A music for all: How Carnatic music unites and keeps spreading

by Ludwig Pesch

Carnatic music – the classical music of South India – unites people from a variety of social backgrounds. Over two hundred fifty million people now inhabit a region that comprises five modern states drawn up on the basis of their respective linguistic majorities. They take pride in regional cultural traditions and festivities in addition to those celebrated all over the country.1

So it hardly surprises that this music has long attracted creative minds from other regions of India; and since the mid-20th century western scholars and performers have marvelled at its capacity for connecting people by overcoming cultural, linguistic, political just as religious divides. Most importantly, all of this often happens in enjoyable, seemingly effortless ways even as “outsiders” have struggled to comprehend the underlying principles or the causes of political strife.2

Not so long ago each manifestation of Indian music was understood to be firmly rooted in a specific context, rarely if ever allowed to transcend “natural”, “sacred” or “social” barriers:

Classical music is the most refined and sophisticated music to be found in the subcontinent of India. There are many other forms, however, which have a specific function in the society, and these are by no means devoid of artistic expression. The great diversity of music in India is a direct manifestation of the diversity and fragmentation of the population in terms of race, religion, language, and other aspects of culture. The process of acculturation, so accelerated in modern times, is still not a very significant factor in many areas of the country.3

Listen to a rendition of Intakannaanandam emi by Balamurali Krishna on Youtube >>
Image © Kutcherbuzz.com >>

Even if matters have changed considerably since the advent of the internet, the resilience of Carnatic music seems firmly rooted in local history and mythology just as in the lyrics of composers, or in the styles represented by performers and choreographers of national standing. At the same time, they often stand united by their yearning for “unity“: an identification with something greater than one’s “mortal self”. As a case in point, we may consider the undiminished popularity of songs written by Sri Tyagaraja (1767-1847) expressing the conviction that “immersion in music” is a potent remedy against bigotry, hypocrisy, self-deception and vanity.4

In this regard it seems as if he anticipated the quest for truthfulness (Satyagraha)5 as expounded by Gandhi, to start with as precondition to peaceful advancement for all of humanity. This goes beyond a personal fight against self-delusion or structural discrimination of (religious) minorities and instead, amounts to a lifelong quest for a sound understanding of “reality” (be it in utilitarian terms such as general welfare or personal fulfillment).

“There is music of mind, of the senses and of the heart” – Mahatma Gandhi >>
Photo © Ludwig Pesch
Selected poems
Selected Poems: Subramania Bharati
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Needless to mention that several others have followed in the great composer’s footsteps in a variety of ways and for different reasons, even for causes like India’s independence from colonial rule at a time when this was a dangerous proposition.6 They emulated proven models from different epochs and regions including “folk” music, be it consciously or otherwise. Thanks to the widespread appeal of drama, and the emergence of film as soon as sound technology permitted, several Carnatic musicians and composers crossed into new domains beyond “classical” music (here understood as following, even transcending time proven conventions, local tastes and appreciated by generation after generation).

Such issues are readily addressed in practices akin to “mindfulness”, as one would now describe a remedy that’s freely available to all, young and young at heart. Some are compelled by an irrepressible moral compass that helps them to promote causes including social justice that leaves no room to “untouchability” and other forms of discrimination.

The infinite scope for creativity and self-expression inherent in this tradition has ensured that Carnatic musicians has endured; and this even in the face of unprecedented pressures such as those currently debated by way of social media, book writing and commentaries in Indian press.

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Most interestingly some of these issues echo the ideals of India’s founding fathers just as those of their peers, as part of global peace and ecological movements (both inspired by Mahatma Gandhi);7 most notably so in the legacy Rabindranath Tagore bequeathed to many spheres of the arts and sciences that continues to reverberate in our time;8 and Maria Montessori,9 the great educationist he admired for insights that were to took roots in Indian music and dance, notably at Kalakshetra, an institution of national importance founded by Rukmini Devi.

It does not, therefore, come as a surprise that experiencing the beauty and depth of Carnatic music found its congenial expression in the newly emerging practice of an ancient form of dance, today regarded as an integral part of India’s cultural heritage; and accordingly referred to as Bharata Natyam when merging with India’s mainstream culture (from the first half of the 20th century onwards) rather than continuing as the heirloom of a particular “community”.10 As a result, all the strands are united as envisaged in distant antiquity, in the Natya Shastra, a treatise on drama or “total theatre”, ascribed to the legendary sage Bharata and further elucidated in several commentaries and other works on similar lines.11

In short, what should matter most to us today is an open invitation long extended by some of the most talented exponents of this music in and outside India: not merely to appreciate but actively participate in it – all this in a spirit of mutual respect in the face of outward differences, driven by our shared love for lifelong learning; some equally inclined towards critical inquiry (as suggested by many of its poet-composers throughout the ages). So without exaggeration this is all about a music whose exponents have long welcomed new discoveries. And in the meantime, even the “brilliant Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, who was himself deeply religious, clarified that bhakti is essential for a Carnatic music, but this bhakti is for music, not for any personal deity”.12

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References
  1. Since Independence, these states are known as Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana; see Wikipedia:

    South India, also known as Peninsular India, consists of the peninsular southern part of India. It encompasses the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana, as well as the union territories of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep and Puducherry, comprising 19.31% of India’s area (635,780 km2 or 245,480 sq mi) and 20% of India’s population. Covering the southern part of the peninsular Deccan Plateau, South India is bounded by the Bay of Bengal in the east, the Arabian Sea in the west and the Indian Ocean in the south. The geography of the region is diverse with two mountain ranges – the Western and Eastern Ghats – bordering the plateau heartland. The Godavari, Krishna, Kaveri, Tungabhadra, Periyar, Bharathappuzha, Pamba, Thamirabarani, Palar, and Vaigai rivers are important perennial rivers.

    The majority of the people in South India speak at least one of the four major Dravidian languages: Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam (all 4 of which are among the 6 Classical Languages of India).[]

  2. Nobel Awardee Amartya Sen discusses some these issues in his ground-breaking book The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity, “suggesting the ways we must understand India today in the light of its rich, long argumentative tradition [while] appreciating not only the richness of India’s diversity but its need for toleration“.[]
  3. “Tribal, Folk and Devotional Music” by Nazir Jairazbhoy in AL Basham (ed.). A Cultural History of India. London: Oxford University Press, 1975, pp. 234-237. Excerpt from Chapter XVI Music (pp. 212-242[]
  4. In Manasu svadhinamaina, Tyagaraja questions the meaning of penances (tapas) when control over one’s mind is all that really matters; and in Intakannaanandam emi he shares his experience of the sprawling universe that loses its diversity in the process of singing and dancing with abandon: “Can there be any Bliss greater than merging heart and soul?”

    Sri Tyagaraja’s search for a greater, universal meaning culminates in Paramatmudu by asserting that a Supreme Being is present “in all that’s made of sky, wind, fire, and water, in beasts and birds and hills and trees by the tens of millions, always in the lifeless and the lively”; an all-embracing – indeed humbling – view of the role human beings play in a larger scheme. Sources: The Spiritual Heritage of Tyagaraja translated by C. Ramanujachari with an Introductory Thesis by V. Raghavan (Madras: Sri Ramakrishna Math 1981), karnatik.com and William J. Jackson in Tyagaraja: Life and Lyrics.[]

  5. “Satyagraha is literally holding on to Truth and it means, therefore, Truth-force. Truth is soul or spirit. It is, therefore, known as soul force. It excludes the use of violence because man is not capable of knowing the absolute truth and, therefore, not competent to punish. […] Non-cooperation, too, like Civil Disobedience is a branch of Satyagraha, which includes all non-violent resistance for the vindication of Truth.” – Mohandas K. Gandhi in Young India, 23 March 1921; p. 90[]
  6. Most notably, the lyrics of Subramania Bharati come to mind in the context of South Indian musicians eager to express their love of freedom; an ideal that cannot be realized in the absence of solidarity with those yet to benefit from proper education and health care, the basic preconditions for becoming free citizens of a modern country: “If the younger brother is frail, will the elder enslave him? Will the might of money and muscle frighten us into becoming slaves? Beat the drum! Let it be known that in love lies our deliverance.” Beat the drum translated by Usha Rajagopalan in Selected Poems: Subramania Bharati, Everyman/Hachette 2012, p. 51.[]
  7. “It is Gandhi’s profound religious belief and sensibility that made him resolutely secular; his secularism, and his worldly obligations, each of which was but an attempt to strive for self-realization, deepened his religious belief. His veneration for other faiths made him more, not less, of a Hindu. The advocates of a militant and muscular Hindu nationalism are in this matter entirely clueless—scarcely surprising given their ferocious disdain for self-reflexivity or anything that may remotely be called thought.” – Prof. Vinay Lal in Gandhi’s Secularism in the Age of Muscular Hinduism”[]
  8. including his “zealous devotion to the ideal of a casteless world, a world without cruel, irrational discrimination between one human being and his fellow men” according to the Director-General of Unesco on the occasion of the Tagore Centenary celebrations in 1961[]
  9. “We also see her strong commitment to bringing progress and fighting illiteracy in India, which grew into an enduring love for the country and its people. Montessori’s colourful descriptions of her journey and life in India, her worries about her grandchildren in war-torn Europe, and her son’s imprisonment make a fascinating read.” – Maria Montessori Writes to Her Grandchildren published by Association Montessori Internationale Montessori (Amsterdam: 2021[]
  10. “If dance and music were so integral to the system that so oppressed a woman, they must be halted too, so that new art could emerge.” – “The Devadasi Question” by V.R. Devika in Muthulakshmi Reddy – A Trailblazer in Surgery and Women’s Rights[]
  11. Search for the writings of Tanjore Balasaraswathi, Kapila Vatsyayan and Ananda Coomaraswamy for different perspectives, in addition to those of Rukmini Devi and Muthulakshmi Reddy; and academic papers authored/edited by Davesh Soneji.[]
  12. Lakshmi Sreeram in “Carnatic Music Ruminating the Landscape”, Indian Horizons published by The Indian Council for Cultural Relations; it is worth mentioning here that the most prominent musician-activist of our time, TM Krishna, has gratefully acknowledged his indebtedness to “Semmangudi” in interviews.[]

Flow | The right tempo or “kalapramanam”

Listen to Intakannaanandam emi sung by Balamurali Krishna | Lyrics >>
Image © Kutcherbuzz.com

If there is a single feature of Carnatic music to account for its mesmerizing effect on listeners it may well be a feature known as kalapramanam: practicing rhythm (laya)1 and performing in the the “right tempo”2 (kālapramānam) which, once chosen, remains even or standardized.

Adopting it as part of regular practice enables musicians to perform in perfect alignment. Of equal importance are a number of benefits, including

The last point may be seen as test of the assertion made by the most beloved composer of South India: Sri Tyagaraja posing the rhetorical question: “Can there be any higher bliss than transcending all thoughts of body and the world, dancing with abandon?” – Intakannaanandam (learn more on karnATik.com), Bilahari raga, Rupaka tala

For details, also refer to the Oxford Illustrated Companion to South Indian Classical Music

  • Glossary-cum-index
  • In the following section(s)
References
  1. ‘”The sense of rhythm gives us a feeling of freedom, luxury, and expanse. It gives us a feeling of achievement in molding or creating. It gives us a feeling of rounding out a design… As, when the eye scans the delicate tracery in a repeated pattern near the base of the cathedral and then sweeps upward and delineates the harmonious design continued in measures gradually tapering off into the towering spire, all one unit of beauty expressing the will and imagination of the architect, so in music, when the ear grasps the intricate rhythms of beautiful music and follows it from the groundwork up through the delicate tracery into towering climaxes in clustered pinnacles of rhythmic tone figures, we feel as though we did this all because we wished to, because we craved it, because we were free to do it, because we were able to do it.” – Carl Seashore in Psychology of Music (New York: Dover Publications 1938/1967 quoted in Cosmic order, cosmic play: an Indian approach to rhythmic diversity by Ludwig Pesch[]
  2. “Carnatic music has this unique aspect where the musicians on stage and the audience explicitly put the tala on their hands. Each song has a particular tala and the related facets of rhythm include the tempo or kalapramanam of the song, the specifics of the tala — whether it is one of the Chapu talas or Suladi Sapta talas and its associated components, eduppu — the pivotal point where the melody starts in the tala cycle and this can occur at samam (the same starting point), before or after the tala commences [and] ‘kaarvai’ — versatile, rhythmic pause that is woven into the song itself or improvisations (kalpana svaras, korvais, pallavis). Another critical element is the arudi which can be described as a ‘landing point’ or the point of emphasis of a syllable of the lyric. The arudi is particularly important in the pallavi (part of Ragam Tanam Pallavi).” – Learn more: Arudi — the emphatic, landing point by KavyaVriksha, a “life long student of Music”[]

Flow | Colourful and creative “when life is attuned to a single tune” – Mahatma Gandhi

An exercise for raga Kuntalavarali (YouTube) >>
Practice with basic “Sa” = G#
Download this audio file (2 MB, 2 min. mono)
Credit: eSWAR / FS-3C Sruthi petti + Tanjore Tambura
The above exercise1 is inspired by eminent Carnatic flautist
Sikkil Mala Chandrasekhar rendering
Bhogindra Sayinam (Kuntalavarali, Khanda capu) by Svati Tirunal
Excerpt © HMV Marga 1996 cassette recording

Become fluent with the help of svara syllables (solmisation): practice a series of exercises, each based on a set of melodic figures that lend themselves to frequent repetition (“getting into flow”) | Practice goal, choosing your vocal range & more tips >>

South Indian conventions (raga names & svara notation): karnATik.com | Guide >>

raagam: kuntalavarALi
Aa: S M1 P D2 N2 D2 S | Av: S N2 D2 P M1 S

If a raga2 constitutes more than mere arrangements of notes derived from a given scale, this is due to the mood it evokes in listeners from different backgrounds. This shared experience is often explained in terms of “colour, beauty, pleasure, passion and compassion”, the very connotations of the Sanskrit root ranj from which rāga is derived.

Many scholars have probed into such associations, some shared across India and depicted in countless miniatures, carrying a specific connotation (for a given community of practitioners), or relating to regional customs.

So innovation – including new ragas and adaptations from other cultures – has been a matter of prestige for centuries, thereby confirming a common human trait: innate curiosity giving rise to open-mindedness, thereby widening the scope for self-expression and intercultural collaboration (or new patronage in response to changing economic circumstances and technological advancement).

This is the common ground for vocal and instrumental music whereby neither “side” dominates the other and instead, provides scope for playful interaction. What makes such interaction special is that more often than not, it dispenses with detailed musical scores, even rehearsal; and instead, relying on memory and swift anticipation. No doubt, these are assets worth acquiring (and maintaining) for young and old alike, being useful in many fields of knowledge, and therefore worth integrating in general education.

In the present context of “learning and teaching South Indian (Carnatic) music in unconventional ways”, we may freely explore this vast scope for creativity and lifelong learning: starting from minuscule motifs, then internalizing them and eventually appreciating the achievements of revered musicians past and present including the nuances in the way they render any given raga.

It is in this spirit that you are encouraged to “fill in the blanks” by first listening to a raga rendition of your own choice, then adapt any of the previous patterns in a manner that entices you to actually practice what attracted Mahatma Gandhi to music which he loved “though his philosophy of music was different”:

In his own words ‘Music does not proceed from the throat alone. There is music of mind, of the senses and of the heart.’ […] According to Mahatma ‘In true music there is no place for communal differences and hostility.’ Music was a great example of national integration because only there we see Hindu and Muslim musicians sitting together and partaking in musical concerts. He often said, ‘We shall consider music in a narrow sense to mean the ability to sing and play an instrument well, but, in its wider sense, true music is created only when life is attuned to a single tune and a single time beat. Music is born only where the strings of the heart are not out of tune.’

[Bold typeface added for emphasis]
Learn more from Namrata Mishra (Gandhi website)
More on the present course author’s Intercultural blog >>

I have a suspicion that perhaps there is more of music than warranted by life […] Why not the music of the walk, of the march, of every movement of ours, and of every activity?

Mahatma Gandhi in a letter to Rabindranath Tagore’s son Rathindranath
The Oxford India Gandhi: Essential Writings by Gopalkrishna Gandhi, p. 568
To create your own exercises based on any favourite raga including “pa”,
copy and fill the above table (fields marked in green)
as seen in other “Flow” exercises on this course website >>
For ragas excluding the fifth note “pa” while containing “dha”
(from a group of ragas known as pancama varja ragas), use the above table
For ragas including the fifth note “pa” while containing a “zigzag” (vakra) feature, use the above table

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References
  1. The present “Flow” series of exercises is meant to supplement the comprehensive standard syllabus (abhyasa ganam) attributed to 16th c. composer Purandara Dasa >>
    Concept & images © Ludwig Pesch | Feel free to share in accordance with the 
    Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license >>[]
  2. The most concise definition of a raga may be that by Joep Bor: a tonal framework for composition and improvisation.[]

What’s the difference between Hindustani and Carnatic music?

At first, this question seems easy to answer: just watch performers from either strand of Indian music and you’ll know Which is Which, merely going by the instruments in use, or how they dress and watching the body language involved: harmonium or sarangi vs. violin for melodic accompaniment for most vocal recitals, and tabla drums rather than a double-faced mridangam.

M.S. Subbulakshmi © Dhvani Ohio
“Even at the peak of her career M.S.Subbulakshmi continued to learn from other musicians”
R.K. Shriram Kumar >>
Young Maestros 2018 © Sangeet Research Academy >>

Even in the absence of other clues, experienced listeners know what distinguishes one concert item from another, in order to immerse themselves in that which endows “classically trained” musicians across South Asia with a deeply felt sense of unity: raga, aptly defined as a “tonal framework for composition and improvisation” by Joep Bor in The Raga Guide.

What binds Hindustani and Carnatic music lovers together is the experience of raga which, given its roots (lit. colour, beauty, pleasure, passion), denotes a cultural phenomenon rather than just a particular combination of notes. This means that raga-based music is more widely shared than one would expect in the modern world due to its capacity to transcend linguistic boundaries. In short, both strands of Indian music, Hindustani and Carnatic music, have absorbed a wide range of regional traditions throughout history. At the same time, “raga music” continues to serve as a vehicle for meaningful lyrics in any conceivable genre in addition to “classical” or “devotional” music. Even when rendered by an instrumentalist or sung without lyrics (as customarily done within both Hindustani and Carnatic recitals) each raga constitutes “a dynamic musical entity with a unique form, embodying a unique musical idea”. […] As regards Hindustani ragas, they “are known to musicians primarily through traditional compositions in genres such as dhrupad, dhamar, kyal, tappa, tarana and thumri. Good compositions possess a grandeur that unmistakably unveil the distinctive features and beauty of the raga as the composer conceived it.” (Joep Bor).

The Carnatic Trinity hailing from Tiruvarur (Tamil Nadu, 18th-19th c.):
the composers most revered and performed by Carnatic musicians
Muttusvami Dikshitar
Sri Tyagaraja
Syama Sastri

Painting by S. Rajam © Sruti Magazine >>
Composers on DhvaniOhio >>

A comparable range of genres is available to Carnatic musicians, including varnam, kirtana, kriti, ragam-tanam-pallavi, padam, javali, tillana with a notable difference: since the 16th century, Carnatic compositions take up more time in order to render the lyrics faithfully, as intended by their composers and jealously guarded by teachers, discerning listeners and critics alike.

It is hard to imagine how such ideas would have worked before the advent of the tambura or tanpura – another feature of Indian music which may explain why older scales and theories have fallen into oblivion ever since – in spite of frequent mentions in text books.

But it’s harder to explain the musical differences in plain language while listening attentively as their respective performances unfold: differences begin to multiply, mostly in ways too subtle for words. Such differences call for probing into the depths of Indian “classical” music in the sense of a particular branch of music that is governed by clearly defined rules as well as unwritten conventions valued by professionals and connoisseurs.

For Indian listeners, such distinctions are mostly associated with a particular region, like the northern Hindustani and southern Carnatic music even if deceptive when it comes to the birth places of noted Hindustani exponents: many famous musicians were born or trained in Bengal in the east, and Dharwad in the south, also known as “Hindustani music’s southern home“. Being associated with a famous regional tradition or lineage is mentioned in most programme notes, like the vocal gharana known as the “Dharwad Gharana” or “Gwalior Gharana” in Hindustani music; and likewise, southern musicians pride themselves for having learned their arts within a bani (“family tradition”) designated by a particular town, for instance Tanjavur (vocal), Lalgudi (violin) and Karaikudi (vina or veena).

Then there are the preferred languages used in song lyrics in the case of vocal music; and certain rhythmic patterns local listeners would instantly feel familiar with or, conversely, associate with “novelty” when first employed beyond their place of origin. The latter is eagerly anticipated toward the end of a recital. In the opening and main parts of a recital, the most obvious differences between Hindustani and Carnatic music include the following traits:

  1. Hindustani musicians prefer “accelerating” almost imperceptibly – from slow to fast tempo – during an alap (raga alapana, the melodic improvisation preceding a composed theme); this preference entails presenting fewer items compared to their Carnatic peers;
  2. by contrast, a typical Carnatic or Karnatak concert opens with two or three items in a brisk tempo, including sections in “double tempo”, before elaborating a particular raga in a slow-to-fast format akin to the Hindustani format known as “imagination” (khyal or khayal) traceable to 18th c. court music;
  3. Carnatic recitals are enriched by arithmetic elements derived from the repertoires of temple and dance musicians, and coordinated by visible gestures (something listeners love to emulate for the sake of self-immersion or as a sign of appreciation); and not surprisingly, rhythmic intricacies were successfully adopted and refined as part of Hindustani tihai patterns, most successfully by Ravi Shankar in the course of collaborations with southern instrumentalists (duly acknowledged in Raga Mala: The Autobiography of Ravi Shankar); be it for his solo sitar recitals or novel, mostly temporary jugalbandi ensembles like the one documented on video: recorded in 1974 at the Royal Albert Hall in London: “As far back as 1945, I was absorbing the essence of these from the fixed calculative systems of the Carnatic system.” (To understand their application, watch a tarana on YouTube repeatedly, starting from 3:27) Unsurprisingly this process of give-and-take, once proven successful, has become too common to bother crediting it to any particular source, other than declaring it a “shared heritage” cherished by musicians and audiences all over the world: Unity in Diversity at its very best!

To appreciate some of the aforementioned characteristics in the context of South Indian music, listen to recitals by two of its most beloved exponents:

From the above mentioned differences follows the most important one, namely the amount of time assigned to compositions based on elaborate lyrics: the concise bandish in a Hindustani recital vs. the tripartite kriti several of which occupy pride of place in Carnatic music.

The standard syllabus for South Indian “classical” music is ascribed to 16th c. composer Purandara Dasa of Vijayanagar (modern Hampi in northern Karnataka as indicated on the music map seen below). His method proved so efficient as to provide a common ground for aspiring singers or instrumentalists from many regions and linguistic backgrounds. This may explain how such music invites the convergence of several voices or instruments into one (unison): a soloist accompanied by violin just as two vocalists (popular duos known as “Brothers” and “Sisters”), or pairs of flutes, lutes (vina) and violinists, all capable of achieving perfect alignment at any given moment during a recital; and this not merely for evenly paced motifs but with equal ease in richly embellished passages. For good measure, such feats require neither notation nor lengthy rehearsals but instead combine musical memory with considerable freedom to enrich predictable patterns with one’s own flights of imagination.

As regards inevitable specialization such as a particular vocal or instrumental style, required for mastering certain melodic and rhythmic intricacies and compositions, there is an infinite variety to delve into: variety that explains the evolution of two great music “systems” that kept evolving and intersecting ever since musicologists became obsessed with classifying and validating certain features in the 19th and 20th centuries.

For non-Indian music lovers and students, Yehudi Menuhin’s reminiscences titled “Unfinished Journey” may be a good starting point: the violin virtuoso was among the first to appreciate fact that “Indian musicians are sensitive to the smallest microtonal deviations, subdivisions of tones which the violin can find but which are outside the crude simplifications of the piano (or harmonium)”. His interest in Indian violin music motivated Menuhin to invite the South Indian violin virtuoso Lalgudi Jayaraman to tour the UK and participate in the 1965 Edinburgh music festival.

For a better understanding of what Yehudi Menuhin meant by “smallest microtonal deviations”, listen to the very first composition most learners of Carnatic music have learned – a gitam (didactic song) by Purandara Dasa – in: A brief introduction to Carnatic music >>

Internet search screenshots for Indian music jazz fusion
“The classical music of the West has influenced
our musical culture” – Manohar Parnerkar in
Sruti Magazine August 2019 >>

Since then, musicians from various backgrounds have never ceased to contribute to an unprecedented intercultural dialogue: exponents of western classical, ecclesiastical and minimal music just as jazz, pop and film music, all set to explore new horizons together with their Indian peers.

Tips

  1. to explore the above topics on your own, refer the Indian sources recommended here >>
  2. in order to get a clear idea what this means in practice, listen closely to audio and video contents featuring two prominent families of violinists whose roots lie in South India: one known as the Parur bani (brothers M.S. Gopalakrishnan & M.S. Anantharaman), and the other brought into prominence by N. Rajam (Hindustani violin) and her brother T.N. Krishnan (Carnatic violin)

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Michael Zarky (Tuning Meister) for providing valuable tips and corrections for this post and previous Carnaticstudent courses including those offered in conjunction with university eLearning programmes.

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Periodicals and sites included | More resources | Disclaimer >>

“There is music of mind, of the senses and of the heart” – Mahatma Gandhi >>
Photo © Ludwig Pesch

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There really is no such thing as a ‘learner’ raga

Image © The Hindu >>

Gouri Dange, The Hindu, 11 May 2019 | Read the full article here >>

Every kind of music has a protocol for ‘beginners’ or ‘learners’. Students must practise paltay, alankaras, scales, études, tonalisation exercises, depending on the kind of music they pursue.  […]

However, here’s the rub: for many learners, these ‘early’ ragas get translated in the mind as something very basic, or ‘shikau’, with a novice ring to them. They are seen, most misguidedly, as mundane, without the strut and stature of the ‘larger and later’ ragas that are taught after you are deemed fit to learn them.  […]

It is surely a disservice to a raga and to those who lift it to its best potential, and even more so a disservice to the young student, to allow the mental stamping of some ragas as ‘learner material’.  […]

The novelist, counsellor and music lover takes readers on a ramble through the Alladin’s cave of Indian music.

https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/column-can-there-really-be-such-a-thing-as-a-learner-raga/article27093490.ece

Purandara Dasa (1484-1564), a prolific poet-composer and mystic of Vijayanagar, introduced a music course that is followed to the present day. Since the 17th century, hundreds of ragas (melody types) have been distributed among 72 melakarta ragas (scales).

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