Carnatic music, known as Karnāṭaka saṃgīta or Karnāṭaka saṅgītam in the South Indian languages, is a system of music commonly associated with South India, including the modern Indian states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and Sri Lanka. It is one of two main subgenres of Indian classical music that evolved from ancient Hindu texts and traditions, particularly the Samaveda. The other subgenre being Hindustani music, which emerged as a distinct form because of Persian or Islamic influences from Northern India. The main emphasis in Carnatic music is on vocal music; most compositions are written to be sung, and even when played on instruments, they are meant to be performed in gāyaki (singing) style.
Carnatic music is usually performed by a small ensemble of musicians, consisting of a principal performer (usually a vocalist), a melodic accompaniment (usually a violin), a rhythm accompaniment (usually a mridangam), and a tambura, which acts as a drone throughout the performance. Other typical instruments used in performances may include the ghatam, kanjira, morsing, venu flute, veena, and chitraveena. The greatest concentration of Carnatic musicians is to be found in the city of Chennai. Various Carnatic music festivals are held throughout India and abroad, including the Madras Music Season, which has been considered to be one of the world's largest cultural events.
During the late 19th century, the city of Chennai (then known as Madras) emerged as the locus for Carnatic music. With the dissolution of the erstwhile princely states and the Indian independence movement reaching its conclusion in 1947, Carnatic music went through a radical shift in patronage into an art of the masses with ticketed performances organised by private institutions called sabhās.
The main emphasis in Carnatic music is on vocal music; most compositions are written to be sung, and even when played on instruments, they are meant to be performed in a singing style (known as gāyaki). Like Hindustani music, Carnatic music rests on two main elements: rāga, the modes or melodic formulæ, and tāḷa, the rhythmic cycles.
Today, Carnatic music is presented by musicians in concerts or recordings, either vocally or through instruments. Carnatic music itself developed around musical works or compositions of phenomenal composers (see below).
Śruti commonly refers to musical pitch. It is the approximate equivalent of a tonic (or less precisely a key) in Western music; it is the note from which all the others are derived. It is also used in the sense of graded pitches in an octave. While there are an infinite number of sounds falling within a scale (or raga) in Carnatic music, the number that can be distinguished by auditory perception is twenty-two (although over the years, several of them have converged). In this sense, while sruti is determined by auditory perception, it is also an expression in the listener's mind.
Swara refers to a type of musical sound that is a single note, which defines a relative (higher or lower) position of a note, rather than a defined frequency. Swaras also refer to the solfege of Carnatic music, which consist of seven notes, "sa-ri-ga-ma-pa-da-ni" (compare with the Hindustani sargam: sa-re-ga-ma-pa-dha-ni or Western do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti). These names are abbreviations of the longer names shadja, rishabha, gandhara, madhyama, panchama, dhaivata and nishada. Unlike other music systems, every member of the solfege (called a swara) has three variants. The exceptions are the drone notes, shadja and panchama (also known as the tonic and the dominant), which have only one form; and madhyama (the subdominant), which has two forms. A 7th century stone inscription in Kudumiyan Malai in Tamil Nadu shows vowel changes to solfege symbols with ra, ri, ru etc. to denote the higher quarter-tones. In one scale, or raga, there is usually only one variant of each note present. The exceptions exist in "light" ragas, in which, for artistic effect, there may be two, one ascending (in the arohanam) and another descending (in the avarohanam).
In Carnatic music, the sampoorna ragas (those with all seven notes in their scales) are classified into a system called the melakarta, which groups them according to the kinds of notes that they have. There are seventy-two melakarta ragas, thirty six of whose madhyama (subdominant) is shuddha (perfect fourth from the tonic), the remaining thirty-six of whose madhyama (subdominant) is prati (an augmented fourth from the tonic). The ragas are grouped into sets of six, called chakras ("wheels", though actually segments in the conventional representation) grouped according to the supertonic and mediant scale degrees. There is a system known as the katapayadi sankhya to determine the names of melakarta ragas.
Carnatic music singers usually keep the beat by moving their hands up and down in specified patterns, and using their fingers simultaneously to keep time. Tala is formed with three basic parts (called angas) which are laghu, dhrtam, and anudhrtam, though complex talas may have other parts like plutam, guru, and kaakapaadam. There are seven basic tala groups which can be formed from the laghu, dhrtam, and anudhrtam:
In contrast to Hindustani music of the northern part of India, Carnatic music is taught and learned through compositions, which encode many intricate musical details, also providing scope for free improvisation. Nearly every rendition of a Carnatic music composition is different and unique as it embodies elements of the composer's vision, as well as the musician's interpretation.
A Carnatic composition really has two elements, one being the musical element, the other being what is conveyed in the composition. It is probably because of this fact that most Carnatic music compositions are composed for singing. In addition to the rich musical experience, each composition brings out the knowledge and personality of the composer, and hence the words are as important as the musical element itself. This poses a special challenge for the musicians because rendering this music does not involve just playing or singing the correct musical notes; the musicians are expected to understand what was conveyed by the composer in various languages, and sing musical phrases that act to create the effect that was intended by the composer in his/her composition.
Compositions more commonly associated with Indian classical dance and Indian devotional music have also been increasingly used in the Carnatic music repertoire. The performance of the Sanskrit sloka, Tamil viruttam, Kannada Ugabhoga and Telugu padyamu or sisapadya forms are particularly unique. Though these forms consist of lyric-based verses, musicians improvise raga phrases in free rhythm, like an alapana, so both the sound value, and the meaning of the text, guide the musician through elaborate melodic improvisations. Forms such as the divya prabandham, thevaram and ugabhoga are often performed similarly, however, these forms can also have a set melody and rhythm like the devaranama, javali, padam, thillana and thiruppugazh forms.
Prominent composers prior to the Trinity of Carnatic music include Sripadaraja, Vyasatirtha, Kanakadasa, Vadiraja Tirtha, Arunachala Kavi, Annamacharya, Narayana Theertha, Vijaya Dasa, Jagannatha Dasa, Gopala Dasa, Bhadrachala Ramadas, Sadasiva Brahmendra and Oottukkadu Venkata Kavi. Other composers are Swathi Thirunal, Gopalakrishna Bharathi, Neelakanta Sivan, Patnam Subramania Iyer, Mysore Vasudevachar, Koteeswara Iyer, Muthiah Bhagavathar, Subramania Bharathiyar, Kalyani Varadarajan, M. Balamuralikrishna and Papanasam Sivan. The compositions of these composers are rendered frequently by artists of today.
Composers of Carnatic music were often inspired by religious devotion and were usually scholars proficient in one or more of the languages Kannada, Malayalam, Sanskrit, Tamil, or Telugu. They usually included a signature, called a mudra, in their compositions. For example, all songs by Tyagaraja (who composed in Telugu) have the word Tyagaraja in them, all songs by Muthuswami Dikshitar (who composed in Sanskrit) have the words Guruguha in them; songs by Syama Sastri (who composed in Telugu) have the words Syama Krishna in them; all songs by Purandaradasa (who composed in Kannada) have the words Purandara Vittala; while Gopalakrishna Bharathi (who composed in Tamil) used the signature Gopalakrishnan in his compositions. Papanasam Sivan, who has been hailed as the Tamil Tyagaraja of Carnatic music, composed in Tamil and Sanskrit, and used the signature Ramadasan in his compositions.
Carnatic music is traditionally taught according to the system formulated by Purandara Dasa. This involves sarali swaras (graded exercises), alankaras (exercises based on the seven talas), geetams or simple songs, and Swarajatis. After the student has reached a certain standard, varnams are taught and later, the student learns kritis. It typically takes several years of learning before a student is adept enough to perform at a concert.
Carnatic music was traditionally taught in the gurukula system, where the student lived with and learnt the art from his guru (perceptor). From the late 20th century onwards, with changes in lifestyles and need for young music aspirants to simultaneously pursue a parallel academic career, this system has found few takers.
Musicians often take great pride in letting people know about their Guru Parampara, or the hierarchy of disciples from some prominent ancient musician or composer, to which they belong. People whose disciple-hierarchies are often referred to are Tyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar, Syama Sastri, Swathi Thirunal and Papanasam Sivan, among others. 2b1af7f3a8