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Types of Music Compositions: Khyal

The major vocal forms or styles associated with Hindustani classical music are dhrupad, khyal, and tarana. Other forms include dhamar, trivat, chaiti, kajari, tappa, tap-khyal, ashtapadis, thumri, dadra, ghazal and bhajan; these are folk or semi-classical or light classical styles, as they often do not adhere to the rigorous rules of classical music.  
Aug 8, 2012 13:39 IST
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Khyal is a Hindustani form of vocal music, adopted from medieval Persian music and based on Dhrupad. Khyal, literally meaning "thought" or "imagination" in Hindi-Urdu, is unusual as it is based on improvising and expressing emotion. A Khyal is a two- to eight-line lyric set to a melody. The lyric is of an emotional account possibly from poetic observation].Khyals are also popular for depicting the emotions between two lovers, situations of ethological significance in Hinduism and Islam, or other situations evoking intense feelings.

Th importance of the Khyal's content is for the singer to depict, through music in the set raga, the emotional significance of the Khyal. The singer improvises and finds inspiration within the raga to depict the Khyal.

The origination of Khyal is controversial, although it is accepted that this style was based on Dhrupad and influenced by Persian music. Many argue that Amir Khusrau created the style in the late 16th century. This form was popularized by Mughal Emperor Mohammad Shah, through his court musicians. Some well-known composers of this period were Sadarang, Adarang, and Manrang.

Khyal Gharana

The gharana system in khyal was rooted in the guru-shishya tradition and was similar to the Dhrupad Bani system. The gharana system was greatly influenced by the gradual fall of the Mughal Empire, which forced musicians to move from Delhi to princely states such as Gwalior, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Patiala and Rampur.

The gharanas have distinct styles of presenting the khyal — how much to emphasize and how to enunciate the words of the composition, when to sing the sthayi and antara, whether to sing an unmetered alap in the beginning, what kinds of improvisations to use, how much importance to give to the rhythmic aspect, and so on. However, an individual performer from a gharana may choose to borrow appealing stylistic aspects of another gharana in his or her gayaki.