The Basics of Indian Carnatic Music

Carnatic music, is one of the two forms of Indian classical music. It is believed that the origin of carnatic music is divine. The goddess Saraswati who performs the veena bless us with the talent to perform carnatic music. It is an ancient form of music and is from the 15-16 century. Men formed the different swaras and ragas by observing the sound that is produced by animals and waves of the sea. Carnatic music is completely melodic and is sung with a lot of improvisation from the performer. Like every other form of music carnatic music requires proper training and dedication.

Carnatic music has two main elements : Raga (Ragam) and Tala (Thalam). Raga is the mode and Tala is the rhythmic cycles. There are a numerous ragas and talas and with their combination you can sing different and wonderful songs. The major ragas are Sankarabharanam, Mohanam, Aarabhi, Hindolam, Kamas etc. The major talas are Aadi, rupakam, dhruva, triputa, jhampa, matya. With these ragas and talas together we can create wonders.

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All the Ragas are based on Swaras. There are seven basic swaras in Indian Classical music. They are Sa(Do), Ri(Re), Ga(Mi), Ma(Fa), Pa(So), Da(La), Ni(Ti). With different combination of these swaras we can create different ragas. There are two basic elements for a raga; the Aarohanam (the ascending notes of raga on scale) and the Avarohanam (the descending notes of raga on scale).

Sruti plays a vital role in the music. It is just like the 'key' in western music. Sruti is like the soul of carnatic music. The first form of carnatic music is the Saralivarisai. This is an exercise which makes us familiar with the swaras and the sruti. It also helps in learning the different combination of the swaras that are possible. Then comes the Jandavarisai which is the next level of saralivarisai. In this exercise you will be trained intensely on how to sing with sruti and handle the swaras correctly. Then comes the Swarajathi. This is a combination of swaras and song. This is the basic exercise that we need to practice in order to get the raga correctly. Then comes the Varnam, which is a special item that emphasizes the importance of different ragas. Also trains us on how to stress and approach a certain note. Often Varam is sung first in any concert as it attracts the attention of audience.

Then comes the Kirthana (Krithi). This is basically a song which is composed with the help of swaras and ragas. It consists of Pallavi, Anupallavi and charanam which are sung in the given same order. Pallavi and Anupallavi are generally two lines whereas charanam has more lines and stresses on the purpose of the song i. e. the raga and the tala.

All the above mentioned forms of carnatic music are sung at different speed levels in order to increase the strength and control of the voice. During practice the students are usually asked to sing them with just replacing 'Aa' in the place of all the swaras which helps them attain perfection in the raga. In ancient times, to attain good voice and control of the raga, the students are told to practice standing in the pond or lake with the water level up till their throat. Also to have an excellent voice it is said that the students will have pebble in their mouth while they practice.

The Basics of Indian Carnatic Music

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