maximum INDIA

The Music of India

An exploration of Indian music


Age range: Good for grades 7 and up.

Estimated Time: Give yourself some time! This interactive takes about 1 hour to complete with activities.

Key Technology: You can use this on a computer—but you will need speakers (or headphones) to hear the music/audio tracks.

Subscribe to this audio series:

The music of India is as diverse as its many cultures. India has over a billion people and hundreds of dialects and languages spread across the seventh largest country in the world, but there is still an undeniable “sound” that makes Indian music unmistakable. This 3-part audio series, hosted by PBS journalist Hari Sreenivasan, explores different aspects of Indian music: Indian musical instruments; the styles of music across India; and what makes Indian music unique—and where it is going.

  • The Instruments of Indian Music
    Do you know which drum can speak? Or what instrument is made from a pumpkin? In this segment, we’ll learn about the many instruments that define the sounds of Indian music, and how they are played: the tabla, sitar, tanpura, sarangi, mizhavu, naal, dhol, pung… and the double-flute sitara, who’s players can perform without stopping to breathe!
  • The Styles and Types of Indian Music
    The geographic, language, and cultural diversity of India contributes to a broad range of musical styles within Indian music. Certain folk styles and traditions of music important to one region may be virtually unknown in others. In this segment, we’ll learn about many common elements of Indian music—ragas, drones, improvisation, and the celebrity of being a Bollywood playback singer.
  • What Makes Indian Music Unique?
    Indian music typically contains no harmony, can be completely improvised, and is rarely written down. So how do Indian musicians manage to play together? In this segment, we’ll learn about rhythmic patterns called taal, music unique to certain communities and even times of the year, and if deep-rooted musical traditions can continue as India undergoes fast-paced growth and modernization.

Think About...

Listening Strategy: As you view, stay focused on your purpose for listening.

  • Before you get started, think of what you already know about Indian music. What are some of the sounds or instruments you associate with this type of music? Have you heard music from the Arab world before? Who were the artists/groups/styles, etc? What do you remember about it? Keep these things in mind as you listen to the audio series.
  • As you listen, think about the fact that “Indian music” can mean many different things (styles, practices, etc.) and reflect on the diversity of music from India.
  • As you listen, stop the audio track after each section to sum up what you have learned.
  • These tracks are downloadable- grab them for your MP3 player for repeated listening.


  • What are some of the key instruments used in Indian music? Do they have counterparts/similarities to instruments in Western music?
  • What are some of the unique elements of Indian music?
  • What are some of the common musical roots of the diverse world of Indian music?

Critical Thinking

Describe the effect regional differences on Indian musical styles. Do other types of musical traditions from other parts of the world have this? Describe and then compare and contrast these practices.


What are some of the predictions the musicians make about where Indian music is going? What are some of their reasons for this?

Think of music from your own cultural tradition. Do you see some of the same shifts occurring?

Learn More

Dig Deeper!

Learn more about India: maximum India

For the Educator

There are several ways to access the audio stories:

  • Listen online
  • download individual MP3 files.
  • Subscribe to the Podcast (see the first tab)

Allow students to listen online or to download the episodes in the series. For many students, this may be their first in-depth encounter with Indian music, and multiple listening sessions may be appropriate.

In part 1, explore the fascinating history and sounds of musical instruments of Indian music

In part 2, scholars and musicians explore styles and traditions in Indian music

In part 3, musicians from across India discuss and demonstrate the unique poperties of Indian music, and where they believe Indian music is headed.

For each audio story, engage in discussion around the similarities and differences between Western and Indian music-- the instruments, sounds and subject matter. Consider the traditional, classical and contemporary music of each culture.


Editors & Producers

Richard Paul
Audio Producer

Kenny Neal
Manager, Digital Education Resources

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