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The Essence of Carnatic Music

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Music
Wordcount: 2632 words Published: 9th Sep 2021

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This paper is on the essence of carnatic music. The topic of carnatic music is indeed an ocean and just a glimpse of the same is presented in a very concise format. The paper explores the difference between Hindustani style and the former’s norms. The role of carnatic music in India’s branding is focused upon. The paper also deals with how this ancient form of art has helped to seed various forms of music delivery to soothe as well as energize to jump in joy and tap our feet, with vitamins. The use of music in treatments is also touched upon. The paper also explores on why the music is tapering off in the current day and its counterpart still appraised. The strategies and innovations which still helps the ocean of music to reach and help quench the thirst of the music lovers, is explained. The major lesson stressed in the paper is,” Carnatic music still prevails like a diamond and to acquire the jewel is in our hands”.

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“Kausalya Suppraja” is the first rendition echoed in the air in the temple capital of India when the Sun unhides itself to glow and brighten the sky. Every south Indian would certainly affirm that this is the popular rendition worldwide by our famous Carnatic musician, Bharath Ratna winner Ms.Subbalakshmi. The hymn is a classical portrayal of mantra, requesting the Divine to wake up and enlighten the world with His gracious eyes for blessings.

India – well known worldwide for its rich cultural and traditional values, is rich with immense treasure of music in all forms and this goes unsaid. The main unique differentiation factor is the Classical form of music and this surely helps in branding India worldwide. . Carnatic music, a branch of Classical music form, a sibling for its counterpart the Hindustani style of music form, is in itself a deep ocean to dive in and feel. The classification and differentiation can be detailed in a very lame format as follows: Carnatic music stresses on the semantic compositions decorated with various beautification factors of music like the swaras, aalapanas, etc while its counterpart aims at routing to the meditative mood of the listener.

But ultimately the ambiences of music whether carnatic or Hindustani is simply amazing and breezes off all the negatives and drives the listener to the ocean of peace at least till the tenure of the rendition.

Classical Music

Music is a wonderland as iterated many times, is skeleton by the main elements namely shruti(musical pitch),swaras(musical sound for single notes’),raga (melodic path) and last being the tala(rhythm).Swaras are basically the alphabets in the form of mighty drops to form the sea of music. Be it carnatic or Hindustani, the skeleton remains the same but the rendition differs, the mood changes, the ambience is altogether different for both. The alphabets are only 7.But these sapthaswaras SA, RI, Ga, Ma, Pa, Da, Ni make the music finally. The tonic difference in singing each swara thus helps in creating 1000s of different ragas and spreads the aroma of emotions. There are 72 main ragas known as the melakarta ragas, which have given birth to several other wonderful ragas. A raga is branched out with the above mentioned 7 swaras(each swara in different tonal way).But to notify the fact that the tone of first and fifth swara i.e. SA and Pa remain the same and no modification can be done. The swara Ma can have two styles of rendering while the rest are flexible to be modified in 3 forms. The exact combination of different tones of each swara is weaved to make the beautiful fabric of a melakarta raga. And each Melakarta raga then seeds out various other ragas wherein certain swaras are subtracted. Shruti can be metaphored to a railway track. The pitch is designed to be on a particular track. A slip outside this track causes a mishap and flops the beauty of the music. Finally the tala to clock the rhythm. This factor is to produce a systematic flow.

Distinguishing features

The aroma of Hindustani music lies in innovating or exploring the raga with hardly any lyrics. A simple tone of “Aa” can run for hours. A concert of Hindustani style extends for almost 3 hours wherein the singer explores and experiences the beauty of each node and each tone of every swara. The ragas are classified as evening ragas and morning ones. The classification can be concluded because each raga spurs our either of the moods specified. The experimentation with the raga and exploring the same with the innovated rendition makes the Hindustani form.

The nectar of carnatic lies in melting the hearts with beautifully composed lyrics blended with emotions, due to the raga and the feel donated by the singer. It concentrates on the meaning and thus the created emotion. Carnatic style of rendition mainly pertains to the emotional art. Various rasas or emotions are poured by carnatic music. Its termed as Navarasas, i.e 9 different emotions namely anger, beauty, love, fear, wonder, compassion, valor, peace and amusement. Every raga conveys one of the mentioned emotions. The emotion to ultimately melt a heart or trigger the energy levels is totally confined to the performer’s ability, knowledge of the raga and also his emotional level. Ancients quote that the carnatic music is the pathway to the divine, if divinely performed, the best illustration being M.S.Subbalakshmi who is often termed as the Bhakti Idol for our nation. A demonstration of a simple raga in the pitch of the adroit triggers a divine vibration and that’s the reason why her “Venkatesha Suprabatham” album still peaks in the market. She demonstrates the bhakti rasa.


Filled with rasas and the porridge of divine stories with rich values, every song is beautiful in its own way. With diverse permutations and combinations each raga thus formed and apt lyrics blended, sprouts out meanings. Vedas and scriptures essay that carnatic music is a pathway to the divine. Gone are the days when people used to spend hours reciting mantras and performing rituals. Indeed the global development and personal development factors prune us to abide with “work for belly” concept. India once known for traditional yagnas and rituals, accepts the phrase “Work is worship”. Any work devotedly done is worship. Music if considered is also an art of worship. You vent your anger in tune or you melt a heart with melody but in a style. The style or uniqueness differentiates and brands the singer. For instance, in bollywood industry there are so many singers who aped the stalwart Lata Mangeshkar, but hardly attained fame. But the queen of music Lata Mangeshkar’s sound and songs still resonates throughout. Reason being she ventured into her own style and stuck to the same. Featuring more on carnatic, every musician triggers an ambience with his/her voice and creates a rasa as mentioned earlier. But the notification and identification matters only with an adherence to a unique style. Bombay Jayasri, carnatic musician from South is famous for her soothing and sober style of rendering. While the famous Hariharan is known for his experimental and innovative style of performance, hardly can anyone ape his singing. And this quality is mandatory to exist in the market. A marketing requirement to sustain in the competitive market is ultimately the unique feature and quality that a product possesses.

Innovations and uniqueness always rocks and the same formula is utilized in the form of “ragam tanam pallavi”. This artistic piece in a carnatic musical concert grants the autonomy of experimenting and portraying the art of creativity with ragas, for the artists. The rhythmic sounds used in dances called tanam are followed and finally a small line in praise of divine is rendered in innumerable ways and styles. Artists enjoy this independence and audiences also enjoy the extent of creativeness in the artists by expressing their happiness with their body language. The “pallavi” has a rain of swaras followed which forms the spectacular moments during the concerts.

Carnatic music therapy

Therapy with music as medicine sounds stunning but it’s true. Each raga emits a particular emotion which in turn helps in curing certain ailments. An ancient story states that once a disciple, who had resided at his teacher’s place one night, woke up suddenly in the midst of the dark night as he was disturbed by the hisses of venomous snakes. He was scared to see the queue of wild animals enjoying the songs rendered by his teacher. With this story as a base, research states, if wild animals can be controlled then human minds can be controlled and tamed easily. With yoga, meditation and reiki getting popular and serving as free medicines even the use of music should be optimally used. A study in Japan states that the herbs, bushes and plants grow better with music around. Music increases the metabolism rate even in humans.

Carnatic music with various ragas proves to be medicines to cure various ailments without any side effects. Raga “Thodi” is recommended for high blood pressure patients. Thodi has a medical effect to help bring the pressure to a normal scale. It melts down all your rage and cools and brings the pressure to a balanced level. The 72 ragas as quoted previously have major effect to all the 72 nerves in human body according to various studies. The control on these nerves can be easily gained with the strong effect of these medically built ragas.”Neelambari” and “Bageshri” ragas can help insomnia. Anger and inner control can be attained by “Sahana” and “punnagavarali”. Laziness can be erased by a tune in “Kapi” raga.

T.V.Sriram, commissioner of central excise Mumbai had penned on music therapy and his popular works are endorsed in France to help regain the clarity of speech in patients with music. Medicine in the form of music to soothe and sue the ailments and gift a life full of energy is thus amazing.

Bitter facts and the truth

This is rather disheartening to quote but is the fact and has to be accepted that by and large south Indians hear the tunes of carnatic music. To rather emphasize, the westernization has tamed us to tap our feet with jazzes and hip-hops, forgetting our rich tunes. Indeed the beats and drums boost the energy in us and make us dance and rock the party, a feeling of attaining the ninth cloud is amazing. Thus energy in the western music pales off the strengths of carnatic music and hence has less attendance in carnatic concerts. The young budding generation can hardly pace with slow intensity sound cum rhythm and that’s the conclusion for low attendance. Second factor can be the language problem, as most of these compositions are restricted to 4 major south Indian languages (tamil,telugu, malayalam and kannada) the other chunk of population i.e. our north Indian friends can hardly enjoy the same. Other existing problem is that, the interest in learning the same is fading off as its getting commercialized. After all, business rules the globe. A senior carnatic musician gets paid 3 or 4 times lesser compared to a Hindustani musician. A strange fact to be asserted here is that, carnatic concerts possess the usual flow of a varnam, keertanas(compositions),small thukadas(small pieces of songs),followed by main piece of the concert which runs for 1 hour minimum, and then small songs,thillanas and mangalam(concluding songs) plus a Hindustani piece(either in the form of bhajan or abhang).On the other hand, a Hindustani concert strict by principle is chalked to have just 3-4 songs maximum, all in hindustani style.

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Carnatic promotions

Marketing theories have helped the south Indians to devise or strategize innovative ways to attract audience and to an extent has gained victory also. View the south channels coming up with music reality shows. Asianet channel (Malayalam) with show called Idea Star singer has helped many tiny tots to young youths to learn music. The well learned judges like S.Chitra, M.G.Sreekumar, Music Director Sharath (disciple of famous Dr.Balamuralikrishna) and pop idol Usha Uthup always vouch on the positives of learning the carnatic music and have shaped the contestants to wonderful singers with comments and trainings.Jaya TV had come up with “Carnatic Idol” contest, another reality show which aimed at providing a platform for proving the talent in Carnatic music for children. Again learned artists like Soumya(carnatic musician),Kumerasan and Ganeshan(famous violin brothers) and Neyyvellai Santhanagopalan(noted carnatic singer in south).The show aimed at giving the comments for improvement to the young budding singers by judges and helping them groom for better renditions. These shows though commercial are still promoting the rich carnatic music. The brand of “Carnatism” still shines in low intensity because of these strategies. Every December Jaya TV airs Margazhi Maha Utsavam with renowned artists like Dr.Balamuralikrishna,Sudha Raghunathan,Nityashree Mahadevan,Aruna Sairam and many others. Even if its 1 hour show tamilians still stick to their seats and enjoy the tunes. But Jaya TV could target the 50+ audience only, to the maximum.

Movies, surely are promoting to preserve our treasure by making films like “Marghazhi Ragam” by P.C Sreeram starred by T.M.Krishna and Bombay Jayasri. The stars in the film do not narrate any dialogues but just render lovely tunes with different shades of lights generating different moods. It was a new concept of airing the concert in the form of movie and Chennai theatres flocked with ladies in kancheevaram sarees and white or bald headed mamas.

The movie played by Shabana Azmi named “Morning Raga” essayed on the fusion world and popularized the concept. The world of fusion surely gives a stratum for carnatic jewel which still shines brightly in its own spectrum. The famous old Balachander movie which won national award for Suhasini(Kamal Hasan’s niece) also revolves on the carnatic subject. The entire content mentioned above is beautifully directed into a play by Balachander.

Various movies in Malayalam also devote on carnatic subjects and give the carnatic lovers a smile with a message that Carnatic music still stays and shines brightly in its own reach.

To add on, sabhas or associations like Keraleeya Samaj, Tamil Sangam, Shanmukhananda fine arts, etc. aim at granting knowledge to the interested students and develop them. They also help the students to gain additional knowledge by conducting competitions and arranging a platform to perform before the stalwarts. Shanmukhananda fine arts in Mumbai conducts a particular competition and the winner is awarded the “Thambura” (instrument used to generate the shruti is recognized as a boon). Bombay Jayasri (singing fame of “Zara Zara”), a “Thambura award winner” herself had quoted that she still possesses that treasure and is grateful to be gifted with the same. All the above mentioned encouragements would surely give impetus to many carnatic gems which would certainly glow the beauty of the same.


The classical music which has granted immensely to Indians has to be graciously acquired to gain the optimal happiness from the same nectar. Great pioneers of carnatic music have devised and helped the younger generations learn this art of music in varied formats and with the technological developments online trainings on carnatic music has really granted us audio gurus. Let’s not forget the culture and tradition of Indian land of Lords and sages and their works and learn or help learn the art of carnatic music along with the western beats.


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