term that circumscribes musicianship and musical ability. Jha-sahab's signal contributions and life's work lie in music proper - both in its performance and analytics - and have very little to do with "musicology" (as commonly understood in the West).

The idea behind what constitues a vaggeyakara is ancient and is dwelt on by Pandit Sarangdeva in his treatise Sangeeta Ratnakara. The word itself is a sandhi of vAka+geya+kAra, where "vAka is lit. speech and therefore by context implies the verbal text or the verbal structure of a musical composition; geyam is lit. that which is the object of singing, i.e. dhAtu, the tonal rhythmic structure of melody." Hence "vaggeyakara, one who composes the verbal as well as the tonal-rhythmic structure of the song."

Sarangdeva enumerates the attributes that a good vaggeyakara ought to possess and, in keeping with the Indian penchant for classification, also lists the 'qualities' of an 'average' vaggeyakara, a 'bad' vaggeyekara and an 'unworthy' vaggeyakara. Incidentally, I myself had once devised a classification scheme for a good ethnopimp, a bad ethnopimp, an unworthy ethnopimp and a plain pimp. The lines distinguishing them were found to be invisible to the naked eye. For the benefit of the uninformed, "ethnopimps" refers to that despicable breed of men and women who call themselves "ethnomusicologists." They are usually found loitering in the music departments of American, Canadian and Western European universities, collecting salaries without putting in even a day's worth of honest work (not unlike many other humanities 'professors' at Western universities).

Sarangdeva assigns the following attributes to the 'best' vaggeyakara:

  • a thorough knowledge of grammar (indicative of the ability of the appropriate use of words)
  • proficiency in lexicography
  • knowledge of prosody (differentiating among the various meters)
  • proficieny in the use of figures of speech
  • comprehension of aesthetic delight (rasa) as related to different emotive states of being (bhAva)
  • intelligent familiarity with local custom (necessary to grasp the intonation (kAku) peculiar to particular regions
  • knowledge of many languages
  • proficiency in the scientific theories of fine arts
  • expert knowledge of the three musical arts (vocal music, instrumental music and dancing)
  • a lovely tone quality
  • good knowledge of laya (tempo), tAla (musical time) and kAla.
  • discrimination of different intonations
  • acquaintance with regional (desi) rAgas
  • a sense of propriety in expression and new melodic forms
  • knowledge of another's mind
  • maturity in the understanding of different prabandhas
  • ability to compose songs at short notice
  • expert knowledge of composing different verbal structures for different melodic forms
  • maturity in producing gamakas pervading the three registers
  • proficiency in presentation of different AlApa

Ramashreya Jha 'Ramrang'

The foregoing material is taken from the translation of Sangeet Ratnakara by R.K. Shringy and Prem Lata Sharma. Their work contains copious footnotes and cross-references amplifying on almost every feature cited.

We inaugurate our musical revelry with two compositions in Raga Ahiri Todi, both of them addressing Shri Krishna. The theme of the compositions has the gopis remonstrating to the Lord's childhood friend and messenger, Uddhava.

Tala: vilambit Ektala -

chhorA ahira ko jAne kahAN eri beera hama birahana ke hiya ki

preeta lagA'i kubari doobari sanga

'Ramrang' kauna bulAve banwAri be-peera ko

Tala: druta Teentala -

tero gyAna dhyAna sikha bhAve nA

mere mana to ramey Hari charaNana me

gyAna dhyAna dhAranA na jAne 'Ramrang' mana mero

Hari ke nAma ki lAgi raTana

Raga Bilaskhani Todi summons a sombre ambience. The druta composition of Ramrang's is very popular and widely sung.

Tala: vilambit Ektala -

dhana dhana bhAga tero ri mA'i suta taine pAyo jagata ke nAtha

Tala: druta Teentala -

JagadambikA Ambika

mardani amba Shumbha Nishumbha gale munDa mAlikA

Durge Bhavani dAni dayAni

sura nara keenhe abhaya 'Ramrang'

tero hi nAma kAlikA

Ramrang has created a rich suite of compositions in Raga Charukeshi from which this cheez is culled. The mukhDA is at once distinguished by its syncopated design. The text speaks to the famous incident from the Ramayana - Shri Rama crosses the river and offers the boatman his due compensation. The boatman turns it down, saying: "My Lord, do not disgrace our common profession." On being asked to explain, he continues, "Dear Lord, we are both boatmen. I ferry people across this river whereas you ferry them across the Ocean of Life."

Tala: druta Ektala -

hamari tumari, rAjan, jAta-pAta kevaTa ki

vinati mAniye

hama tuma nAtha ek birAdari ke

utarAyi deya jAta nA bigADiye

Jha-sahab is not one to suffer fools gladly, especially pompous fools. This extended prelude from a September 1999 concert in Panjim, Goa, in reaction to a silly interjection by a self-styled "music expert" from Pune, shows Ramrang at his pungent best -

A course of 3 compositions in Raga Yamani Bilawal is now offered. The first two are offerings to Shirdi ke Saibaba. It is characteristic of Jha-sahab to preserve the continuity of textual sentiment in many of his vilambit and druta Khayal composition pairs.

Tala: vilambit Roopak -

Sa'i tihAre nAma ki Asa lagi mohe

kara deejo beDA pAra

sAnchA sAheb tu mero Sa'i

'Ramrang' ki sab lehu sudhAra

Tala: druta Teentala -

hamari sudha leeje Sa'i

deenAnAtha dukhahAri

dAni dAtA dariyA dayA ke

'Ramrang' Ayo sharana tihAri

shiriDee ke Sa'i jana ke dukhahAri

This final bandish has Miss Shabari (of Ramayana fame) for its protagonist.

Tala: druta Ektala -

Ayi maiN tihAri sharana

rAkhiye krupA nidhAna, nAri hooN gaNwAri

japa tapa maiN kachu na jAnu

'Ramrang' bharose tero awadha bihAri

Two beautiful gems in Raga Kukubh Bilawal follow.

Tala: dheemA Teentala -

simhAsana baiThe Aja, birAje Siya-Raghuveera

Tala: druta Teentala -

sumirana kara le re mana bAware

chAra dina ko yaha melA khelA jagata ko

terA merA saba jhooTho nAta

socha samajha nAdAna

'Ramrang' meN ranga le apno tana mana ko

Jha-Sahab is apprehended in a tAleem session with Shubha Mudgal. This magnificent composition in Raga Dhani is set to dheemA Teentala.

lA de lA de chunara piyA dhAni ranga ki

manabhAvani hulasAvani

navarasasani saba gunakhAni

lA de chunara more meeta piyaravA

pahira lAguN tore garavA

'Ramrang' angiyA suhAvani

Pdt. Ramashreya Jha "Ramrang"

Ramrang's exceptional compositions in Raga Shree cut to the core of that profound, expansive Raga. The druta cheez features what is called a 'vi-sam' where the accent is spirited away from the sam.

Tala: dheemA Teentala -

gyAna na pAve guru bina gyAni

Tala: druta Teentala -

guru ke paga pariye dhariye dhyAna mana nisi vAsara

sumiriye nAma pAve gyAna mAna gunijana meiN

agama apAra nAda veda, guru binA pAve kabahuNa bheda

'Ramrang' bhAva bhagati kari dhyAve Ave jo sharana meiN

The Tarana in Ada Chautala features arresting syncopation.

The text of this Raga Yaman cheez takes after symbolism found in Kabeer's poetry.

Tala: druta Teentala -

ranga de ranga de rangarejavA

mori chunariyA ranga sANwariyA

guna mAnu tore more mitavA

pAyana paruN tore rangarejA

'Ramrang' ranga de hamari angiyA ko more mitavA

Raga Yaman Kalyan is distinguished from Yaman by the occasional avarohi touch of the shuddha madhyam. Jha-sahab's conception has an uncommon flavour thanks to his quaint treatment of that very swara; its weighted placement in the first line is particularly charming. Take stock of the overall blend of the melody and the sAhitya.

Tala: dheemA Teentala -

nirakha nirakha sakhi gagana manDala meiN

anuja sahita Siya-Rama Avata awadha bimAna chaDhe

pavana-puta lai Ayo sandeso

Bharata magana uThi Atura chale

'Ramrang' parijana payodha janu rAkA shashi soN milana baDhe

Raga Shuddha Kalyan: Jha-sahab opines that the the intonation of the S" N D and P m G meenDs should express a yawning, soporific action. The text appropriately assumes the form of a mother's lullaby.

neeNdariyA tu kAhe nA Ave lAlana aNkhiyana meiN

jo tu Ave lAla sulAve guna mAnu torA

'Ramrang' guna gA'ooN rAkhooN naina meiN

Raga Kesari Kalyan has been dealt with in a post some months ago. Feel the pleasing ucchAraNa of the shuddha dhaivat along Hamsadhwani-esque contours, and the influence of Shuddha Kalyan. The text (and the Raga) celebrates Shri Hanuman (Kesari-nandana).

dheemA teentAla -

pavana puta HanumantA dayAvantA

saNkaTa harana dukha mochana jana ke

anjani lAla doota bhalo Rama ke

Siya sudhi lAye veera vara bANke

'Ramrang' kapina unAre balavantA

Raga Hamsadhwani: The vilambit Roopak bandish is well-known and in available in commercial renderings by popular vocalists such as Ms Veena Sahasrabuddhe.

sakala dukha haraNa Hari ke charaNa sharaNa le mana

kATata fanda-dvanda jagata ke

'Ramrang' harata chhina meiN tapana

Tala: druta Teentala -

jaya jaya Ganapati devA

Gajanana gajakarNa jaya trishula dhara

sumukha siddha ke dAtA

jaya Gauri suta bighana harana

jaya jaya Vinayaka vardAni

'Ramrang' jaya mangala karana bidhAtA

Among Ramrang's personal favourites are the following two compositions in Tilak Kamod attending that singular episode in the Mahabharata: Draupadi's vastraharana. Jha-sahab's verbal recreation of the scene of Draupadi's anguish and its dissipation through Shri Krishna's kindness was so riveting that I forgot to pick up much of the masterly histrionics on tape.

Tala: vilambit Roopak -

mero pata rAkho Murari

Bheesham-Drona baiThe pANwara vhai

soora sabhA saba kroora vhai baiThe

'Ramrang' baiThe pati Paratha pAthara vhai

Tala: druta Ektala -

begi-begi Aye Hari

Arata suni bAni DhAye paga ughAre

deenAnAtha anAtha ki pata rAkhi

'Ramrang' jana hita basana-roopa dhAre

A quick sketch of a Chhayanat cheez follows. The text depicts a bashful, veiled Sita at her wedding, stealing furtive glances of Shri Rama's visage reflected from her ornaments (bangles).

kara kanganawA nirakha Rama ko moorata Siya magana

DAre ghoongaTa paTa chitavata moorata

'Ramrang' rangi Siya tana-mana

A cheez in Raga Gaud Malhar: jhingurA jhanana

Raga Kirwani, two compositions. The druta bandish has an arresting spiralling tAna leading to the sam.

Tala: vilambit Roopak -

sudha leejiye dAtA mori

Ana paryo tere dvAra

saba taja Ayo charaNa-sharaNa tero

'Ramrang' baNha gahi leejiyo

Tala: druta Ektala -

mukuTa vAro sANvaro soN lAgo humAro manvA re sAjanvA

bhAve na torA bhavanvA jabse lAge unse nainvA

'Ramrang' cheri bhayi vAke dAmanvA

A couple of commercial recordings of Ramrang's compositions in Raga Hemant are now featured. We pick up Jitendra Abhisheki's rendition in the final Avartana of the vilambit Jhoomra, kahAN mana lAgo followed by the Ektala-bound cheez, bairana bhayo -

Jha-sahab has the habit of turning a Raga upside down. Seen from the prism of his mind the bandishes disperse different facets of the same Raga. Consider the composition in Veena Sahasrabuddhe's voice - beeta gaye. Notice the varied placement of the sam in all the three and the design of the respective mukhDAs.

We conclude with a Ragamala woven with strands of 21 rAgas. The text is a paean to Goddess Saraswati, cleverly clothed in words and concomitant phrasings of the constituent Ragas.

E mana kalyANa hove tero

sumirana kiye Saraswati nAma

[Yaman Kalyan]

[Saraswati]

dayA ke sindhu, nAma aneka

devagandharva leta nita nAma

[Sindhura]

[Devagandhar]

darbAra thhADe kara joRata hai

jai-jai karata pAvata mana kAma

[Darbari]

[Jaijaivanti]

ko'u gAya chhAyA nATa ko'u hameer

Ananda pAve rijhAye

[Chhaya, Nat, Hameer]

[Nand]

pada pujata basanta sunAya

poori bhayi more mana ki As

[Basant]

[Pooriya, Asa]

kamalAsani sohata

lalit basana anga lasata

[Sohini]

[Lalit]

kara leenhe veeNA des bajAya

moda upajAya sabahi sukha deta

[Des]

[Tilak Kamod]

Durge Bhavani kara joRata hai

Shankara shesha jai dhwani karata hai

[Durga, Bhavani]

[Shankara, Hamsadhwani]

'Ramrang' charaNa sharaNa paryo hai

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