Song, Voice, and Body in Indian Music

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 2, Year 3 or Year 4
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Music & School of Arts

Module overview

While traditional classical music of India is perhaps best known for instruments such as the sitār and tablā, it is primarily a vocal art: the styles of vocal music are the model and inspiration for instrumental music, as well as the basis for much film and other popular music. This course introduces and explores the three principal styles of North Indian classical vocal music: dhrupad, associated with the early Mughal courts and Hindu temples; khyāl, devloped in the Sufi assembly and later court contexts; and ṭhumrī, which emerged from the courtesan world of the late 19th century. Through analysis of recorded examples by some of the leading vocalists of the recording era, we will consider how these styles differ in vocal technique, repertoire, poetry, rhythm and metre, accompaniment, improvisation and formal structure, and how instrumentalists also reflect and combine these stylistic elements. We will also consider how these styles came into being, in different historical and social contexts, how far they have changed over time, and their impact on contemporary musical developments. Teaching will include guided listening and practical sessions.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this course a student will be able to

  • recognize and discuss the principal characteristics of the three main styles of North Indian classical music (dhrupad, khyāl, ṭhumṛī)
  • demonstrate critical awareness of the historical contexts within which each style arose and developed
  • demonstrate critical awareness of the principal musical changes that have occcurred


Three hours per week

Method of assessment

  • One 1,000 word essay - 30%
  • One 2,500 word essay - 70%


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules