About Carnatic Music

"It takes years of dedicated learning and ar-
dent practice
before one can emerge to debut on the concert platform"

What is Carnatic music?

Carnatic music, is the classical music tradition indigenous to South India.

While it is performed in both vocal and an instrumental forms, vocal music is primary to this system.

Western music is mostly harmony based and in contrast Indian classical music is a melody based system.

All compositions are based on a Raga or melody with a set Rhythm cycle.Each Raga has a distinct musical image that is defined by the order and sequence in which the swaras or notes are placed and the embellishments applied to these swaras. While one has to subscribe to a basic set of rules, this art form also offers an immense scope for improvisation. This feature alone makes Indian classical music stand tall amidst the gamut of various traditions of world music.

India being a land rich in oral literature and poetry, this heritage is reflected in the musical repertoire spanning a myriad languages.

How is carnatic music taught?

Carnatic music is taught orally.

Music lessons are imparted with Tambura or the drone instrument sounding the pitch notes in the background.

The lesson begins with graded exercises in the Ragam or melodic tune “Mayamalavagaulam”. The goal of these exercise is to train the vocal chords to stay precisely on the notes. As this is being grasped the complexity of the exercise increases and rhythm or talam is introduced.

Upon satisfactorily passing this, the next unit in the syllabus is Gitams or simple songs. This chapter culminates in "Swarajathis" and marks the beginning of Varnam.

Varnams serve as the corner stone for Carnatic music. Gamakams or ornamentation of notes, the most vital element to Indian classical music is introduced through Varnams. The ability to sing Varnams with precision and in good speed equips the voice with all the necessary skills to render authentic Carnatic music.

Learning Varnams is interspersed with Krithis or songs.

At this stage of learning, with exposure to different ragams and with the increase in repertoire, students are introduced to the art of improvisation also commonly referred to as Manodharmam.

It takes years of dedicated learning and ardent practice before one can emerge to debut on the concert platform.