Tarana is another majestic form in the Hindustani music tradition. Its roots are more recent than the vedic origins from which dhrupad comes (see previous post). Because they come from Urdu instead of Sanskrit, tarana‘s syllables have a very different flavor from what you heard in dhrupad. This music is no longer Hindu temple music, but music of the royal mughal courts.
Tarana‘s distinct features are the catchy Urdu syllables rendered at a fast tempo within the raga structure that is common to all Indian music. It has a swirling devotional flavor, perhaps coming from its Sufi roots.
Here is Ravi Shankar, the leading international diplomat of Indian music, conducting his orchestra in a demonstrative tarana for a western audience:
If you listen to the woman in green singing in the front center, you will notice that she is leading the tarana. Sometimes she is also singing the notes in aakar, which yogis might recognize as omkaar but with simply ah instead of om. The guy in the back row singing in the red vest next to the tabla man, repeats the musical phrase but actually names of the notes (sa re ga ma pa dha ne sa) as he sings. That’s called sargam.
For a taste of an authentic tarana, listen to Ustad Amir Khan singing Rag Hamsadhwani.