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Welcome to the world of Carnatic Music
Carnatic music is considered one of the oldest systems of music in the world. Carnatic music is a very complex system of music that requires much thought, both artistically and technically. The basis of Carnatic music is the system of ragas (melodic scales) and talas (rhythmic cycles). There are seven rhythmic cycles and 72 fundamental ragas. All other ragas are considered to have originated from these. An elaborate pattern exists for identifying these scales, known as the 72 Melakarta Raagas. Tyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Shyama Shastri, the three saint composers of the 19th century, have composed thousands of krithis that remain fresh among musicians and rasikas. The most important specialty of Karnatic music is its highly devotional element. The concept of the compositions are set entirely against a devotional outline. The notes of Carnatic music is "sa-ri-gaa-ma-pa-da-ni". These are abbreviations of the real names of swaras which are Shadjam, Rishabham, Gandharam, Madhyamam, Panchamam, Dhaivatam and Nishaadam.
Key aspects of carnatic music:
The two main aspects of carnatic music are: Shruti (Pitch) and Laya (Tala).
Shruti refers to the scale or the pitch on which music is rendered keeping its frequency as the foundation. Each shruti has three octaves or staayis namely: Madhyama Staayi , the normal octave, Mandara staayi and Taara staayi being the lower and higher ones respectively.
ii. Laya (Taala):
Taala refers to the rhythmic cycles in which the swara (notes) and the saahithyam (Lyrics) are set. Carnatic music is set to any one of the seven Taalas which are: Dhruva, Mathsya, Rupaka, , Jhampa, Thriputa, Ata and Eka.
The seven swaras S,R,G,M,P,D,N are the building blocks of the ragas and they cover one octave. The swaras are denoted as follows:
S - Shadjam
R - Rishabham
G - Gaandaaram
M - Madhyamam
P - Panchamam
D - Daivatham
N - Nishaadam
Of these, S and P are called Prakriti Swaras (one that does not change) and the rest are called Vikruti swaras (one that changes).
The Vikruti swaras have sub-types. R (Rishabam) is of three types namely: Shuddha Rishabam, Chatushruti Rishabam and Shatshruti Rishabam. G (Gaandaaram) is of two types namely: Sadhaarana Gaandaaram and Anthara Gaandaaram. M (Madhyamam) is of two types, Shuddha Madhyamam and Prathi Madhyamam. D (Daivatham) is of two types, Shuddha Daivatham and Chathushruthi Daivatham. N (Nishaadam) is of two types, Kaakali Nishaadam and Kaishiki Nishaadam.
A Raaga is characterized by a combination of a sub set of these Swaras. Though some of them overlap in terms of frequency of the note, one cannot replace the other nor can both of them coexist in a particular raga. The ascending order of the swaras in a raga is called Arohanam and the descending order of the swaras is called Avarohanam.
d) Raga Classification:
Main Ragas that have all the seven swaras in both Arohana and Avarohana are called Melakarta Ragas and the ones with fewer swaras of each of them are called its janya ragas. If there is retrograde step in Aarohana or Avarohana of a raaga, the raga is called a vakra raga.
Paddhathis or compositions are of many types. They are: Varnams, Krithis, Padams, Javalis, Thillanas and Viruthams. Varnams are compositions which depict the varna or color of the raga. Varnams are further classified as Adi thala varnams, Ata thala varnams and pada varnams. Krithis are refined forms of compositions. Their basic structure includes 3 parts, Pallavi, Anupallavi and Charanam. Some Krithis have a pallavi and Samashti charanam (without an anupallavi) . Some krithis have madhyama kala saahithyam and chittai swarams. Padams are compositions which are descriptive. Javalis are abhinaya types of compositions. Thillanas are compositions which have sollukattus / jathis which are sung for dance recitals. Viruthams are usually hymns of gods sung in ragas at a slowpace or within thala at the end of a concert.
Gamakas refer to the variation of pitch of a note using heavy oscillations between adjacent and distant swaras. These are made use of in sangathis(modifications) in krithis and in manodharma sangeetham (creative music).
Mudhra represents the unique signature of the composer used in their works. E.g. Guruguha for Sri Muthuswami Dikshithar.
Various Stages In Learning Carnatic Music:
Following are the stages in learning Carnatic music.
Abhyaasa gaanam (Varisais, Alankarams), Geethams, Varnams, Krithis, Manodharma sangeetham and finally Ragam Thanam Pallavi. This includes theory as along with practical lessons at various levels.
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