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A chant (from French chanter) is the rhythmic speaking or singing of words or sounds, often primarily on one or two main pitches called reciting tones. Chants may range from a simple melody involving a limited set of notes to highly complex musical structures, often including a great deal of repetition of musical subphrases, such as Great Responsories and Offertories of Gregorian chant. Chant may be considered speech, music, or a heightened or stylized form of speech. In the later Middle Ages some religious chant evolved into song (forming one of the roots of later Western music).
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Chanting (e.g., mantra, sacred text, the name of God/Spirit, etc.) is a commonly used spiritual practice. Like prayer, chant may be a component of either personal or group practice. Diverse spiritual traditions consider chant a route to spiritual development.
Some examples include chant in African, Hawaiian, and Native American, and Australian Aboriginal cultures, Gregorian chant, Vedic chant, Qur'an reading, Islamic Dhikr, Baha'i chants, various Buddhist chants, various mantras, Jewish cantillation, and the chanting of psalms and prayers especially in Roman Catholic (see Gregorian chant or Taizé Community), Eastern Orthodox (see Byzantine chant or Znamenny chant, for examples), Lutheran, and Anglican churches (see Anglican Chant).
Chant practices vary. Tibetan Buddhist chant involves throat singing, where multiple pitches are produced by each performer. The concept of chanting mantras is of particular significance in many Hindu traditions and other closely related Dharmic Religions. India's bhakti devotional tradition centres on kirtan, which has a following in many countries and traditions such as Ananda Marga. The Hare Krishna movement is based especially on the chanting of Sanskrit Names of God in the Vaishnava tradition. Japanese Shigin (詩吟), or 'chanted poetry', mirrors Zen Buddhist principles and is sung from the Dan tien (or lower abdomen) — the locus of power in Eastern traditions.
Chants are used in a variety of settings, such as from ritual to recreational. Supporters or players in sports contests may use some, such as football chants. Battle cries are a type of chant heard on ancient battlefields. Protesters will use chants that are used by many groups with only a few words changed to reflect their particular topic. Auctioneers use auction chants or bid calling to focus the buyers' attention on the bidding process and drive up the price of the item for sale.
Recently, aggressive forms of music such as hardcore punk and grindcore have begun to use chanting. Many times during a breakdown (the segment of the song where the time signature is half counted or significantly slowed in some way), the singer will recite a chant to get the entire audience involved and create a feeling of passion throughout the room causing the overall reaction to the music, including in the pits, to be more intense. Reggae and rap music, both of which are primarily spoken rather than sung, depend heavily on a highly rhythmic delivery with many elements of chant, particularly in the chorus sections.
Chant is a popular component of many film scores, such as The Lord of the Rings film trilogy by Howard Shore, Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace by John Williams, Ghost in the Shell by Kenji Kawai, and Man vs. Godzilla by Akira Ifukube, and video game scores such as the Halo series by Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori.
While authentic traditional chant has occasionally figured into modern popular music in brief intros, interludes or atmospheric background usage, one of the earliest notable, fundamental uses of traditional chant in modern pop came from Enigma, who sampled Gregorian chants over trance beats for a successful series of albums and singles. Their 1990 debut single "Sadeness (Part I)" became one of the biggest dance and pop music hits of the year, topping charts around the world, while their song "Return to Innocence" uses a chant in the Taiwanese Aboriginal language Amis.
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