Well, it is a pleasure to meet You again on this page.
On this page we'll browse through the world of Carnatic music. ( Karnatac, Karnatic)

Female musician from  Malabar.( Kerala ) ca 1900
Painting by Raja Ravi Verma

  What is Carnatic music?

Carnatic music reigns over  the Southern-States of India: Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andra Pradesh and Karnataka.
A attentive reader will observe the resemblance of the latter with our subject: Carnatic music.

Indeed, it seems that this style got its origin in the southern state of Karnataka.  If one knows that India is as big as Europe,
without former Russia, its obvious that different languages, cultures will occur all along this territory

and put its mark on the arts and culture.

A major difference between Hindusthani and Carnatic states is, that Hindusthani states use the Devnagari  script,
while the Carnatic states use a Dravidian (Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam) script!

Although  being a  "Indian" entity, multiple differences in society, culture, food and traditions are prevailing.
Some famous "Dakhini" musicians are: T.N.Krishnan (violin), E.Gayathry (veena), Balmurali Krishnan (vocal, violin),
Vikku Vinayakram (ghatam).... Musical instruments: Karnatic violin, veena, nadaswaram, ghatam, mridangam, tavil...

The musical forms in South-India are in origin, for vocal use.
Then, these compositions are also  used for various instruments  adapting  the songs into their musical and technical possibilities. 
Music is available in two different structures:

music for educational use and music meant for the concert platform. ( abhyasa  gana and Sabha gana )


The melodic 'Construction Set' for Indian art music

By now we already understand (see Hindusthani music ) that  "Raga" is one of India's most prominent musical feature.
In the South there is a different approach towards the raga (obviously, as I already mentioned,
because of  a vast territory with multiple cultural differences).
Still, let's take our comparison in which we take the "raga" as a build-it-yourself construction set.

On the front-cover of the ( imaginary ) box you see a image of what 'should' be the result after construction 
and inside the box the various items necessary for assemblage. 
( containing the information about the 72 melakarta system and its janya ragas - 
derivative ragas, a prefixed composition, tala and lyrics ) 
This  composition is available only in a Dravidian script. ( Tamil, telugu, Malayalam, Kannada  ) 
Additionally you purchase the paint, brushes, glue and you call for assistance of someone who-did-it-already-before 
(e.g.. the choice of a mentor who can provide the necessary gamakas and variations on the composition, 
there is no such a thing as "gharana" in the South).
The 'SOUNDS' of a raga

1) aesthetically chosen pre-designed sequence of sounds.
2) presented in a ascent and descent order ( aroham, avaroham )
3) consisting of  a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 7 different "sounds".
4) having a pivotal sound in each tetra chord: the vadi and the samvadi.
5) sometimes provided with a "vakra" feature. A pre designed 'motif'.
6) ornamented with a set of embellishments: gamakas, and with deviating
    sound pitches for one or more swaras. ( sounds, notes.)
7) starting on a pitch that is comfortable for vocal or instrumental performer.
8) after the free rhythm alapana  immediately comes a preset composition, enveloping the percussion.

Abhyasa gana, 
the educational music


The Varnam is surely a very important musical  item.
We observe two species: the tana varnam and the pada varnam, the latter belonging to the dance repertoire.
It is a 'technical' composition
( one might assume a 'etude' or 'study' containing all the important raga items needed to perform a composition properly).
It is considered such a important form that, occasionally, it appears on the concert stage.
Generally only one varnam  will be performed as opening of the concert.
The varnam consists of two parts:
the purvanga and the uttaranga,
might be preceded by a short

The 'ARCHITECTURE' of a Varnam

The purvanga consists of 4 sections:

0.  Alapana  ( rather short in duration )

1.  Pallavi ( consisting of two repeated lines )

2.  Anupallavi ( consisting of two repeated lines )

3.  Chitta swaras ( or maktayi )

1. Pallavi ( repeated )

If the varnam is rendered in multiple tempi (speeds), before going to the second part,
the first part is repeated till all variations are finished

 2. Uttaranga
The uttaranga  consists of 2 sections:
1. Charanam (usually only one line, one tala cycle)
2. Charana swaras. (these are groups of swara passages.)
    There are about 4 different groups of charana swaras.
    1st group: one tala cycle. Long sounds. (swaras, notes)
    2nd group: one tala cycle.
    3rd group: two tala cycles long
    4th group: four tala cycles long. (in some varnams longer)

While performing the 'groups', the charanam is looked upon as a 'rondo' theme.
After performing a 'group', one returns to charanam, continues  with the next 'group', returning to charanam etc.
If different speeds are used, again every 'group' is repeated  before going back to charanam.

Sabha gana, the music for the concert-hall


The  Kriti is surely the  most common concert form  in Carnatic music.
It  forms  the major part of all musical compositions.
A kriti is a composition based upon a fixed raga and tala.
The rendering of a kriti involves a great deal of elaboration's and ornamentation.
( neraval and swara-kalpana improvisations )

The kriti has three sections, but is usually proceeded by a long alapana.

0.Alapana ( rather long )
1.Pallavi ( 2 lines, performed with variations )
2.Anupallavi ( 2 lines, performed with variations )
1.Pallavi ( repeated )
3. Charanam ( 4 lines )

The music of the second half is usually the same as that of the anupallavi.
( but with different lyrics)
In this charanam also the mudra is found, containing the name or the alias of the composer
(see also in the Northern ghazal ).
This example is of course not the "ultimate form".
There are at least some 7 different forms of kriti.


This is (for the South) a complicated form which is traditionally performed by the end of a concert.
In a concert usually only one ragam-tanam-pallavi will be performed.
This is a Carnatic music form resembling  the architecture of a  Hindusthani raga.

There are  3 major parts:

1st Part: RAGAM

In this section, the performer improvises on a particularly chosen raga.
No rhythmic feeling, no tala, no percussion instrument is involved.
The speed is doubled up by entering the tanam.

2nd Part: TANAM

Here a element of rhythmic pulses is brought in.
At the end of each phrase a recognizable rhythmic 'cadenza' is inserted.
No tala, no percussion instrument involved.
Speed is doubled up by entering the pallavi.

3rd Part: PALLAVI

This part includes the only pre-composed line, and also the introduction of the percussion.
The  composition  is usually one cycle long and repeated some two or three times
to give the percussion player the 'feeling' of the chosen tala.

The 'PERFORMING ' of Carnatic music forms

1. The carnatic music forms are performed in any season, month,
    festival or time without relation to  the time-theory  so significant for Hindusthani music.

2. The concert-ensemble consists normally of 1 soloist, (except for  the "Jugalbandi")
1 or 2 tanburas providing the drone and with avariety of percussion instruments.
( mridangam, ghatam, kanjeera, morsing..)

3. Special attention is given to the "tani avartanam", which mostly occurs by the end of the concert.
This is a part in which the percussion players demonstrate their skills.
This can happen as part of a composition or as a independent concert-item.

4. Carnatic music is focussed on the rendering of existing  ( in origin vocal ) compositions
with less attention to a full personal build-up of the provided information
(except for the  ragam-talam-pallavi  form).
Instrumental compositions are recognized by the title of  the original vocal composition.