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The surprising story of Indian classical music

Novelist and musician Amit Chaudhuri leads us towards a different way of hearing and playing

By Ivan Hewett  
Amit Chaudhuri in 2015. Gary Doak / Alamy

Amit Chaudhuri in 2015. Gary Doak / Alamy

One of the things that attracts a keen but lazy enthusiast for Indian music like me is that the sounds and the elaborate ritual of an Indian classical concert never lose their mystery. I am still puzzled by such things as the disbelieving shake of the head and sigh with which proper devotees greet a particularly expressive moment. What does that actually signify? What is the role of the almost-inaudible instrumentalist who sits next to the star soloist, and why does he not play his modest little drone in time with everyone else? What makes Raga Bhairavi a “morning…

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