Sham Veda is the earliest surviving evidence of Indian music, arts, and culture, dating back
to 2500BC. Furthermore, there is written evidence from great scholars and musicologists of
the gradual formation of the universal scale; Vedic chants sung in 3, 4 and 5 notes before
the development of seven pure notes of a scale, twelve notes of an octave and twenty-two
Shruti’s (micro-tones).

There were many types of Prabandh Gayan, literally meaning enclosed singing style. A
Prabandh composition consisted of six key elements and four distinct parts, however, it was
not necessary that these were all included in all compositions, thus, forming the different
Prabandh types. Another key feature was the different time signature assigned to a
Prabandh composition; this was known as Chand Prabandh. Prabandh is said to have existed
from around thousand years before the introduction of Dhruv-padh (Dhrupad), a majestic
and systematic vocal style introduced from around the 13th century. Dhrupad was at its peak
during the 15th -16th century, Emperor Akbar’s court in Agra boasted the ‘Nau-rattan (nine
gems, artists, of the highest order). One of the nine gems was the legendary vocalist Tansen,
a prime reference of the period. Though, Dhrupad as we know it today was transformed by
Maan Singh Tomar during the 16th century. He modified and gave new form by assigning
four distinct parts to a Dhrupad composition. He also established the Dhamar vocal style,
sung predominantly during Holi season and in Dhamar Taal, a 14 beats rhythmic cycle.


The Moghul invasion brought a new wave to Indian classical music through the
establishment of the emperor’s courts from the 13th century. Over time the spiritual
element diminished, though there was significant development of new musical instruments,
vocal styles, poetry, dance, and percussion instruments. A new form of vocal style included
Khayal, a more free and imaginative form with romantic poetry sung in a Raag fixed to a
rhythmic cycle. A Khayal composition commonly has just two parts and sung in two variants:
slow (Bada Khayal) and medium/fast (Chota Khayal). The different forms of vocal styles are
regarded to be a transformation from the Prabandh style as is Dhrupad. Further styles
descendent from Prabandh include Trivat and Tarana.


Each of the artists has expertise in different aspects of classical vocal styles, thus, giving us
an opportunity to gain a more complete and overall understanding of Prabandh and how it
is the ancestorial genre that has stemmed various vocal styles in vogue today.

interviews