|Carnatic music: an introduction|
Origin of music, in India, according to legend, is traced to the shabdha brahma, Om. Indian music has strong connections with religious traditions and faiths. Innumerable compositions extolling the wonders and beautitude of the Supreme Being have been sung in Purandara Dasa padas, Tyagaraja kritis, Sadashiva Brahmendra tatva padams, Sufi recitations and Christian carols. In tribal societies, from birth to death, songs, dances and musical instruments are used to mark every occasion. The origins of classical music are also traced back to tribal tunes and songs.
There are two systems of classical music in India, the Carnatic and the Hindustani. Indian classical music is complex and rich with direct emotional appeal. Carnatic music is kriti based and saahitya (lyric) oriented, while Hindustani music emphasises the musical structure and the possibilities in it. For the not-so-hard-core classical music fan, Indian music provides the ghazals and thumris as light classical music. These are supplemented by folk music, bhajans and kirtans. Indian classical music is used for dance-dramas also.
Hindustani classical music in its present day form is the result of a long process of integrating many, diverse cultural influences in India. The impact of Moghul rulers on classical music was primarily through the introduction of Turko-Persian musical elements that distinguishes Hindustani classical music from its predecessor, Carnatic classical music. Carnatic classical music is more common in southern India. Historical roots of both Hindustani and Carnatic classical music traditions stem from Bharata's Naatyashaastra (4th Century B.C.). The two traditions started to diverge only around 14th Century A.D.
Indian musicians, whether from north or south, essentially regard their music as a means of spiritual exploration, a path of realisation, in addition to deriving aesthetic enjoyment. The music is not preconceived but pre-written. While the underlying notes are pre-written, within the framework of the rules governing the raaga, the musician has complete freedom to exercise full imagination and creativity. As the famous Hindustani Sarod artist Ustad Amjad Ali Khan puts it succintly, "Freedom within discipline." The composer's intent is written, but the conception of the music from it is left to the performer.
Be it Carnatic or Hindustani classical music, Indian classical music reflects Indian life, having no predetermined beginning or end, but flowing uninterrupted through the composer-performer. The purpose of Indian classical music is to refine one's soul, discipline one's body, to make one aware of the infinite within one, to unite one's breath with that of space and one's vibrations with that of the cosmos.
The fundamental elements of Carnatic classical music are raaga and taala.
The seven notes called sapta svaras of Indian classical music are Sa (Shadjam), ri (Rishabham), ga (Gaandhaaram), Ma (Madhyamam), Pa (Panchamam), dha (Dhaivatam) and ni (Nishaadham). A raaga is a scale of notes and melody is the aural form or the tune from the scale of notes.
Indian musical scale originally comprised of 22 microtones called shrutis or svara sthaanas. It has evolved into a scale of 12 shrutis or notes. The Sa and Pa notes are fixed notes, but there are three types of Ri's, three types of Ga's, two types of Ma's, three types of dha's and three types of ni's leading to 16 svaras.
Purandara Dasa (1480-1564) is said to be the father of Carnatic system of Indian classical music. He formulated several graded steps and thus codified the teaching of Carnatic music. These teaching methods have survived over the centuries and are in use even today. Purandara Dasa is credited with composing several thousand songs, mostly in Kannada.
In the 17th Century A.D., Venkatamukhi invented the system of melakarta raagas or parent scales. The 16 svaras mentioned earlier form the basis for the melakarta scheme. According to this scheme, there are 72 melakarta raagas. In these raagas, all the seven svaras are present in their proper order, both in Arohana (ascending note pattern) and Avarohana (descending note pattern).
In janya raagas or derived/child scales, one or more svaras may be missing in the Arohana and/or Avarohana or the sequence of the svaras may not be in the usual order.
There is an important feature to the raagas in Carnatic music, namely the appropriate gamakams (microtones) associated with many raagas. Gamakams are of ten types and their mastery is a must for effective portrayal of certain raagas.
The other fundamental element of Carnatic music is taala, the time-measure. taalas always occur in cyclic pattern. The basic building blocks for taala are angas. Various combinations of these angas give rise to various taalas. There are 35 principal taalas. The most common taala is the Adi (first, foremost) taala. Its pattern is (4+2+2), a repeating measure of 8 beats.
A Carnatic music concert usually starts with a varnam which is a composition with lyrical and svara passages in a particular raaga. Then follow a few major compositions and minor ones. These compositions, called kritis, are sometimes preceded by an aalaapana in the raaga in which the composition is set and consists of a free time phrase exposition of the raaga. This is followed by the composition, for which the lyrics, the raaga, the music and the taala have been fixed by the composer. But the actual exposition of the kriti leaves a lot of scope for improvisation by the musicians. The niraval provides further scope for improvisation -- a part of the composition is used for improvisary flights of melody and rhythm. kalpana svaras also provide the musician with an opportunity to improvise -- the musician improvises flights of svara passages using a well-defined location in the kriti as a point of return. Another major component of a Carnatic recital is the raagam, thaanam, pallavi. In this, an elaborate aalaapana of the raaga is followed by thaanam, which comprises of melodic phrases with a suggestion of time measure. Finally comes the pallavi which is the rhythmic and melodic elaboration of a brief one-line lyrical passage. kalpana svaras are often rendered in raaga maalika, a string of different raagas, in the pallavi. Towards the close of a concert, a number of light compositions are sung. These can be classified into various categories called padams, jaavalis and thillanas. Suitable passages from religious scriptures and epic poems that are set to music by the musicians are included in the closing stages of the concert. In the recital, the main musician is accompanied by a violinist and percussion artiste playing on the mridangam. Sometimes, artistes playing additional percussion instruments such as the ghatam and kanjira are also included in the concert. The violin accompanist shadows the improvisary flights of the main musician with a split second delay. She/He also plays raaga aalaapana, niraval and kalpana svaras at various points in the concert. Percussionists provide accompaniment synchronising and embellishing the rhythm-based expressions of the main musician. The percussionists are provided with at least one opportunity for a solo exposition during a concert.
In the 18th Century, the Trinity of Carnatic music - Tyagaraja, Shyama Sastri and Muthuswamy Dikshitar - ushered in the golden age of Carnatic music. All of them hail from the Tanjavur district in Tamil Nadu.
Another significant composer in Carnatic music is Swati Tirunal, a contemporary of the Trinity. Other composers who have left a notable mark in Carnatic music are Annamacharya, Uttukadu Venkatasubbaiar, Mysore Vasudevachar, Narayana Teertha, Gopala Krishna Bharati, Arunagiri Nathar and Papanasam Sivan.
Vocal music is central to Carnatic music in view of the large number of kritis handed down over the centuries. In recent years, instrumental music has assumed a prominent position. This is true of the veena (on which the player used to accompany herself/himself while singing in earlier days of Carnatic music), the violin, the flute, the naadasvaram, and more recently, the mandolin and the saxophone have found acceptance in Carnatic classical music.
Similar to Carnatic classical music, the two fundamental elements of Hindustani classical music are raag and taal.
The svaras in Hindustani music have a different nomenclature in comparison to Carnatic music. The 12 notes are called Shadja, Komal Rishabha, Shuddha Rishabha, Komal Gaandhaara, Shuddha Gaandhaara, Shuddha Madhyama, Tivra Madhyama, Panchama, Komal Dhaivata, Shuddha Dhaivata, Komal Nishaadha and Shuddha Nishaadha.
Raag is the intricate system of scales and associated melodic patterns. Raags express melodic structure. In their numerical ratios, the scales and melodic patterns correspond with moods, colors, seasons, and hours of day and night. This time-theory which governs the raags is a unique feature of Hindustani music.There are about 200 main raags, each of which is defined by its unique combination of scale-pattern, dominant notes, specific rules to be followed in ascending or descending and certain melodic phrases associated with it. The Hindustani music's counterpart of the gamakams in Carnatic music are the meends. The meends are not as demanding as the gamakams, but they are essential for correct protrayal of certain raags.
As raag organizes melody, the other fundamental element, taal organizes the rhythm. A taal is made up of a number of matras or beats. A unique set of bols (patterns) define each taal. There are hundreds of taals and the most commonly encountered one is the sixteen beat, teentaal.
Amir Khusro, a scholar poet and musicologist of rare talent in the court of Allauddin Khilji (13th Century, A.D.) is credited with the introduction of entirely new forms and styles in Hindustani music which are still in practice today. The Hindustani music that developed during the Moghul (15th and 16th Centuries, A.D.) is based on the rich Indian tradition and its interaction with Moghul influences. During the rule of Moghul emperor Akbar, Hindustani music reached its zenith, mainly due to Mian Tansen, who was one of the nine jewels in Akbar's court. It was during this era that Hindustani music, like an ever flowing river, absorbed many streams of varied musical cultures to make it richer, more colorful yet retain its pristine purity, beauty and grandeur.
An important landmark in Hindustani music was the establishment of gharanas under the patronage of princely states. A gharana is more a school of thought than an institution. Each of the gharanas developed distinct facets and styles of presentation and performance.
Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande (1860-1936) was a dedicated musician and musicologist whose contribution to Indian classical music cannot be over emphasised. He was the Lakshanakaara of Hindustani music and was the pioneer who gave current Hindustani music a grammar where none existed. He brought most of the renowned artistes and musicologists from all over India together, to give a new significance to music by discourses and performances. His research works, Karmik Pustak Series in six volumes are still among the most authentic documents of Hindustani classical music. His significant achievement is the concept of the ten Thats or basic parent scales from which raags are derived.
Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar (1872-1931) took up the task of conveying the message of music to every home and convey it in the simplest way. An accident in his childhood deprived him of his eyesight. Inspite of this serious physical handicap, Paluskar took up musical training with enthusiasm and perseverance. He believed that music should not only be entertaining, it should also elevate and inspire. He realised that all great art should draw its inspiration from contemporary life and bereft of its social values it would be an empty kernel. He openly declared that his mission was to democratise the art of music. After giving public performances all over north India, in 1901, he founded the Gandharva Mahaavidyaalaya in Lahore, the first music school run by public funds. Here he trained individuals who would dedicate their lives to teaching music. In 1908, Paluskar migrated from Lahore to Bombay and opened a branch of the Gandharva Mahaavidyaalaya. Prominent among his disciples were his son D.V. Paluskar, Vinayak Rao Patwardhan, Narayan Rao Vyas and Pandit Omkarnath Thakur.
A performance of Hindustani music begins with the aalaap. This is a slow invocation of free rhythm, presenting the subtleties of the raag in an expressive and meditative style. aalaap is followed by a more rhythmic piece called jhod which has many variations. Then follows the more rapid rhythmic style called jhala, which fills out the rhythm with rapid notes. The depth of imagination and creativity of the performer is revealed in the aalaap and jhod. After the jhala comes the second part, gat that introduces the percussions for the first time. gat is based on taal or rhythm structure and is played in vilambit (slow tempo), increasing to a madhyam (medium tempo), and concluding with a drut (fast tempo). The main melody is introduced by the artiste while the tabla provides the taal. Against this taal the artiste improvises imaginative melodic patterns and introduces complex rthythmic patterns, which at times appear to diverge from the taal but must resolve on the first beat of the taal. Later the artiste may hold firm to the rhythm while the tabla may create counter-rhythms.
The two main vocal traditions in Hindustanic music are dhrupad, the purest of all, without any embellishment and completely austere in its delivery, and khayaal, with a romantic content and elaborate ornamentation. Less abstract vocal forms fall into the light-classical variety: dadra, thumri, ghazal and qawwali. Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and Smt. Gangubai Hangal are vocalists well known to Hindustani music fans.
Sitar, invented by Amir Khusro in the 16th Century, A.D. is the well known stringed instrument in Hindustani music. The Surbahar, Sarod, Sarangi, violin and Santoor are the other stringed instruments used by Hindustani musicians. The bansuri and shehnai (wind instruments) are equally well-known in Hindustani music. The pakhavaj is similar to the mridangam in Carnatic music and it predates the tabla.
Many Hindustani music concerts end with a piece or two in the light classical style. These pieces obey the rules of Hindustani music with respect to raag and taal, though less rigorously than the dhrupad or khayaal. Some of the varieties in light classical music are bhajans, thumris, tappaas, ghazals and nazms.
Origin of thumri is ascribed to Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of Lucknow. Thumri employs a special set of raags and is associated with the Kathak dance form. The lyrics of thumri usually deal with romance. Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and Smt. Shobha Gurtu are amongst some of the great singers of thumri.
The tappaa is said to have developed in the late 18th Century A.D. from the songs of camel drivers. It is not so frequently heard today, for two reasons: it is very difficult to sing the fast runs and quick ornaments this perpetually moving style demands and the virtuosic nature of the taans themselves has been somewhat absorbed by the khayaal.
The ghazal is mainly a poetic form than a musical form, but it is more song-like than the thumri. The ghazal is described as the "pride of Urdu poetry". The form of the ghazal originated in Iran in the 10th Century A.D. It grew out of the Persian qasida, a poem written in praise of a king, a benefactor or a nobleman. The opening part of the qasida called tasbib or tamheed is where the poet talks in general about love, beauty, life, death, nature or man. Over time the tashbib developed separately into the ghazal. The ghazal never exceeds 12 shers (couplets) and on an average, ghazals usually have about 7 shers.
The ghazal found an opportunity to grow and develop in India around 12th Century A.D. when the Moghul influences came to India and Persian gave way to Urdu as the language of poetry and literature. Even though ghazal began with Amir Khusro in northern India, Deccan in the south was its home in the early stages. It developed and evolved in the courts of Golconda and Bijapur under the patronage of Muslim rulers. Wali Deccany's visit to Delhi in 1700 A.D. was instrumental in synthesizing the poetic streams of the south and north. The 18th and 19th centuries are regarded as the golden period of the ghazal with Delhi and Lucknow being its main centres.
The ghazal is a short poem of shers in the same beher, the metre of the shers. It always opens with the matla, the rhyming sher. This rhyme of the matla isrepeated at the end of second line of each succeeding sher. The matla of the ghazal is always a representative sher as it sets the mood and tone of the ghazal. Here is the matla from a ghazal by Asadullah Khan Ghalib:
ko chaahiye ek umr asar hone tak,
In this ghazal, the phrase "hone tak" sets the rhyme for all its shers.
The ghazal follows the conventions of qafia and radif. Qafia is the rhyme word that generally occurs towards the end of the line, but before the radif which marks the end of the line. Radif demands that a portion of the first line (not more than 2 or 3 words) at its end should rhyme with its counterpart in the 2nd line of the matla, and then in the 2nd line of each sher throughout the ghazal. The qafia and radif enhance the magic and musicality of the ghazal. In the above matla the word "asar" is the qafia and the phrase "hone tak" is the radif. This can be seen below in the next few shers of the ghazal, where the radif (the phrase "hone tak") occurs at the end of every 2nd line, but the qafia (the word "asar") is replaced by different words with the same rhyme like "khabar", "nazr", "sahar", etc. :
ne maana ke taghaaful na karoge lekin,
khur se hai shabnam ko fana ki taalim,
ka Asad kis se ho juz marg ilaaj,
The maqta, the last sher of the ghazal, often includes the takkallus, the poet's pen-name and is more personal than general in its tone and intent. The poet expresses his own state of mind, or describes his religious faith, or prayer for his beloved or indulges in self-praise. Here is a maqta from a ghazal by Raghupati Sahai Firaq. The takkallus is "Firaq".
ai kaash sunane waalon ke seene mein dil hota,
The different shers in a ghazal may not be bound by the unity and consistency of thought. Each sher is usually self-sufficient and contains the complete expression of an idea. Unlike the ghazal, the nazm is based on a single theme, properly developed and concluded. While the ghazal is of the subjective form, the nazm exemplifies the objective form that is often reserved for narrative, descriptive or satirical purposes. The nazm is not bound by any consideration of length or rhyme. The poet may adopt any metrical arrangement for his nazms. The ghazal and nazm are complementary rather than mutually exclusive poetic forms.
Though the ghazal deals with the complete spectrum of human experience, its central concern is love. In Arabic, the word ghazal literally means "talking to women". The term, love, has wide connotations in Urdu poetry. It could be earthly love, or the poet's devotion to an ideal--be it spiritual, moral, social or political, or the ideal of mystical or divine love.
Mystic poets guided by humanist ideals regard love as their religion and service to humanity as their mission. This sher by Mir Taqi Mir shows the freedom and catholicity of the mystic poets:
ka kibla, kaisa Kaaba, kaun haram hai, kya ahraam,
Poets like Mir, Ghalib, Dagh, Dard and Momin spoke in their individual, authentic voices and built their poetry on their deep experience and understanding of love and life. Philosophical questioning and intellectual probing into the mysteries of life, death, God and nature too form themes for the ghazals. Here is one such sher from a ghazal by Ghalib:
ke tujh bin koi nahin maujud,
Thus the ghazal is an all embracing form of poetry. Some of the great Urdu poets well-known to ghazal-fans are Wali Mohammed Wali, Siraj Aurangabadi, Khwaja Mir Dard, Mir Taqi Mir, Insha Allah Khan Insha, Bahadur Shah Zafar, Sheikh Mohammed Ibrahim Zauq, Asadullah Khan Ghalib, Momin Khan Momin, Amir Ahmed Amir Meenai, Nawab Mirza Khan Dagh Dehlvi, Hasrat Mohani, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Raghupati Sahai Firaq, Ali Sikandar Moradabadi, Sahir Ludhianvi, Ahmed Faraz, Nasir Kazmi and Sudarshan Faakir.
|Carnatic Music||Hindustani classical||Light classical|