Carnatic music or Carnatic sangeet is the south Indian classical music. Carnatic music has a rich history and tradition and is one of the gems of world music. Carnatic Sangeet has developed in the south Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. These states are known for their strong presentation of Dravidian culture. Purandardas (1480-1564) is considered to be the father of Carnatic music. To him goes the credit of codification of the method of Carnatic music. He is also credited with creation of several thousand songs. Another great name associated with Carnatic music is that of Venkat Mukhi Swami. He is regarded as the grand theorist of Carnatic music. He also developed "Melankara", the system for classifying south Indian ragas.
It was in the 18th century that Carnatic music acquired its present
form. This was the period that saw the "trinity" of Carnatic
music; Thyagaraja, Shamashastri and Muthuswami Dikshitar compile their
famous compositions. Numerous other musicians and composers have also
enriched the tradition of Carnatic music. Some other notable Carnatic
music exponents are Papanasam Shivan, Gopala Krishna Bharati, Swati
Tirunal, Mysore Vasudevachar, Narayan Tirtha, Uttukadu Venkatasubbair,
Arunagiri Nathar and Annamacharya.
In Carnatic music there is a very highly developed theoretical system.
It is based upon a complex system of Ragam (Raga) and Thalam (Tala).
Raga is basically the scale and the seven notes of this scale are Sa Re
Ga Ma Pa Dha and Ni. Though unlike a simple scale there are definite
melodic restrictions and compulsions. The Ragams are classified into
various modes. These modes are referred to as mela, which are 72 in
number. The Tala (thalam) is the rhythmic foundation of the Carnatic
There are a number of sections to the Carnatic performance. Varanam is
a composition usually played at the beginning of a recital. It literally
means a description. Varanam is made of two parts- the Purvanga or the
first half and the Uttaranga or the second half. The kritis are fixed
compositions in the rag. They have well identified composers and do not
allow much scope for variation. The "Alapana" offers a way to
unfold the Ragam to the audience and at the same time allows the artist
substantial scope for creativeness. Ragam is a free melodic
improvisation played without mridangam accompaniment. Tanam is yet
another style of melodic improvisation in free rhythm. Pallavi is short
pre- composed melodic theme with words and set to one cycle of tala.