One of the great pleasures Satyajit Ray's films gives audiences is the beautiful music they contain. This has been true from the very beginning of his career, when he asked classical music Pandit Ravi Shankar (the 'Apu' trilogy, 'Devi') and Ustad Vilayat Khan ('The Music Room') to compose and perform the music for his soundtracks. These great maestros always worked within the framework of Indian classical music; that is, music based upon ragas. However, light classical and folk songs, as well as folk tunes, were also drawn upon and provide much intoxicating rhythm and lively orchestration for Ray's scores. ...
For the orchestration he himself wrote, he relied on the rich sonorities available in Western instruments played in combination with Indian ones -- for instance, violins and cello, trumpet and harmonium, played with Indian wooden flutes, sarangi, santoor, sarod, sitar and tabla. His melodies were always based on ragas, however, no matter what the combination of instruments might be, and the ravishing sound he wrought from this is what people think of his peculiarly individual, 'Ray-like,' music. No other film composer in India ever quite attained his effects, or gave us film music so satisfying to the Western ear.
-liner notes excerpt by James Ivory and Ismail Merchant
[The Masterworks Of Satyajit Ray]