Raga, Tala and Pedagogy: On the First Steps in Carnatic Music

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Raga, Tala and Pedagogy: On the First Steps in Carnatic Music by Jeremy Woodruff

The system by which any music is taught is the key to what is preserved, and how, in a musical tradition. I chose to research the basics of instruction in South India,both as an entry point for some practical knowledge on the South Indian flute, and as away of examining basic tenets of karnatic music. Using advanced knowledge of a foreign music without having prior knowledge of its basic pedagogy is a bit like attempting to build a chair without a seat for one’s backside. Only by studying the basic assumptions of the music, may we identify what techniques are useful to us, or not, because only then we carefully consider for what they were originally intended. […]

All melodic instrumental training in karnatic music is focused on reproducing subtleties of vocal performance. As imitating singers was the main way that instrumentalists from the time of ‘the Trinity’ updated, preserved and greatly enriched what is now known as karnatic music, it is natural that it is considered the greatest means to accomplishment in instrumental training. Where schools mainly disagree is on how (and how far) these vocal subtleties should be imitated. […]

Gitas are the first pieces to be learned after the rigorous basic exercises outlined above. The Gita, ‘Sri Gananatha’ is the first of these Gitas to be learned by any student. Maybe it is the ‘Für Elise,’ or ‘Minuet in G’ by Bach of karnatic music. It is therefore a special case, but it can still serve well as a concrete demonstration of how gamakas of a single raga, on a single song can differ radically from teacher to teacher. The gita is given in fig 2.1 in Indian notation.

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Read the full paper A Western composer’s view of early music education in Carnatic music on Academia.edu >>

A storm of songs: India and the idea of the bhakti movement

by John Stratton Hawley

  • Review by Vinay Lal (Professor of History & Asian American Studies, UCLA) in Canadian Journal of History: A Storm of Songs: India and the Idea of the Bhakti Movement by John Stratton Hawley: “The idea of a ‘‘bhakti movement’’ has long been one of the largely unexamined verities that have played a critical role in the idea of Indian civilization and, more specifically, the notion of a composite culture. Bhakti is usually rendered as ‘‘devotion,’’ and in the generally accepted narrative encountered in Indian histories and popular Indian opinion alike, a devotional movement originating in the Tamil country in the eighth century gradually made its way north and eventually engulfed the entire country. […] The fundamental achievement of John Stratton Hawley’s A Storm of Songs is to probe how the idea of a ‘‘bhakti movement’’ came about and what Indian scholars, inspired by nationalism, might have contributed in giving rise to a canonical narrative about bhakti’s place in shaping an Indian sensibility. […] Hawley has succeeded in gifting us an exceptional study of India’s much lauded bhakti movement.” – Read the full review on this author’s blog or here:
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/315532465
  • Interview in The Hindu (January 10, 2016): “A Storm of Songs examines how devotional songs such as padams mingled with the abhangs, how the Dalit narrative and Sufi music found an outlet in creating the network called the Bhakti movement. In a conversation, he maps the mystical journey which knits India.” – Read the full interview here:
    https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/bhakti-challenges-communal-religion/article8086253.ece

“In this comprehensive book, Hawley traces the 20th-century history of the notion of the bhakti movement the idea that there was a significant, unified, pan-Indic turn to devotional religiosity in medieval India. The author argues that the invention and promotion of this idea was a key aspect of nation building in that it offered a narrative of Hindu unity despite the vast and disparate set of religious processes ranging over different vernacular languages, regions, and time periods.” – Learn more or find a copy in a library near you:
http://www.worldcat.org/title/storm-of-songs-india-and-the-idea-of-the-bhakti-movement/oclc/893099156

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Custom search for related press reports and interviews: https://www.carnaticstudent.org/service/google-custom-search-carnaticstudent-org

Gandharva-Sangīta: On the origins of Sangīta (vocal, instrumental, and dance music)

The non-sacrificial, musical counterpart to Sāma-Gāna in ancient times was Gandharva-Sangīta, later Sangīta, which has three divisions; vocal, instrumental, and dance. Performed by “Gandharva” musicians in Indra’s heavenly court, earthly Gandharva-Sangīta was a replica of this celestial music.[…]

Gandharva-Sangīta was also associated with pūjā, a form of worship with non-Aryan or indigenous roots that eventually replaced the yajña as the cornerstone of Hindu religious life. Instead of oblations into a fire, pūjā involves offerings of flowers, incense, food, water, lamps, and conches directly to deities or symbols on an altar. In pūjā, singing and playing instruments are conceived as offerings that are integrated with the other elements.[…]

The association of religion with the production of the arts, while present in Western history, is paramount in India. Currently, the content of artistic production is largely taken from Hindu religious texts, with many performance genres derived from religious rituals. […]

Source: Historian of religions and musicologist Guy L. Beck in Ch. 26, “Hinduism and Music” in The Oxford handbook of religion and the arts
URL: https://www.academia.edu/37849233
Date Visited: 13 November 2021

Perceptions of “Guru” now and then

A teacher teaches music – the curriculum, the techniques, the methods and so on, but a Guru teaches how to approach music: how to understand it, how to internalize it and how to enjoy it. […]

Music is a lifelong pursuit and its emotions start sinking into you with more internal growth of the self (for which the Guru is an enabler). At a certain phase in this pursuit, you become your own Guru.

Vasudevan Ram in Learning Music – A Guru Is More Than A Teacher >>

The word ‘Guru’ in the Indian context of learning places the person on par with or even higher than God.

Pantula Rama paying tribute to her violin guru Ivaturi Vijayeswara Rao of the Dwaram tradition in “Architect of Vizag’s music scenario” (The Hindu, 19 February 2013)

Note: gurukulavāsam refers to the practice of living as member of a teacher’s household >>

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Coming soon: the 3rd, digital and free edition: Ragadhana 2021

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.

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Up-to-date information: Composers, musicians, scholars, publications and special events

Custom search – press and websites

For up-to-date information from several leading periodicals and other websites, simply type one or several keywords such as a personal name or institution you want to learn more about (e.g. “carnatic”, “karnatak composer”, “hindustani musician”, “ragamalika”); optionally add a city or state (e.g. “Madurai singer”, “Karnataka violinist”, “Trivandrum music festival”, “Chennai music season”):

To confine results to one website, include its name in the search field (e.g. “MS Subbulakshmi sruti.com” or “MS Subbulakshmi musicresearch.org”).

Technical support 
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Periodicals and other recommended sites included in the above Google custom search:

  1. Deccan Herald
  2. Hindustantimes.com
  3. The Indian Express
  4. Livemint.com
  5. Newindianexpress.com
  6. Sruti.com
  7. Telegraphindia.com (The Telegraph Calcutta)
  8. Thebetterindia.com
  9. TheHindu.com
  10. Timesofindia.indiatimes.com

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Video | “There is more than one form of being a devadasi”: The complex world of India’s devadasis – Interview with filmmaker (Lady) Beeban Kidron

Interview with filmmaker Beeban Kidron, plus exclusive clips from her new film. Sex, Death and the Gods explores the complex world of India’s devadasi, girls devoted to a goddess and then sold for sex at puberty | Lindsay Poulton and Joanna Moorhead, theguardian.com, 21 January 2011 >>

Documentary maker Beeban Kidron (4:49): “They [the devadasis themselves] know what an education means. And what an education means is a possible way out. Not necessarily a way out but a possibility that you could earn your money some other way.  […]  This is about economics. This is about poverty. This is about not having alternatives.”  […]  

Girl taken out of school at a young age by her mother (5:30 onwards): “It’s been two years.  […] No money in our hands, so I don’t go [to school].”

Beeban Kidron (7:27): “One of the things that is fascinating but complicates the whole issue is that there is more than one form of being a devadasi. I think what is important is to know and to understand that the elite devadasi are actually the grandmothers of Indian national dance bharata natyam in the elite world of temple and court. These women were the lovers of princes and priests and other high caste men. And it was a huge privilege and a sign of social mobility to be a devadasi. But there has obviously been a break in the tradition and it was made illegal in 1947 as the British left India. […] We have to be careful how we view things. And that was the journey for me.  […]  That system of dedicating young girls is abusive, is sex slavery, and so on. It’s paradoxical, you have to raise the age of consent, you have to work with the women, you have to help them educate their daughters, you have to help with the alternative.”

Read a recent interview with Beeban Kidron in The New York Times, on protecting children online

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/27/technology/baroness-kidron-children-tech.html?utm_source=pocket&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pockethits

The Baroness Fighting to Protect Children Online
By Natasha Singer, August 27, 2019

Beeban Kidron has successfully pushed stricter limits on how tech companies can target children online in Britain. […]

A member of the House of Lords, she had just flown in from London to attend an international meeting hosted by the social network. And now, in a hotel thronging with tech executives, she was recounting her plan to overhaul how their companies treat children. […] Read the full interview here >>

More (documentary) films by Director, Producer and writer Beeban Kidron on imdb.com >>

Learn more about the devadasis throughout (known) history in Music, Dance and the Art of Seduction

http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/826453329

Chapters by Joep Bor (pp. 233), “On the dancers or Devadasis: Jacob Haafner’s Account of the Eighteenth-Century Indian Temple Dancers” and Tiziana Leucci (pp. 261), “Between Seduction and Redemption – The European Perception of India’s Temple Dancers in Travel Accounts and Stage Productions from the Thirteenth to the Nineteenth Century”
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A musical tribute to Prof. S. A. Srinivasan by Karaikudi Voyage – Sreevidhya Chandramouli (vocal & vina)

Vocal with vina accompaniment: Sreevidhya & Chandramouli (Karaikudi Bani)

Dr. Srinivasa Ayya Srinivasan, a dear friend of ours, and an Indologist at University of Hamburg, Germany, passed away on May 2nd, 2019. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Pia Srinivasan, who was a student of late Rajeswari Padmanabhan. We pay homage to his great soul with a few of his favorite compositions on voice and Veena.

  • To listen and view photos on youtube, click here >>
  • Find the lyrics* sung in the tribute by Dhvani in the search window seen below or click here >>
  • Visit Dhvani’s homepage >>

Dhvani was formed to Preserve, Explore & Disseminate Indian art and cultural heritage. As a grassroots organization devoted to expanding knowledge in our community, Dhvani fulfills the need to inculcate an integrated understanding of art in Indian culture as well as other cultures.

Compositions heard as part of the Karaikudi Voyage tribute

  1. Paripalaya – Ritigaula – Adi tala – Tyagaraja
  2. Ramapahi meghasyama – Kapi – Adi tala – Tyagaraja
  3. Amba nilayatakshi – Nilambari – Adi tala – Muttusvami Dikshitar

Find song lyrics by typing any of the above in the search window:

S.A. Srinivasan (2011)
Prof. Dr. S.A. Srinivasan
18.09.1932 – 02.05.2019
Acknowledgement
Deutsch: Tributes by colleagues (in German)

Find publications by Prof. A.S. Srinivasan (search for Srinivasa Ayya Srinivasan) on worlcat.org:

Select titles

Search for an item in libraries near you:
WorldCat.org >>
 

Hinduismus und ökologische Ethik: Einige Bemerkungen
http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/900603864 | Details in German (Vienna University) >>

The goddess Māriyammaṉ in music and in sociology of religion
by Pia Srinivasan Buonomo; Srinivasa Ayya Srinivasan
http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/247408025
Open access version (text and audio files discussed):
https://archive.org/details/mariyamman-in-music

On the composition of the Nāṭyaśāstra
http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/499646888

Studies in the Rāma story : on the irretrievable loss of Vālmīki’s original and the operation of the received text as seen in some versions of the Vālin-Sugrīva episode
http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/560465987

Nonviolence and holistically environmental ethics : gropings while reading Samayadivākaravāman̲amun̲i on Nīlakēci
http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/929910155 / http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/899297850