The music of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal is astonishingly diverse, so

much so that it's impossible to paint its portrait in broad strokes. From the subcontinent's ancient

and sophisticated classical traditions of Hindustani (North Indian) and Carnatic (South Indian)

music, to the filmi that accompanies the rhythms of daily life in much of India to the Hindu

religious devotional songs called bhajans or the ecstatic choruses of Muslim qawwali-not to

mention South Asia's extraordinarily rich and varied folk traditions or the music of religious

ceremonies that are weaved into the texture of everyday existence-this fabulous array means that

one can spend a lifetime just scratching the surface of South Asian music.

Each genre has its own history, evolution, and performance style, but of course the region's past

and its geography mean that many of these traditions are historically and aesthetically linked not

just to each other, but to neighboring regions as well. For example, the music of Pakistan and

north and northwestern India often has ties to that of Iran and Afghanistan (and even farther

afield to music of the Arab world and Turkey); the music of Sri Lanka has links not just to its

geographic neighbors-including the music of the island's very large Sinhalese Buddhist

community, which is linked to that of other Buddhist regions-but also to that of Portuguese and

even African music, due to Portugal's colonization of the island beginning in the 16th century.

While the classical, religious, and folk traditions of South Asia have roots that go many centuries

deep, the music of this region continues to be dynamic and ever-evolving: some of the

contemporary pop from India and Pakistan (not to mention the truly exciting sounds emerging

from the diaspora communities, such as in the Asian Massive movement) proves that many

young musicians from the region are creating innovative sounds that aren't pale imitations of

European or American chart toppers, but tunes that are wholly South Asian and proudly desi to

their core. -Anastasia Tsioulcas

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