Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Classical art form Carnatic Music of South India

Saraswati devi
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Classical art forms are all based on tradition and follow a common characteristic that is prevalent in that genre. There won’t be any fusion or mix up of different forms of art. Carnatic music, the Classical music form of South India is an ideal epitome of this that captures the minds of listeners in its boldly distinctive melodic lines. These melodic lines form the core part of this form of Classical music that has the power of eliciting various emotions. Carnatic music is sung mainly through standard form of compositions of adept musical composers called Keerthanam.

Carnaic music is rendered in the form of vocal or instrumental. A vocal Carnatic concert conveys all of its features to the audience. A usual performance of Carnatic music concert consists of a small ensemble of musicians with the principal performer in the center and accompaniments such as tambura, violin and mridangam in his/her nearness. Tambura is a drone sounding the pitch, violin follows the melody and mridangam makes the rthythm. Sri Purandaradasa is the father of Carnatic music who analyzed and graded the beginners’ lessons of Carnatic music. Further, the great proponents Sri Thyagaraja, Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar and Sri Syama Sastri famous as ‘Trinity of Carnatic Music’ uplifted this astute art form to much greater heights.

Basic elements of Carnatic music:

You may be aware that Sruti or pitch is the mother of any music genre. Here too, Sruti is the first thing to be set prior to the rest. The song should go in co-ordination with Sruti for a pleasing audible experience.

  • Swara is a single musical note that has a relative position in a pre-defined pitch. Swaras in Carnatic music are sa ri ga ma pa da ni. These are referred to as solfege in Western Classical music.
  • Raga or melody is a unique combination of swaras in the ascending (Arohana) and descending (Avarohana) order. With the seven swaras, so many combinations of Ragas can be formulated and it is mandatory that there should be a minimum of 5 swaras in the Arohana and Avarohana. The relative position, frequency, oscillation and ornamentation distinguish each raga.
  • Tala or rhythm also is instrumental in Carnatic music. It is a group of beats in a time cycle set for each composition following a pattern. Some of the talas are dhruva, matya, rupaka, jhampa, ata that make a composition sound rhythmically impressing.
A keerthanam or a song in Carnatic music should have the three parts: alapana, niraval and kalpanaswaram. A small song in the end of the concert called ‘javli’ or ‘tukda’ is also performed that is independent of these parts. Carnatic concerts of some acclaimed musicians such as Sri Madurai Mani Iyer and Smt. M.S.Subbulakshmi are so sagacious that they can release the tensions in our minds. 

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