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The Beauty of Carnatic Music

By Anishka Yerabothu, IV Form

The Beauty of Carnatic Music

I was first drawn to Carnatic music when I heard a friend singing and I loved listening to the different songs and melodies.  I would go home humming the tune and even make up some of my own!   I feel privileged to learn this art form from my Guru, Mrs. Tara Anand, who is considered one of the best Carnatic music teachers in the country.

In the words of Yehudi Menuhin, who is considered the greatest violinist of the 20th century, “I knew neither its nature nor its richness, but here, if anywhere, I found vindication of my conviction that India was the original source. The two scales of the West, major and minor, with the harmonic minors as variants, the half-dozen ancient Greek modes, were here submerged under modes and scales of (it seemed) inexhaustible variety.”   Carnatic music is an intricate and complex classical music system from South India that dates back to the 12th century.

This music system is based on four core concepts: swaram, ragam, talam and sruthi.  Swarams are solfa syllables sung much like the do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti and do of Western music.  A ragam is a scale that can have up to seven different swarams in various patterns.  Talam is the rhythmic beat structure to which compositions are set and is maintained by the vocalist’s hand while singing.  Sruti is the pitch at which one sings.  This is maintained by the Tanpura, a stringed drone instrument.         (more…)