Samia Classical Music

Samia Mahbub Ahmad

Samia Ahmad (Vocal – center); Yousuf Kerai (Tabla – left); Namita Kundu (Harmonium – right); Srimati Karuna (Tanpura – far right); Venue: Gandhi Memorial Center (Washington DC).

Hindustani (North Indian) classical music, originated primarily in the northern regions of the Indian Subcontinent. Its origins dates back to the 12th century during the Vedic era. This music’s central notion is a melodic musical mode or raga, sung to a rhythmic cycle or tala with emphasis on improvisation through which all aspects of a raga is explored. In medieval times, this melodic system was fused with ideas of Persian music, particularly through the influence of Sufi composers like Amir Khasru, and later in the Mughal courts, noted composers such as Tansen flourished, along with religious groups like the Vaishnavites.


The core focus of Samia’s Hindustani Classical repertoire is Khayal, a genre which allows an extensive exploration of the ragas.This has created a strong foundation for her to interpret Nazrul Sangeet, Bhajan, Baul, Folk/traditional and New Age music genres through the Hindustani Classical framework.

Khayal: An Arabic/Persian derivative meaning “imagination”, Khayal is one of the main genres of Hindustani classical music. It is a musical form based on a Hindi or a Sanskrit song in two parts that recur between expanding cycles of melodic and rhythmic improvisation. In a standard performance a slow (vilambit) khayal is followed by a shorter, fast (drut) khayal in the same raga (melodic framework).

A khayal, generally performed by a vocalist, is usually accompanied by a tabla (pair of drums) and a tanpura (a string accompaniment) in a variety of talas (metric cycles). Other music accompaniments include a harmonium (keyboard/wind), sarengi (string), eshraj (string) and more. 

Sample track: Khayal, Kaise Kaatay, set to morning raga, Ahir-Bhairav


2. Nazrul Sangeet: Steeped in the influence of the Hindustani Classical Music, Nazrul Sangeet or Nazrul Geeti, refers to the songs written and composed by the early 20th c. poet and composer of Bengal, Kazi Nazrul Islam. He is among those libertarians, who vehemently fought against all oppression and all forms of bigotry – political, religious, cultural and ethnic in his creative work.  As a consequence Nazrul came to be referred to as “Rebel Poet” who has left us a gift of his vast creative work – a model of spiritual unity within religious, cultural and lingual diversity – an antithesis to orthodoxy. Nazrul’s musical work draws on his native Bengali music, his Muslim heritage, his respect for all religious practices and global music, and his passion for Hindustani classical music. 

Nazrul Sangeet, Anjali Laho Mor Sangeete ⇓ 


3, Devotional/Bhakti-themed compositions:  Bhajans refer to devotional songs with religious theme or spiritual ideas, specifically among South Asian religions, in any of the languages from the Indian subcontinent. The term “bhajanam” (Sanskrit), “bhajana” refer to reverence and sharing. A genre that developed with the Bhakti Movement, it includes concepts from the scriptures, legendary epics, the teachings of saints and loving devotion to a deity.

Bhajan, Vaishnava Janato ⇓ 



4. Sufi-inspired compositions: These include Nazrul songs of praise of Allah and the messengers of Allah, Baul songs of Lalon Shah and other mystics of Bengal which seeks the ever-elusive divine powers within oneself.

Nazrul Sangeet, Tomar Naame Eki Nesha (Praise of Prophet Muhammed [PBH]) ⇓ 


5. Folk compositions: From different regions of South Asia.

Folk-style Nazrul Sangeet, Lal Noter Khetey ⇓ 


6. New Age: Intersections of Hindustani music with various forms of global music. 

New Age: Yearning (based on Raga Jaunpuri); Album: Rasneem ⇓

Program formats:

1. Live concerts: The goal is to provide the audience a meditative listening experience of the ancient musical art of Hindustani Classical music.

2. Lecture-demonstrations: 1-2 hours duration
These provide opportunities for audience participation and hands-on lessons. Participants learn about the building blocks, the history, the evolution and the contemporary form of this music. They also help to cultivate listeners’ appreciation and an interest in career development in Hindustani music.

3. Workshops – Duration: Half-Day: 2-3 hours; Full-Day: 4-5 hours; Series: 2-5 days.
Audience experience: Same as “lecture-demonstrations” (see above)

4. World Music/New Age: 1 – 2 hours duration
The audience learns about the linkages between Hindustani classical and global music i.e. African, Native American and Western music.

1. Generally Samia is the solo presenter for the concerts and lecture-demonstrations. Workshops are interactive and participatory.
2. Accompaniment: Tabla (percussion), tanpura (string), harmonium (keyboard), synthesizer, violin, flute, acoustic guitar and more.

Appropriate Audience
Samia presents for a wide range of audience. She sings in languages such as Bangla, Hindi, Sanksrit, and select South Asian dialects, always providing English interpretations of her presentations for her audiences who vary in age, cultural background and geographic locations. Samia’s travel experiences have enabled her to present in Bangladesh, India, South Africa, UK and the US. She presents for:

1. Young children and adolescents – Elementary, Middle and High School.
2. Adults – in Universities and corporate settings;
3. Adults — individuals, groups or organizations involved in creating awareness and/or fund-raising for worthy causes;
4. Adults — individuals, groups or organizations involved in creating awareness of the historical evolution of the rich multi-cultural nature of classical, traditional and folk arts currently existing in the US and beyond.
5. Audiences representing different faiths, languages, and cultures who are interested to learn about the South Asian music and culture.
6. Senior citizens.
7. Audiences who seek to experience music as a therapy through Nada (sound) meditation and yoga.