Definition of alap
: an improvised, unaccompanied prelude to an Indian raga normally lacking rhythmic pulse and meter that is either played or sung as vocalise The practice of beginning musical pieces with a seemingly free-form introduction that becomes a metered ensemble performance is common to India in the alap of a raga in classical Hindustani music … — Leonard Brown, John Coltrane and Black America’s Quest for Freedom, 2010
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Origin and Etymology of alap
borrowed from Hindi ālāp “speaking, modulation of the voice in singing, prelude to a piece of music,” borrowed from Sanskrit ālāpaḥ “speech, conversation,” noun derivative of ālapati “(he/she) speaks to, addresses,” from ā- “toward” + lapati “he/she chatters, talks” (probably of onomatopoeic origin) — more at acharya
First Known Use: 1834
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