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 music.
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.