Carnatic Music (1 of 2)

vissa@cortex.neuro.mssm.edu
Thu, 16 May 1996 11:29:42 -0500

Carnatic Music (1 of 2)=20

Ceratain forms of fine arts such as literature require some knowledge=
to enjoy them. However, music is one of such an exception, which=
can be enjoyed even without the knowledge of it. That is why it=
is often said that 'SiSurvEtti paSurvEtti, vEtti gAna rasaM phaNihi'(saMge=
etamunu; SiSuvulu, paSuvulu, pAmulu kUDA AnaMdinca galavu). However,=
some curious or inquisitive souls are never satisfied without knowing=
a few details of how 'music' was organized and 'what are the fundamentals=
that are forming it'. Though it is an extremely tough task to address=
all of those aspects, this is a highly simplified overview confining=
to some details about how the classical Carnatic 'rAgAs' are formed=
based on 'svarAs'.

'nAdamE vEdamu, sAma vEdamE saMgeetam' is said to be the general=
notion for Indian classical music. Sound is the first and major=
important component of any music. If that 'sound' is organized in=
a rhythmic manner, it makes music. The first ever 'sound' in Indian=
scriptures is said to be 'Om kAramu'. From this, all the other sounds=
are generated and there are 'seven' sounds identified important=
for music. Today, it is very tough to determine how and why only=
'seven' sounds are recognized as the basis of Indian music. These=
are called the 'sapta svarAs'. 'svaraM' is explained as ['(sva)=
svakeeyamugA (raM) raMjincu dhvani viSEshamu']. Indeed, many people=
know 'sa', 'ri', 'ga', 'ma', 'pa', 'dha', and 'ni' as 'sapta svarAs'.=
However, it should be borne in mind that these are only the 'indicating=
letters' of 'svarAs' and actually 'svarAs' are 'sound based'. The=
following is the list of the sounds of these 'svarAs'.
____________________________________________________________
svara resembles the sound of indicating letter
____________________________________________________________
shadjamamu nemali sa

rishabhamu eddu ri

gAndhAramu mEka ga

madhyamamu kraunca pakshi ma
(a kind of crane)
=20
pancamamu vasanta kAlapu kOyila pa

dhaivatamu gurramu dha

nishAdamu Enugu ni
___________________________________________________________

Though the ancient Indian music is the same all over the country,=
due to many invasions of North India in the past and the subsequent=
cross-cultural influence (especially that of Persian music), it=
is often believed that a different trend of music called 'hindustani'=
emerged out in India. For the same reason, some people believe that=
Carnatic music is relatively more 'virgin'.

Of the basic seven 'svarAs'(now I confine to using the 'indicating=
letters' and Carnatic music only) five of them have variations within=
themselves. While 'sa' and 'pa' do not have any variations and each=
remains as single, 'ma' has two whereas, 'ri', 'ga', 'dha' and 'ni'=
have three each and altogether there are 16 variations of 'svarAs'.=
However, once again based on the 'sound', there are identified four=
duplicates. So, the ultimate effective number of 'svarAs' to set=
'rAgAs' is=20
(16 - 4=3D) 12.=20

If the 'svarAs' are rendered in the increasing order, sa, ri, ga,=
ma, pa, dha, ni; it is called 'ArOhaNa'(ascending) and in the reverse=
it is 'avarOhaNa' (descending). A 'rAga' may be described as ['svaramulacE=
alaMkariMpabaDi, janula cittamunu raMjiMpajEyu layAnvitamaina dhvani=
viSEshamu']. The formation of 'rAgAs' is more of a mathematical=
exercise with various permutations and combimations of these 'svara=
variations'. Every rAga has specific order of svarAs. If there are=
'7 and 7 svarAs' in both 'ArOhaNa' and 'avarOhaNa', it is called=
a 'saMpUrNa or mElakarta rAga'. In Carnatic music, there are 72=
such rAgAs. These are called 'janaka rAgAs' also. There are many=
derived out of them, which are called 'janya rAgAs'(derivatives).=
From each of these 72 rAgAs, the other permutations and combinations=
are also possible. If 'ArOhaNa' and 'avarOhaNa' follows with the=
combination svarAs in, (7 and 6); (7 and 5); (6 and 7); (6 and 6);=
(6 and 5); (5 and 7); (5 and 6); (5 and 5); a total of 484 rAgAs=
can be derived from each of the 72 original 'rAgAs', making a total=
of 72 x 484 =3D 34,848 'rAgAs'. I once again remind that these are=
all based on the '12 variations of svarAs' only. This is the reason=
why some of the 'rAgAs' might sound similar for a common man (even=
for an uncommon man also), but one may have a very subtle difference=
compared to the other, which the experts only can distinguish. The=
only best way of identifying a 'rAga' is to know the eaxct 'svarAs',=
but not by the mere tune of the song.=20

(I guess, at this stage one might resort to the proverb 'ignorance=
is bliss' thinking that music can be enjoyed without knowing about=
it. Afterall, I can only say 'no pains; no gains'.)

In addition, there are 'vakra' rAgAs. These are the ones where, in=
'ArOhaNa' and/or 'avarOhaNa', the 'svarAs' can occur in a 'zig-zag'=
manner and not necessarily in the exact order they used to be. This=
aspect makes it tough to render these rAgAs and also the number=
of 'rAgAs' possible much, much, much more. One very famous example=
of 'vakra rAgas' is 'Sree rAga' (tyAgarAja kRti - endarO mahAnubhAvulu).=
=20

Quite a number of film songs are tuned based on the classical rAgAs.=
However, because of many factors, the film musicians can never incorporate=
the original 'rAga' 100% in a song. Very often they tend to deviate=
from the original and mix up a lot to get as much variety as possible.=
In a way, it is not an exaggeration to say that 'light music' is=
also mostly either 'partially adulterated' or 'highly discounted'=
classical music only.=20

The general method of tuning a song is based on one 'rAga'. However,=
as certain 'rAgAs' are very apt for certain 'bhAvAs', different=
stanzas of some 'keertanAs' or songs are set to difeerent 'rAgAs',=
which is termed as 'rAga mAlika'. One of the best examples is the=
usage of ten 'rAgAs' for describing 'daSAvatArAs' of 'jayadEva=
AshTapadi-jaya jaga deeSa harE!' in the film 'bhakta jayadEva'.

The other important aspect of music is 'tALa' (beat). In Carnatic=
music, there are basically 7 types of 'tALAs' and with each of them=
having 5 sub-types, makes a total of (7 x 5 =3D) 35 varieties of=
'tALAs'.

With regards,=20
Prabhakar Vissavajjhala

P.S.: The details of 'svara variations' and 72 'rAgAs' are described=
in part 2.