Coming soon: the 3rd, digital and free edition: Ragadhana 2020

Both earlier editions of Ragadhana were well received in India and beyond. Being out of print for several years it is time to make it available again as a 3rd (free) edition. 

In tune with today’s needs, Ragadhana may now be read as well as browsed:

  • online with the help of any browser
  • offline via eReader (any tablet or pc)
  • in printed form (PDF download)

The present edition incorporates the 2nd, revised and enlarged edition (1993).

Carnatic music is a vast realm with room for both, adherence to tradition and creative exploration of melody in all its diversity. This observation may account for the enthusiastic feedback received received from students, teachers and composers for the earlier editions. The present updates and some additional material are intended as a way of returning their compliments.

Expected to be completed and made available by September 2020

Practice four widely used Carnatic talas – free for all learners

Mridanga Vidvan T.R. Sundaresan guides you along as you read and listen. Simply pronounce the syllables of each lesson – straight from the page >>

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

  • Glossary-cum-index
  • In the following section(s)

Instrumental Music, pp. 105 (percussion)

Tala and Rhythm, pp. 204

Musical map | Familiarize yourself with the world of South Indian classical music

To familiarize yourself with the world of Carnatic music

  • click on any “pin” on the interactive map for more information
  • check the textbook entries for all the names and musical forms mentioned in the accompanying text boxes
  • zoom in and out on the map by clicking on the + / – control buttons
  • display more options (click the menu button on the left top of the map)
  • listen to your favourite music along with the stories and ideas that have inspired its creators
  • suggest your favourite place of musical interest for adding here
  • to search for recent reports and publications on Carnatic music in any of the places included in the map, click here >>

Tip: toggle to normal view (from reader view) should the interactive map not be displayed in your tablet, smartphone or pc browser.

Melakarta raga application

12 positions are available in the South Indian 72 mela system
to learn more, read the following explanations

Source © Ludwig Pesch under the
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

A scale – mēla in Carnatic or thāt in Hindustani music – isn’t a raga yet: it is no more than an imaginary arrangement of notes for the formation of “parental scales”. From 72 Carnatic mēla scales – or their 10 Hindustani thāt-counterparts – a wide range of major and minor ragas have been “derived” in the course of several centuries. (In most instances, however, ragas weren’t “derived” from an existing scale but came to be associated with a particular scale much later on, as seen in ongoing debates among music scholars and performers.)

Listen to a recitation of melakarta names: Akshara Samskriti >>

Thinking of a particular scale helps musicians and learners to distinguish one raga from another, and this amidst hundreds of other ragas that are being performed today (for a useful definition by Joep Bor, see below).*

For this purpose 7 notes occupy certain positions within an octave as seen in the above illustrations. These notes are framed by an 8th note (“octave”) which corresponds to the basic note, now placed in the higher range. Listening carefully to the middle strings of tambura will reveal this higher note (tāra sa).

To understand their relative positions watch the above slideshow repeatedly. Nevertheless the basic idea underlying all of India’s “classical” Indian music traditions – the proverbial “seven notes” (saptasvara) as basis for melody – remains untouched.

Note: The above series of images illustrates 16 out of a total of 72 melas with the names of their corresponding melakarta ragas, including the first six melas (01. – 06.) and the last one (72.); and several others that have long played a prominent role concerts either as melakarta ragas (i.e. featuring all the seven notes) or derivatives known as janya raga (08., 15., 28., 29., 34., 36., 56. 57. and 65). The latter may feature less than seven notes, be characterized by “zigzag” patterns or notes not found in their parental scales.

So a total of 12 positions are available in the South Indian mela system whereby the basic note “sa” and its fifth “pa” are the starting points of two series of 4 notes:

sa-ri-ga-ma & pa dha ni (upper) sa

reversed and sung for the sake of memorization as follows:

(upper) sa-ni-dha-pa & ma-ga-ri-sa

Please note that – unlike in western “classical” music – the actual pitches are never given but chosen to suit one’s own vocal range or a particular instrument (e.g. flute and vina which come in different sizes and tonal ranges). This means: sa may correspond to “C” on your keyboard or for a male voice (just like “D”); but for a female voice, sa is more likely to correspond to “F” or “G” instead.

Last but not least, singing or playing a raga entails attention to subtle tonal shades just as embellishments (gamaka) as heard in a proper concert performance. So what you hear isn’t merely “a clever combination of notes” derived from some scale or other: raga based music is all about musical – even lyrical – expression, carefully regulated by certain rules and practiced in accordance with well established patterns.

In the meantime, an ever growing diversity accelerated the search for effective teaching methods suited to raga based music. In South Indian music this was achieved with the help of the melakarta scheme (72 scale abstract patterns).

Even today “tune smiths” continue to fill in the blanks left by their revered predecessors, including novelties inspired by Beethoven’s most beloved piano piece worldwide (you guessed it …)!

Interestingly the 72 mela system came to serve a dual purpose, one not found in other music traditions as regards scope: in addition to the intention proclaimed by its “inventor” Venkatamakhin in the late 17th century, namely to widen the scope for musical expression, it became a mnemonic system (aid to memory) for musicians and teachers alike.

A glance at any music textbook and most song collections of Carnatic music will show how this was achieved since music publishing began to flourish in the early 19th century.

A highly condensed demonstration of the above concept is rendered here: The 13-part Sanskrit composition of Chitravina N Ravikiran (duration: 7 min.) >>

For a more detailed application, listen to the 72-Melaragamalika rendition by Smt Kiranavali’s students at Cleveland Aradhana 2014_Part 1; click/bookmark part 1 of this recording here; and click here for Part 2 >>

More about the 72-Melaragamalika sung by Smt Kiranavali’s students

The entire ragamalika [by Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer (1844 – 1892 AD)] is set to Adi tala. The Pallavi is sung in Sriragam, followed by some beautiful jati phrases in Tillana style. There is no Anupallavi and the Charanam has 72 lines, one for each melakarta, with the raga mudra skillfully inscribed in each line. At the end of each mela raga, there is a Chittaswara, and further, to enhance the beauty of the composition, his brother Ramaswami Sivan added additional Chittaswaras at the end of each line, whose poorvanga (first half) is in the same raga, but the uttaranga (second half) is in the next raga. At the end of each Chakra (6 raga cycle), the Pallavi is repeated. At the commencement of the Prati madhyama series, the jati phrases are also sung.
This is not a piece we hear often in concert platforms. Occasionally in the past, one or two Chakras of this lengthy composition has been rendered by Musiri Subramanya Iyer and M S Subbulakshmi. Recently (June 1989), the Gramaphone Co. of India (HMV) released an album (LP No. ECSD 40552), and simultaneously a 60-minute casette (No. HTCS 03B 3346) under the title ‘Mela Ragamalika Chakra’, where M S Subbulakshmi has melodiously rendered this divine ragamalika, with all the above-mentioned features and Chittaswaras.

Source: MAHA VAIDYANATHA IYER AND HIS 72 – MELA RAGAMALIKA http://carnatica.net/special/mahavaidyanathaiyer.htm

* Joep Bor aptly defines a raga “as a tonal framework for composition and improvisation; a dynamic musical entity with a unique form, embodying a unique musical idea. As well as the fixed scale, there are features particular to each raga such as the order and hierarchy of its tones, their manner of intonation and ornamentation, their relative strength and duration, and specific approach. Where ragas have identical scales, they are differentiated by virtue of these musical characteristics. […]

Most importantly, a raga must evoke a particular emotion or create a certain ‘mood’, which is hard to define, however. As the term raga itself implies, it should ‘colour’ the mind, bring delight, move the listeners and stimulate an emotional response. In other words, the concept of raga, which has evolved over a period of two millennia, eludes an adequate brief definition.” – The Raga Guide: A Survey of 74 Hindustani Ragas (Nimbus Records with Rotterdam Conservatory of Music first published in 1999)
Quoted from p. 1, ‘What is a raga?

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

Open access version (text and audio files): The goddess Māriyammaṉ in music and in sociology of religion

The Goddess Mariyamman in Music and in Sociology of Religion by Pia Srinivasan Buonomo & S. A. Srinivasan (German) >>

Listen to the four recordings here; and download the audio and text files on
https://archive.org/details/mariyamman-in-music >>

Search a reservoir of Indian theses: Shodhganga, “a platform for research students to deposit their Ph.D. theses – Open access

e.g. search for “Shodhganga Carnatic music”, “Shodhganga veena”, “Shodhganga bamboo flute”, “Shodhganga Indian music education”, “Shodhganga music bani”, “Shodhganga percussion instrument” in the search field below:

Track missing details for search results

  • To trace the source document of any separate chapter listed among the search results hosted on Shodhganga’s server, look for its “handle” number: e.g. “138940” from the URL (in search for more publishing details): http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/handle/10603/138940
  • Copy-paste the second part of this “handle” number (e.g. 138940) into the How to Cite window in order to trace the document’s publishing data on the Shodhganga website http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in.
  • e.g.  “handle” number 138940 refers to “The influence of Nagaswaram on Karnataka classical vocal music”, Researcher: Radhika Balakrishnan, Guide: Sreelatha, R. N., University of Mysore, Completed Date: 2016, University of College Fine Arts
  • Browse and download any chapter from the Shodhganga server.
  • For advanced search options directly consult the Shodhganga website: http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in:8080/jspui/subject-search

Note: search results appear without much delay. More patience is needed for consulting the Shodhganga website (waiting time varies depending on the hour of the day).

Why Carnatic Music Matters More Than Ever

by Ludwig Pesch

For this musicologist and author, there are good reasons to believe that Carnatic music matters, perhaps more than ever and almost anywhere in the world. So why not perform and teach it in the service of better education for all, for ecological awareness or in order to promote mutual respect in spite of all our differences? And in the process, get “invigorated and better equipped to tackle the larger issues at hand”.

Read the blog published by Shankar Ramchandran on behalf of Dhvani Ohio >>
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 License