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
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
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 )
By now we already understand
music ) that "Raga" is one of India's most prominent musical
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.
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 )
(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).
1) aesthetically chosen pre-designed sequence
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.
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 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
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.
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.
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.