Muthuswami Dikshitar, Thyagaraja and Syama Sastri—the trinity of Carnatic music (credit: Artindia.net)
When the tsunami hit, I tried to think of ways to create empathy and understanding for the victims by featuring the music of the lands of the tsunami here in my mp3 blog. I’ve chosen to feature music of Sumatra, Sri Lanka and south India as they were the hardest hit of all the countries devestated by this disaster. I’ve already posted the music of Aceh in Sumatra.
Recently, I received a CD I’d ordered by Chitravina Ganesh, a young master of the Carnatic music of south India. I’ve found many websites devoted to Carnatic music but surprisingly few have thought to lay out a clear and comprehensive definition for the non-devotee of what it is. Art India Net features the best one I’ve found:
Purandara Dasa—the Great Father of Carnatic music (credit: Wikipedia.org)
Indian classical music is categorized under two genres: Hindustani and Carnatic. Hindustani developed in the northern regions of the country, while Carnatic music is indigenous to the south.
Carnatic music is one of the oldest systems of music in the world. Imbued with emotion and the spirit of improvisation, it also contains a scientific approach. The pioneer performers and scholars of this tradition like Purandara Dasa, known as the Father of Carnatic Music, codified the system and gave it a clear format as a medium of teaching, performing, prayer and therapy.
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 stemmed from these. An elaborate scheme exists for identifying these scales, known as the 72 Melakarta Ragas.
Carnatic music abounds in structured compositions in the different ragas. These are songs composed by great artists and handed down through generations of disciples. While performances of ragas vary from musician to musician, the structured portion is set. These compositions are extremely popular, with a strong accent on rhythm and lively melodic patterns.
An important element of Carnatic music is its devotional content. The lyrics of the traditional compositions, whether mythological or social in nature, are set entirely against a devotional or philosophical background.
A Western medievalist has written a considerably more technical essay about this style, Why Carnatic Music?.
Hear Chitravina Ganesh’s Karedare here.
WARNING: This mp3 blog exists to spread the wonder and genius that is traditional music. It does NOT exist to enhance your private mp3 collection. So by all means come, listen, enjoy, then follow the links to buy the music. If you come, listen, download, then leave—you’re violating the spirit behind this blog and doing nothing to support the artists featured here. And if you link to my mp3 file at your own site, then you’re stealing my bandwidth and being pretty uncool. So please don’t do it.