carnatic music

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Carnatic music, also known as karṇāṭaka sangītam is one of the two styles of Indian classical music, the other being Hindustani music. The present form of Carnatic music is based on historical developments that can be traced to the 15th - 16th centuries CE and thereafter. From the several epigraphical inscriptional evidences and other ancient works[1], the history of classical musical traditions can be traced back about 2500 years.

Carnatic music is completely melodic, with improvised variations. The main emphasis is on vocal music; most compositions are written to be sung, and even when played on instruments, they are meant to be performed in a singing style (known as gāyaki).[2]

Like Hindustani music, Carnatic music rests on two main elements: rāga, the modes or melodic formulæ, and tāḷa, the rhythmic cycles.[3]
Carnatic music
IASTkarṇāṭaka sangītam
IPAkʌrˈnɑːʈʌkʌ ˌsʌŋˈgiːt̪ʌ
Sanskritकर्णाटक सङ्गीत?
Kannadaಕರ್ನಾಟಕ ಸಂಗೀ?
Malayalamകര്‍‌ണാടക സംഗീത?
Tamilகருநாடக இச?
Teluguకర్నాటక సంగీత?
Sruti • Swara • Raga • TalaMelakartaComposers
Instruments Veena - Mridangam - Ghatam - Morsing - Kanjira - Violin
Awards Sangeetha Kalanidhi - Sangeetha Choodamani
Festivals Purandaradasa Aradhane – Kanakadasa Aradhane – Hampi Sangeetotsava – Sangeet Natak AkademiThyagaraja AradhanaCleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana
Media Sruti, The Music Magazine
Compositions Varnam - Kriti - Geetham - Swarajati - Ragam Thanam Pallavi - Thillana - Padam - Javali - Mangalam
Famous Carnatic Musicians
Ariyakudi Ramanuja IyengarChembai Vaidyanatha BhagavatarSemmangudi Srinivasa IyerD. K. PattammalM. S. SubbulakshmiMaharajapuram Viswanatha IyerLalgudi Jayaraman • M.S.Gopalakrishnan • T.N.Krishnan • M.D.Ramanathan • M.BalamuralikrishnaM. L. VasanthakumariK. J. Yesudas

Origins and history

See also:

Like all art forms in Indian culture, Carnatic Music is believed to have a divine origin - it is believed to have originated from the Devas and Devis.[3] However, it is also generally accepted that the natural origins of music were an important factor in the development of Carnatic music. [3] Ancient treatises describe the connection of the origin of swaras to the sounds of animals and birds, and man’s keen sense of observation and perception that tried simulating these sounds - after hearing and distinguishing between the different sounds that emanated from bamboo reed when air passes through its hollows, man designed the first flute. In this way, music is venerated as an aspect of the supreme (nāda brāhmam)[4]. Folk music is also said to have been a natural origin of Carnatic music, with many folk tunes corresponding to certain Carnatic ragas (discussed later).[3]

The Vedas are generally accepted as the main probable source of Indian music. The Sama Veda is said to have laid the foundation for Indian music, and consists mainly of hymns of Rigveda, set to musical tunes which would be sung using three to seven musical notes during Vedic sacrifices.[3] The Yajur-Veda, which mainly consists of sacrificial formulae, mentions the veena as an accompaniment to vocal recitations during the sacrifices.[6]

References to Indian classical music are made in many ancient religious texts, including epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata. The Yajnavalkya Smriti mentions "Veena vadhana tathvangna sruti, jathi, visartha talanjaaprayasena moksha margam niyachathi" ("The one who is well versed in veena, one who has the knowledge of srutis and one who is adept in tala, attains salvation without doubt.")[7] Carnatic music is based on music concepts mentioned in Bharata's Natya Shastra.[8]. The Natya Shastra mentions many musical concepts (including swara and tala) that continue to be relevant to Carnatic music today.[3]

According to some scholars,[3] Carnatic music shares certain classical music concepts with ancient Tamil music. The concept of Pann is related to Ragas used in Carnatic music.[9]. The rhythmic meters found in several musical forms (such as the Tiruppugazh) and other ancient literature, resemble the talas that are in use today[10][11]

Both Carnatic and Hindustani music shared a common history. Since the late 12th and early 13th centuries, as a result of the increasing Persian influence (and as a result of the Islamic conquest) in North India, Hindustani Music started evolving as a separate genre, while Carnatic music was relatively unaffected by these Arabic and Iranian influences.[12] In Carnatic Music (which was based in South India), the pan-Indian bhakti movement laid a substantial basis as far as the use of religious themes are concerned, while major developments post 13th century also contributed to its divergence from Hindustani music.[13]

Carnatic music saw renewed growth during the Vijayanagar Empire by the Kannada Haridasa movement of Vyasaraja, Purandara Dasa, Kanakadasa and others.[14] Purandara Dasa who is known as the Sangeeta Pitamaha (the grandfather of Carnatic music) laid out the fundamental tenets and framework for teaching Carnatic music.[15][3]. Venkatamakhin is credited with the classification of ragas in the Melakarta System and wrote his most important work; Chaturdandi Prakasika (c.1635 CE) in Sanskrit. Govindacharya expanded the Melakarta Scheme into the Sampoorna raga system, which is the system in common use today.

Even though the earlier writers Matanga, Sarangadeva and others also were from Karnataka, the music tradition was formally named Karnataka Sangeetha for the first time only in the 13th Century when the Vijayanagara empire was founded.[16]

A unique development in the art of instrumental carnatic music took shape under the patronage of the kings of the Kingdom of Mysore in the 18th through 20th centuries. The composers used to play their compositions on instruments such as the veena, rudra veena, violin, tambura, ghata, flute, mridangam, nagaswara, swarabhat. Some instruments such as harmonium, sitar and jaltarang, though uncommon to the southern region came into use and the English influence popularised the saxophone and piano. Even royalty of this dynasty were noted composers and proficient in playing musical instruments, solo or in concert with others.[17] Some famous instrumentalists were Veena Sheshanna(1852-1926)[18], Veena Subbanna (1861-1939),[19] T. Chowdiah[20]and others.

Nature of Carnatic music

Carnatic music is practised and presented today by musicians in concerts or recordings, either vocally or through instruments. Carnatic music itself developed around musical works or compositions of phenomenal composers (see below).


In contrast to Hindustani Music of the northern part of India, Carnatic music is taught and learned through compositions, which encode many intricate musical details, also providing scope for free improvization. Nearly every rendition of a Carnatic music composition is different and unique as it embodies elements of the composers vision, as well as the musician's interpretation.

A Carnatic composition really has two elements, one being the musical element, the other being what is conveyed in the composition. It is probably because of this fact that most Carnatic music compositions are composed for singing. In addition to the rich musical experience, each composition brings out the knowledge and personality of the composer, and hence the words are as important as the musical element itself. This poses a special challenge for the musicians because rendering this music does not involve just playing or singing the correct musical notes; the musicians are expected to understand what was conveyed by the composer in various languages, and sing musical phrases that act to create the effect that was intended by the composer in his/her composition.

There are many types/forms of compositions. Geethams and Swarajatis (which have their own peculiar composition structures) are principally meant to serve as basic learning exercises, and while there are many other types/forms of compositions (including Padam, Javali and Thillana), the most common forms are the Varnam, and most importantly, the Kriti (or Keerthanam), which are discussed below.


Main article: Varnam
This is a special item which highlights everything important about a raga; not just the scale, but also which notes to stress, how to approach a certain note, classical and characteristic phrases, etc. Though there are a few different types of varnams, in essence, they all have a pallavi, an anupallavi, muktayi swaras, a charana, and chittaswaras. They are sung in multiple speeds, and are very good for practice. In concerts, varnams are often sung at the beginning as they are fast and grab the audience's attention.[21]


Main article: Kriti
Carnatic songs (kritis) are varied in structure and style, but generally consist of three units:
  1. Pallavi. This is the equivalent of a refrain in Western music. One or two lines.
  2. Anupallavi. The second verse. Also two lines.
  3. Charana. The final (and longest) verse that wraps up the song. The Charanam usually borrows patterns from the Anupallavi. There can be multiple charanas.

This kind of song is called a keerthanam or a Kriti. There are other possible structures for a Kriti, which may in addition include swara passages named chittaswara. Chittaswara consists only of notes, and has no words. Still others, have a verse at the end of the charana, called the madhyamakāla. It is sung immediately after the charana, but at double speed.

Prominent composers

There are many composers in Carnatic music.
See also:

Purandara Dasa (1480 - 1564) is known as the father (Pitamaha) of Carnatic music due to his pioneering contributions to Carnatic music. Purandara Dasa is renowned for formulating the basic lessons of Carnatic music. He structured graded exercises known as Swaravalis and Alankaras, and at the same time, introduced the Raga Mayamalavagowla as the first scale to be learnt by beginners. He also composed Gitas (simple songs) for novice students. Although only a fraction of his other compositions still exist, he is said to have composed around 475,000 compositions in total.[22]

The contemporaries Tyagaraja (1759? - 1847), Muthuswami Dikshitar, (1776 - 1827) and Syama Sastri, (1762 - 1827) are regarded as the Trinity of Carnatic music due to the quality of Syama Sastri's compositions, the varieties of compositions of Muthuswami Dikshitar and Tyagaraja's prolific output in composing kritis.[23] [24]

Prominent composers prior to the Trinity of Carnatic music include Annamacharya, Narayana Theertha, Bhadrachala Ramadas, Sadasiva Brahmendra and Oottukkadu Venkata Kavi. Other prominent composers are Swathi Thirunal, Gopalakrishna Bharathi, Neelakanta Sivan, Patnam Subramania Iyer, Mysore Vasudevachar, Koteeswara Iyer, Muthiah Bhagavathar, Subramania Bharathiyar and Papanasam Sivan. The compositions of these composers are rendered frequently by prominent artists of today.

Composers of Carnatic music were often inspired by religious devotion and were usually scholars proficient in one or more of the following languages Kannada, Sanskrit, Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu. They usually included a signature, called a mudra, in their compositions. For example, all songs by Tyagaraja (who composed in Telugu) have the word Thyagaraja in them, all songs by Muthuswami Dikshitar (who composed in Sanskrit) have the words Guruguha in them, songs by Syama Sastri (who composed in Telugu) have the words Syama Krishna in them while Purandaradasa, who composed in Kannada, used the signature Purandara Vittala. Gopalakrishna Bharathi used the signature Gopalakrishnan and composed in Tamil. Papanasam Sivan, who has been hailed as the Tamil Thyagaraja of Carnatic music[25], also composed in this language, as well as Sanskrit[26], and used the signature Ramadasan.

Important elements of Carnatic music


Main article: Śruti (music)

Śruti commonly refers to musical pitch.[27] It is the approximate equivalent of a tonic (or less precisely a key) in Western music; it is the note from which all the others are derived. It is also used in the sense of graded pitches in an octave. While there are an infinite number of sounds falling within a scale (or raga) in Carnatic music, the number that can be distinguished by auditory perception is twenty-two (although over the years, several of them have converged). In this sense, while shruti is determined by auditory perception, it is also an expression in the listener's mind.[28]


Main article: Swara

Swara refers to a type of musical sound that is a single note, which defines a relative (higher or lower) position of a note, rather than a defined frequency.[29] Swaras also refer to the solfege of Carnatic music, which consist of seven notes, "sa-ri-ga-ma-pa-da-ni" (compare with the Hindustani sargam: sa-re-ga-ma-pa-dha-ni or Western do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti). These names are abbreviations of the longer names shadja, rishabha, gandhara. madhyama, panchama, dhaivata and nishada. Unlike other music systems, every member of the solfege (called a swara) has three variants. The exceptions are the drone notes, shadja and panchama (also known as the tonic and the dominant), which have only one form; and madhyama (the subdominant), which has two forms. A 7th century stone inscription in Kudumiyan Malai[30] in Tamil Nadu shows vowel changes to solfege symbols with ra, ri, ru etc. to denote the higher quarter-tones. In one scale, or ragam, there is usually only one variant of each note present. The exceptions exist in "light" ragas, in which, for artistic effect, there may be two, one ascending (in the arohanam) and another descending (in the avarohanam).

Raga system

Main article: Raga

A raga in Carnatic music prescribes a set of rules for building a melody - very similar to the Western concept of mode.[31] It specifies rules for movements up (aarohanam) and down (avarohanam), the scale of which notes should figure more and which notes should be used more sparingly, which notes may be sung with gamaka, which phrases should be used, phrases should be avoided, and so on.

In Carnatic music, the sampoorna ragas (those with all seven notes in their scales) are classified into a system called the melakarta, which groups them according to the kinds of notes that they have. There are seventy-two melakarta ragas, thirty six of whose madhyama (subdominant) is sadharana (perfect fourth from the tonic), the remaining thirty-six of whose madhyama (subdominant) is prati (an augmented fourth from the tonic). The ragas are grouped into sets of six, called chakras ("wheels", though actually segments in the conventional representation) grouped according to the supertonic and mediant scale degrees. There is a system known as the 'Katapayadi sankhya to determine the names of Melakarta Raga''s.

Ragas may be divided into two classes: janaka ragas (i.e melakarta or parent ragas) and janyaragas (descendant ragas of a particular janaka raga). Janya ragas are subclassified into various categories themselves.

There are potentially hundreds and thousands of ragas, with over 5000 that have been used.[32]

Tala system

Main article: tala (music)

Tala refers to the beat set for a particular composition (a measure of time). Talas have cycles of a defined number of beats and rarely change within a song. They have specific components, which in combinations can give rise to the variety to exist (over 108), allowing different compositions to have different rhythms.[33]

Carnatic music singers usually keep the beat by moving their hands up and down in specified patterns, and using their fingers simultaneously to keep time. Tala is formed with three basic parts (called angas) which are laghu, dhrtam, and anudhrtam, though complex talas may have other parts like plutam, guru and kaakapaadam. There are seven basic tala groups which can be formed from the laghu, dhrtam, and anudhrtam:
  • Dhruva tala
  • Matya tala
  • Rupaka tala
  • Jhampa tala
  • Triputa tala
  • Ata tala
  • Eka tala
A laghu has five variants (called jaathis) based on the counting pattern. Five jaathis times seven tala groups gives thirty-five basic talas, although use of other angas results in a total of 108 talas.


There are four main types of improvisation in Carnatic music, but in every type, adhering to the scale and phrases of the raga is required.

Raga Alapana

Main article: Alapana
This is the exposition of the ragam of the song that is being planned to be performed. A performer will explore the ragam first by singing lower octaves then moving up to higher ones and touching various aspects of the ragam while giving a hint of the song to be performed. It is a slow improvisation with no rhythm.[34]

Theoretically, this ought to be the easiest type of improvisation, since the rules are so few, but in fact, it takes much skill to sing a pleasing, comprehensive (in the sense of giving a "feel for the ragam") and, most importantly, original ragam.


Main article: Niraval
This is usually performed by the more advanced concert artists and consists of singing one or two lines of a song repeatedly, but with improvised elaborations.


Main article: Kalpanaswaram
The most elementary type of improvisation, usually taught before any other form of improvisation. It consists of singing a pattern of notes which finishes on the beat and the note just before the beat and the note on which the song starts. The swara pattern should adhere to the original raga's swara pattern, which is called as aarohanam-avarohanam


This form of improvisation was originally developed for the veena and consists of expanding the raga with syllables like tha, nam, thom, aa, nom, na, etc

Ragam Thanam Pallavi

Main article: Ragam Thanam Pallavi
This is a composite form of improvisation. As the name suggests, it consists of Raga Alapana, Thanam, and a pallavi line. The pallavi line is sung twice, and Niraval follows. After Niraval, the pallavi line is sung again, twice in normal speed, then sung once at half the speed, then twice at regular speed, then four times at twice the speed. Kalpanaswarams follow.

Learning Carnatic music

Carnatic music is traditionally taught according to the system formulated by Purandara Dasa. This involves swaravalis (graded exercises), alankaras (exercises based on the seven talas), Geethams or simple songs, and Swarajatis. After the student has reached a certain standard, Varnams are taught, and later, the student learns Kritis. It typically takes several years of learning before a student is adept enough to perform at a concert.

The learning texts and exercises are more or less uniform across all the South Indian states. The learning structure is arranged in the increasing order of the complexity. The lessons start with the learning of the sarali varisai (solfege set to a particular raga).

Carnatic music was traditionally taught in the gurukula system, where the student lived with and learnt the art from his guru (perceptor). From the late 20th century onwards, with changes in lifestyles and need for young music aspirants to simultaneously manoeuvre a parallel academic career, this system has found few takers.

Musicians often take great pride in letting people know about their Guru Parampara, or the hierarchy of disciples from some prominent ancient musician or composer, to which they belong. People whose disciple-hierarchies are often referred to are Thyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar, Syama Sastri, Swathi Thirunal, Papanasam Sivan among others.

In modern times, it is often common for students to visit their gurus daily or weekly to learn music. Though new technology has made learning easier with the availability of quick-learn media such as learning exercises recorded on audio cassettes and CDs, these are discouraged by most gurus who emphasize that face-to-face learning is best for students.


Notation is not a new concept in Indian music. However, Carnatic music continued to be transmitted orally for centuries without being written down. The disadvantage with this system was that if one wanted to learn about a Kriti composed, for example, by Purandara Dasa, it involved the difficult task of finding a person from Purandara Dasa's lineage of students.

Written notation of Carnatic music was revived in the late 17th century and early 18th century, which coincided with rule of Shahaji II in Tanjore. Copies of Shahaji's musical manuscripts are still available at the Saraswathi Mahal Library in Tanjore and they give us an idea of the music and its form. They contain snippets of solfege to be used when performing the mentioned ragas.


Unlike Western music, Carnatic music is notated almost exclusively in tonic solfa notation using either a Roman or Indic script to represent the solfa names. Past attempts to use the staff notation have mostly failed. Indian music makes use of hundreds of ragas, many more than the church modes in Western music. It becomes difficult to write Carnatic music using the staff notation without the use of too many accidentals. Furthermore, the staff notation requires that the song be played in a certain key. The notions of key and absolute pitch are deeply rooted in Western music, whereas the Carnatic notation does not specify the key and prefers to use scale degrees (relative pitch) to denote notes. The singer is free to choose actual pitch of the tonic note. In the more precise forms of Carnatic notation, there are symbols placed above the notes indicating how the notes should be played or sung; however, informally this practice is not followed.

To show the length of a note, several devices are used. If the duration of note is to be doubled, the letter is either capitalized (if using Roman script) or lengthened by a diacritic (in Indian languages). For a duration of three, the letter is capitalized (or diacriticized) and followed by a comma. For a length of four, the letter is capitalized (or diacriticized) and then followed by a semicolon. In this way any duration can be indicated using a series of semicolons and commas.

However, a simpler notation has evolved which does not use semicolons and capitalization, but rather indicates all extensions of notes using a corresponding number of commas. Thus, quadrupled in length would be denoted as "S,,,".


The notation is divided into columns, depending on the structure of the tāḷaṃ. The division between a laghu and a dhrutam is indicated by a ।, called a ḍaṇḍā, and so is the division between two dhrutams or a dhrutam and an anudhrutam. The end of a cycle is marked by a ॥, called a double ḍaṇḍā, and looks like a caesura.


Carnatic music concerts are usually performed by a small ensemble of musicians who sit on a slightly elevated stage. Carnatic music concerts can be vocal recitals, accompanied by supporting instruments, or purely instrumental concerts, but irrespective of whether it is a vocal or purely instrumental concert, what is featured in a typical concert are compositions which form the core of this music. The lead-musician must also choose a signature octave based on his/her (vocal) range of comfort. However, it is expected that a musician maintains that same pitch once it is selected, and so to help all the performers maintain the selected pitch, the tambura is the traditional drone instrument used in concerts. However, tamburas are increasingly being replaced by śruti boxes, and now more commonly, the "Electronic tambura"

In a vocal recital, a concert team may have one or more vocalists, accompanied by instrumentalists. Other instruments such as the veena and/or flute can be found to occasionally accompany a lead vocalist, but usually a vocalist is supported by a violin player (who sits on his/her left), and a few percussion players including at least a mridangam (who usually sits on the other side of the vocalist, facing the instrumentalist). Other percussion instruments that are also used include the ghatam, kanjira and morsing, which also accompany the main percussion instrument and play almost in a contrapuntal fashion along with the beats. The objective of the accompanying instruments is far more than following the melody and keeping the beats. The accompaniments form an integral part of every composition presented, and they closely follow and augment the melodic phrases outlines by the lead singer. The vocalist and the violinist take turns while elaborating or while exhibiting creativity in sections like raga, niraval and kalpanaswaram. Unlike Hindustani music concerts, where an accompanying tabla player can keep beats without following the musical phrases at times, in carnatic music, the accompaniments have to know follow intricacies of the composition since there are percussion elements such as eduppu, in several compositions. Some of the best concerts feature a good bit of interaction with the lead musicians and the accompaniments exchanging notes, and accompanying musicians predicting the lead singer musical phrases.

See also:


A contemporary Carnatic concert ((called a kutcheri) usually lasts about three hours, and usually comprises a number of varied compositions. Carnatic songs are composed in a particular raga, which means that they do not deviate from the notes in the raga. Each composition is set with specific notes and beats, but performers improvise extensively. Improvisation occurs in the melody of the composition as well as in using the notes to expound the beauty of the raga.

Concerts usually begin with a varnam or an invocatory item which will act as the opening piece. The varnam is composed with an emphasis on swaras of the raga, but will also have lyrics, the saahityam. It is lively and fast to get the audience's attention. An invocatory item, may alternatively, follow the varnam.

After the varnam and/or invocatory item, the artist sings longer compositions called kirtanas (commonly referred to as kritis). Each kriti sticks to one specific raga, although some are composed with more than one ragas; these are known as ragamalika (a garland of ragas).

After singing the opening kriti, usually, the performer sings the kalpanaswaram of the raga to the beat. The performer must improvise a string of swaras in any octave according to the rules of the raga and return to beginning of the cycle of beats smoothly, joining the swaras with a phrase selected from the kriti. The violin performs these alternately with the main performer. In very long strings of swara, the performers must calculate their notes accurately to ensure that they stick to the raga, have no awkward pauses and lapses in the beat of the song, and create a complex pattern of notes that an experienced audience can follow.

Performers then begin the main compositions with a section called raga alapana exploring the raga. In this, they use the sounds aa, ri, na, ta, etc. instead of swaras to slowly elaborate the notes and flow of the raga. This begins slowly and builds to a crescendo, and finally establishes a complicated exposition of the raga that shows the performer's skill. All of this is done without any rhythmic accompaniment, or beat. Then the melodic accompaniment (violin or veena), expounds the raga. Experienced listeners can identify many ragas after they hear just a few notes. With the raga thus established, the song begins, usually with lyrics. In this, the accompaniment (usually violin, sometimes veena) performs along with the main performer and the percussion (such as a mridangam). In the next stage of the song, they may sing niraval or kalpanaswaram again.

In most concerts, the main item will at least have a section at the end of the item, for the percussion to perform solo (called the tani avartanam). The percussion performers perform complex patterns of rhythm and display their skill. If multiple percussion instruments are employed, they engage in a rhythmic dialogue until the main performer picks up the melody once again. Some experienced artists may follow the main piece with a ragam thanam pallavi mid-concert, if they do not use it as the main item.

Following the main composition, the concert continues with shorter and lighter songs. Some of the types of songs performed towards the end of the concerts are tillanas & thukkadas - bits of popular kritis or compositions requested by the audience. Every concert that is the last of the day ends with a mangalam, a thankful prayer and conclusion to the musical event.


The audience of a typical concert has a reasonable understanding of Carnatic music. It is also typical to see the audience tapping out the tala in sync with the artist's performance. As and when the artist exhibits creativity, the audience acknowledge it by clapping their hands. With experienced artists, towards the middle of the concert, requests start flowing in. The artist usually plays the request and it helps in exhibiting the artist's broad knowledge of the several thousand kritis that are in existence.

Modern concerts

Every December, the city of Chennai in India has its six week-long Music Season, which has been described as the world's largest cultural event.[35] The Music Season was started in 1927, to mark the opening of the Madras Music Academy. It used to be a traditional month-long Carnatic music festival, but since then it has also diversified into dance and drama, as well as non-Carnatic art forms.

See also:

Prominent modern artists


Past Vocalists

Popularly referred to as the female trinity of the Carnatic music,[36] M. L. Vasanthakumari, M. S. Subbulakshmi and D. K. Pattammal, together with the leading male vocalists Muthiah Bhagavathar, Mysore Vasudevachar, Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, Musiri Subramania Iyer, Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar, G. N. Balasubramaniam and Madurai Mani Iyer created a golden era for Carnatic music during the mid to late twentieth century. The other popular prominent performers during this era were Alathur Venkatesa Iyer, M.D.Ramanathan, M. Balamuralikrishna, S.Ramanathan, K. V. Narayanaswamy, Tanjore S. Kalyanaraman, Maharajapuram Santhanam, D. K. Jayaraman, Nedunuri Krishnamoorthy, T. K. Rangachari, Sirkazhi Govindarajan, Thanjavur Sankara Iyer, P. S. Narayanaswamy, Madurai Somu and Jon. B. Higgins.

Past-Present Vocalists

R. K. Srikantan, R. Vedavalli, T. V. Sankaranarayanan and K. J. Yesudas, along with Nedunuri Krishnamoorthy and M. Balamuralikrishna, are the only musicians that are still alive, and from time-to-time, still perform in public concerts.

While D. K. Pattammal no longer performs in public concerts, she is the only survivor of those who helped create the Golden era for Carnatic music.

T. N. Seshagopalan and Neyveli Santhanagopalan remain popular, even today.

Current Vocalists

Popular vocalists of today include Nithyashree Mahadevan, Sudha Ragunathan, P. Unni Krishnan, Priya Sisters, S. Sowmya, Sanjay Subrahmanyan, Bombay Jayashri Ramnath, Aruna Sairam, O. S. Arun, O. S. Thyagarajan, T. M. Krishna, Malladi Brothers - Sriram Prasad & Ravikumar, Ranjani & Gayatri, Sikkil C. Gurucharan, Vishakha Hari and Sreevalsan J. Menon.


Past Instrumentalists

T. Chowdiah, Rajamanikkam Pillai, Papa Venkataramiah, Dwaram Venkataswamy Naidu among others, excelled in violin, while Palghat Mani Iyer, Palani Subramaniam Pillai and C.S.Murugabhoopathy redefined the role of mridangam in concerts in the recent past. T.H.Vinayakram is a very famous ghatam player. T.R. Mahalingam and Thyagarajanwere famous flute players. Some of the well known veena players include S. Balachander, Veena Dhanammal, Doraiswamy Iyengar, K.S. Narayanaswamy and Emani Sankara Sastri.

Past-Present Instrumentalists

T.N.Krishnan, M.S.Gopalakrishnan, Lalgudi G. Jayaraman, Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan, Dr.Mysore Manjunath, Mysore Nagaraj and A. Kanyakumari are among the living violinists who still perform, while the mridhangists who fall under this category include Karaikkudi Mani, Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman, T. K. Murthy, Guruvayur Dorai, Mannargudi Easwaran, T.V.Gopalakrishnan, I. Sivakumar and J. Vaidhyanathan. T.H.Subhashchandran and N. Govindarajan are Ghatam players that fall under this category.

N. Ramani and Sikkil Sisters are the most well known flute players of today, while E. Gayathri, Kalpakam Swaminathan are known in the same way for playing the Veena. Kadri Gopalnath is similarly known for his Carnatic talents on the saxophone, while N. Ravikiran is known in the same way for playing several stringed instruments, most notably the Chitraveena/Gottuvadhyam.

Current Instrumentalists

Violinists of today include Ganesh and Kumaresh, Ranjani and Gayatri, Vittal Ramamurthy, Embar S. Kannan, Lalgudi GJR Krishnan, Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi and others..

Mridhangists of today include Thiruvarur Vaidyanathan and others.

Flute players of today include Mala Chandhrashekharan, R. Thyagarajan, R. Atul Kumar, S. Shashank, [T. Suresh]]. Veena players of today include Jayanthi Kumaresh.

See also


1. ^ Sāmbhamūrti, P. "Music of the Ancient Tamils", South Indian Music, Book VI. Chennai 600 014: The Indian Music Publishing House, 91-92. “"The pans of the Thevaram are historically old ragas (page 91); It is in the pans of the Thevaram that we first come across full-fledged bhashanga ragas" (page 91);"The pans of Tevaram are all jiva ragas"(page 92) 
2. ^ Breyer, Barbara (1972). "Composers and Tradition in Karnatik Music". Asian Music 3: 42-51. 
3. ^ Breyer, Barbara (1972). "Composers and Tradition in Karnatik Music". Asian Music 3: 42-51. 
4. ^ [1]
5. ^ History of Music, Origins. The Carnatica Group. Retrieved on 2007-07-03.
6. ^ Veena in Yajurveda.
7. ^ Yajnavalkya on Music.
8. ^ Carnatic Music. Swaralaya. Carnatic music organization, Tampa Bay, Florida. Retrieved on 2007-07-03.
9. ^ Sāmbhamūrti, P. "Music of the Ancient Tamils", South Indian Music, Book VI. Chennai 600 014: The Indian Music Publishing House, 91-92. “"The pans of the Thevaram are historically old ragas (page 91); It is in the pans of the Thevaram that we first come across full-fledged bhashanga ragas" (page 91);"The pans of Tevaram are all jiva ragas"(page 92) 
10. ^ Sāmbhamūrti, P. "Music of the Ancient Tamils", South Indian Music, Book VI. Chennai 600 014: The Indian Music Publishing House, 87. 
11. ^ Sundaram, V.P.K.. Music in Ancient Tamil literature (in Tamil: Pazam Thamizilakkiyaththil icai iyal). Saiva Siddhanta Book publishers, 272-334. 
12. ^ Carnatic music. (2007). In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved April 12, 2007, from Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
13. ^ Split in HM and CM.
14. ^ [2]
15. ^ Theory of Music , Vasanthamadhavi P.183
16. ^ Fountainhead of Carnatic music. Online webpage of The Hindu. The Hindu. Retrieved on 2007-07-03.
17. ^ Pranesh (2003), p54-55, p92, p162-163, p225-226
18. ^ Pranesh (2003), p108
19. ^ Pranesh (2003), p128
20. ^ Pranesh (2003), p214
21. ^ [3]
22. ^ Galaxy of composers
23. ^ [4]
24. ^ [5]
25. ^ [6]
26. ^ [7]
27. ^ [8]
28. ^ [9] of India
29. ^ [10]
30. ^ S. Santhanlingam, Kudumiyan Malai, Tamil Nadu Government Archeology Department publication, 1981
31. ^ [11]
32. ^ [12]
33. ^ [13]
34. ^ [14]
35. ^ Musical Musings. The Hindu. Retrieved on 2007-01-13.
36. ^ [15]The Hindu


  • Pranesh, Meera Rajaram (2003), Musical Composers during Wodeyar Dynasty (1638-1947 A.D.), Vee Emm Publications, Bangalore

External links


  • "Carnatic music". Encyclopædia Britannica (15). (2005). 
  • Panchapakesa Iyer, A. S. (2003). Gānāmrutha Varna Mālikā. Gānāmrutha Prachuram. 
History of the alphabet
Middle Bronze Age 18–15th c. BC
  • Ugaritic 15th c. BC
  • Proto-Canaanite 14th c. BC
  • Phoenician 11th c. BC
  • Paleo-Hebrew 10th c.

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The origins of Indian classical music can be found from the oldest of scriptures, part of the Hindu tradition, the Vedas. Samaveda, one of the four Vedas, describes music at length. Indian classical music has its origins as a meditation tool for attaining self realization.
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Hindustani Classical Music is a North Indian classical music tradition that has been evolving from the 12th centuries AD onwards, in what is now northern India and Pakistan, and also Bangladesh, Nepal and Afghanistan.
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Melodic music is a term that covers various genres of non-classical music which are primarily characterised by the dominance of a single strong melody line. Rhythm, tempo and beat are subordinate to the melody line or tune, which is generally easily memorable, and followed without
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Hindustani Classical Music is a North Indian classical music tradition that has been evolving from the 12th centuries AD onwards, in what is now northern India and Pakistan, and also Bangladesh, Nepal and Afghanistan.
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scale is an ordered series of musical intervals, which, along with the key or tonic, define the pitches. However, mode is usually used in the sense of scale applied only to the specific diatonic scales found below.
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In Indian classical music, Tala (Sanskrit tāla), literally a "clap," is a rhythmical pattern which determines the rhythmical structure of a composition. It plays a similar role to metre in Western music, but is structurally different from the concept of metre.
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International Phonetic Alphabet

Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode.

The International
Phonetic Alphabet
Nonstandard symbols
Extended IPA
Naming conventions
IPA for English The
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Sanskrit}}}  | style="padding-left: 0.5em;" | Writing system: | colspan="2" style="padding-left: 0.5em;" | Devanāgarī and several other Brāhmī-based scripts  ! colspan="3" style="text-align: center; color: black; background-color: lawngreen;"|Official
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Official status
Official language of:  India (Karnataka)
Regulated by: Various academies and the Government of Karnataka
Language codes
ISO 639-1: kn
ISO 639-2: kan
ISO 639-3: kan

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Writing system: Malayalam script, historically written in Vattezhuthu script, Kolezhuthu script , Karzoni script. Also Arabic script (Arabi Malayalam), Indian alphabet(Roman alphabet) 
Official status
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Writing system: Vatteluttu 
Official status
Official language of:  India,[4][5]

The template is . Please use instead.
This usage is deprecated. Please replace it with .

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Writing system: Telugu script 
Official status
Official language of:  India
Regulated by: no official regulation
Language codes
ISO 639-1: te
ISO 639-2: tel
ISO 639-3: tel

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The notes, or swaras, of Indian music are Shadjam, Rishabham, Gandharam, Madhyamam, Panchamam, Dhaivatam and Nishadam. Collectively these notes are known as the sargam.
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Tala may refer to:
  • Samoan tala, the monetary unit of Samoa.
  • Tala (music), a rhythmic pattern in Carnatic or Hindustani music.

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Melakarta is the collection of Ragas in Carnatic music. Melakarta ragas are fundamental ragas from which other ragas may be generated. For this reason the melakarta ragas are also known as janaka(parent) ragas.
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The Carnatic classical music tradition gained impetus in the 15th century through the works of Purandara Dasa, one of the foremost Haridasa Saints of the Vijayanagara Empire, and is also regarded as Karnataka Sangeetha Sampradaya Pitamaha
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Veena (Telugu: వీణ, Kannada, Tamil: வீணை-veene, வீணா-vina) is a plucked stringed instrument used in Carnatic music.
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The mridangam is a percussion instrument from South India. It is the primary rhythmic accompaniment in a Carnatic music ensemble. Alternate spellings include mridanga, mrudangam, mrdangam, mrithangam and miruthangam.
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The ghatam is a percussion instrument, used in the Carnatic music of South India. It is an earthenware pot; the artist uses the fingers, thumbs, palms, and heels of the hands to strike the outer surface of the ghatam.
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A morsing (also mourching or morching) is a percussion instrument, mainly used in the Carnatic music of South India. It can be categorized under lamellophones, which is in the category of plucked idiophones.
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The kanjira or ganjira, a South Indian frame drum, is an instrument of the tambourine family. It used primarily in concerts of Carnatic music (South Indian classical music) as a supporting instrument for the mridangam.
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''For the Anne Rice novel, see Violin (novel)

The violin is a bowed string instrument with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is the smallest and highest-pitched member of the violin family of string instruments, which also includes the viola and
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Sangeetha Kalanidhi (sangeetha = music, kalanidhi = treasure of art) is the title awarded yearly to an expert Carnatic Musician by the Music Academy of Chennai. It is one of the highest honours a Carnatic Musician can receive.
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A music festival is a festival oriented towards music that is sometimes presented with a theme such as musical genre, nationality or locality of musicians, or holiday. They are commonly held outdoors, and are often inclusive of other attractions such as food and merchandise
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The Sangeet Natak Akademi International Festival takes place in India. It is a festival of Hindustani classical music.
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The Tyagaraja Aradhana festival is held in January when most of the leading exponents of Carnatic music come to perform and are watched by thousands of ardent fans of Indian classical music.
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Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana is a music festival of Indian classical music.

External links

  • Official website

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Sruti is the only English language magazine on the Performing Arts, Indian music and dance published from Chennai, India. The first issue was published in October 1983.

External links

  • Official site

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Varnam is a form of song in the Carnatic music repertoire. A varnam is a relatively long piece and can range from 30 minutes to up to nearly an hour or 40-50 min. It is usually set to Aadi or Ata tala. It is the center piece in a recital of music or dance.
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