What is Khyaal in Indian Classical Music?

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What is Khyaal in Indian Classical Music?

What is Khyaal in Indian Classical Music?

Khyal or Khayal is the modern genre of classical singing in North India. Its name comes from an Arabic word meaning "imagination". It is thought to have developed out of Dhrupad introducing frequent taans and alankaras in it. It appeared more recently than Dhrupad, is a more free and flexible form, and it provides greater scope for improvisation. Like all Indian classical music, khyal is modal, with a single melodic line and no harmonic parts. The modes are called raga, and each raga is a complicated framework of melodic rules.

This is the most prominent genre of Indian (vocal) music. A khyaal is also composed in a particular raga and taal and has a text. The text of khyaal is very brief.  The composition again consists of two parts:  asthayee and antraa. The khyaal text ranges from praise of kings or seasons, description of seasons, divine love, sorrow of separation etc.  The texts contain rhyme, alliteration, and play on words.  A khyaal performance is of two types:  bara khayaal and chotaa khayaal each of which has a two-part (asthayee + antraa) composition and extensive improvisation.  Baraa and chotaa khyaal are performed in slow tempo or madhy laya medium tempo and chotaa khayaal is always in phrase of the asthayee (or the antraa) is called mukhraa.  

This vital phrase serves as the cadence phrase and remains intact during the improvisation.  The melody of the baraa khayaal is relatively unimportant compared to the text, taal and the mukhraa. Khyaal recital typically consists of one or two male/female vocalists accompanied by arangi or harmonium, taanpura and tabla.  A typical live performance lasts about 30-45 minutes. Khayaal singing is very popular.  It involves presenting a lyrical composition in classical style.  The chota khyaal  is a small composition sung at a medium or fast tempo, usually to the accompaniment of a percussion instrument. 

The bara khyaal is a longer rendition that allows deep exploration and gradual expansive development of the raga being performed. A classic vocal performance involves a bara khayaal followed by a chota khayaal in the same raga. Khayaal is sung with a tabla and sargam notes are used in khyaal performance.

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