music and dance of Tamil Nadu had their beginnings in the
temples. From early times, different groups of people were
appointed to sing divine songs in the temple. Officers called
Thevara Nayakams or leaders of the world of music,
arranged the private worship of kings and group singing.
Sthanikars, or Kattalaiyars offer short musical programmes
in the temples by singing the devotional Thevaram songs.
Musicians had total reliance on divine grace. They lead
the chorus in the temple congregational prayers to the accompaniment
of the Sarangi. Sarangi was in use in the temples of Tamil
Nadu till the end of the nineteenth century.
temples at Madurai, Tirunelveli, Sucindram, and Alwar Tirunagiri
have musical pillars. Such pillars are found in the Artha
Mandapam where the singing of Thevaram was accompanied by
the music from the stone-pillars.
is Carnatic Music? : It is the classical music of Southern
India. The basic form is a monophonic song with improvised
variations. There are 72 basic scales on the octave, and
a rich variety of melodic motion. Both melodic and rhythmic
structures are varied and compelling. This is one of the
world's oldest & richest musical traditions. Why Carnatic
Music? "...I [Todd M. McComb] value Carnatic music first
for the effectiveness with which it can build positive mental
discipline. It helps me to focus and organize my thoughts,
and it helps to eliminate negative mental habits..."
Indian classical music is categorized under two genres.
These are Hindustani and Carnatic. Broadly speaking, Hindustani
developed in the northern regions of the country, while
Carnatic music is indigenous to the south.
Carnatic music is considered one of the oldest systems of
music in the world. Imbued with emotion and the spirit of improvisation, it also contains
a scientific approach. This is mainly due to the contributions
of such inspired artists as Purandara Dasa, known as the
Father of Carnatic Music, and other scholars who codified
the system and gave it a clear format as a medium of teaching,
performing, prayer and therapy.
The basis of Carnatic music is the system of ragas (melodic
scales) and talas (rhythmic cycles). There are seven rhythmic
cycles and 72 fundamental ragas. All other ragas are considered
to have stemmed from these. An elaborate scheme exists for
identifying these scales, known as the 72 Melakarta Ragas.
Carnatic music abounds in structured compositions in the
different ragas. These are songs composed by great artists
and handed down through generations of disciples. While
the improvised elaboration of a raga varies from musician
to musician, the structured portion is set. These compositions
are extremely popular, with a strong accent on rhythm and
lively melodic patterns. Three saint composers of the nineteenth
century, Tyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Shyama Shastri,
have composed thousands of songs that remain favourites
among musicians and audiences.
An important element of Carnatic music is its devotional
content. The lyrics of the traditional compositions, whether
mythological or social in nature, are set entirely against
a devotional or philosophical background.
Nineteen Forties were a rather turbulent period for Carnatic
Music in Tamil Nadu because of the Tamizh Isai controversy.
More than a controversy, it was a move by some well meaning
people to increase the number of Tamil songs being sung
in concerts in Tamil Nadu. Started by Raja Sir Annamalai
Chettiar and spurred on by individuals like Sir R.K.Shanmugham
Chettiar and journalist Kalki Krishnamurthy, it tried to
create a lot of awareness among musicians and rasikas that
language had a role in music.
after so many decades, without the existence of a formal
movement, we do find musicians and rasikas enjoying Tamil
songs in Tamil Nadu, Kannada songs in Karnataka and so on.
Listeners do make fervent appeals to musicians about singing
songs in the language they are familiar with and musicians
oblige them without much ado.
of Folk Music
folk music is remarkable for the tala intricacies. Very
ancient classical ragas or melodies like Manji, Sama, Navaroz,
Kalyani, Karaharapriya, Thodi, and Nadanam-k-kria
are used in the folk-songs. Many instruments
are used in folk music.
Notation Of Tribes
hill-tribes have a natural fondness for music and they are
known for the preservation of ancient culture. The Pulayar
tribe describe their melodies as talams. According to them,
their melodies are derived from the cooing of birds such
as kanamayil, Kanakkozhi. Talam and melodies are named after
their deities. Karaganachi talam, Mangalanada talam, Kundhanada
talam, etc. are all specific melodies. The chaya of classical
ragas like Sudhasaveri, Saraswathi, Sankarabharanam, Andolika,
Brindavanasaranga are to be seen in these beautiful melodies.
Their orchestra is known as Singaram (literally meaning
beauty), consisting of two small sized Nadhaswarams or Sathathakkuzhal,
two drums or melam and a pair of cymbals or Kaimani, Veelikuzhal
(flute) and Maththali (a long drum) are played by them to
invoke the gods. They sing while they dance. Some of their
music is rudimentary only serving as a background for dance.
of the Kulavai
Kulavai sound is made by the women engaged in agricultural
work with a turn of the tongue which they move swiftly side
ward. The Kulavai song is sung in beautiful melody, particularly
in Thanjavur where agricultural prosperity and music tradition
alike have been kept up. Women stand in knee-deep slush,
planting the seedlings and they raise the Kulavai sound
to expedite work and to honour visitors. Anyone passing
between paddy fields has to make token payments or tips
to these women, if they greet him in chorus.
Melam or Chinna Melam is a rustic imitation of the classical
melam or Nadaswaram and is intended purely as an accompaniment
to folk-dance-drama to cater to the tastes of the unlettered
audience. This orchestra consists of two Nadaswarams, two
tavels, a Pambai, a Thammukku, and a pair of cymbals. The
peculiarity of Nayyandi melam is that the instrumentalists
also dance while playing the instrument. The troupe is in
demand as an accompaniment to Karagam, Kavadi, Dummy-horse
show, and gypsy-dance, popularly known as the dance of the
Kuravan and Kurathi.