Music moves the heart. It causes immense joy and draws you into a world of its own. When properly delivered it has the power to charm anyone. But why do we fail to feel this power? Through the recounting and comparison of the history of Carnatic music, and that of its sister music, Hindustani, we hope to uncover the possible causes of the public's loss in interest in Carnatic music.
It is important to trace the history of our music to identify the causes of concern and situations that arose over the passage of time. In ancient times, folk songs were found to have similar sounds. Upon analysis it was found that there were seven distinct notes. This has now become a universal concept. Upon further analysis it was found that in an octave there were 22 sounds, distinguishable by the human ear. The combination of these notes were loosely structured into puns. Music, when within the boundaries of these combinations, was termed classical music, and all others were folk music. Thus, Carnatic music was born and evolved. It is stated in Silapthikaram that musical competitions were held in which musicians rendered swara bedam (transposing of the existing scale to create a different raga). Carnatic music began with a lot of emphasis on Manodharmam (improvisation). It grew and flourished in South India. When the Moguls took hold of North India, and came to realize the treasure that was in Carnatic music, they wanted something to call their own. Musicians came and learned from the masters of the south, and brought back to the Mogul king, 'Hindustani music,' their own version of Carnatic music. In Hindustani music, the entire song is up to personal interpretation. The song is elaborately decorated with sangathis (same verse with varying tunes). However, in Carnatic music only certain lines in the Charanam are chosen for improvisation, called Niraval, and usually only 3 or 4 times in a concert. Though, there are items such as Pallavi, and Thanam that allow for further, more intricate improvisation, and expression of the artist, the most of the concert is the delivery of pre-rehearsed songs. This is one of many differences between Hindustani and Carnatic music. Hindustani gives importance to the raga and rewards expression, whereas Carnatic music is to the tala structure and rewards technical proficiency. Hindustani has a very flowing, melodious, almost sensual way of delivery. This is one key reason for its mass appeal. Though Hindustani musicians have learned a lot from Carnatic artists, they flourish because of their delicate rendering, and the elasticity of Hindustani. It is no crime to add a foreign swara to beautify a song in Hindustani. Also, the slow incremented tala change also adds flare to concerts, and audience anticipation. In Carnatic music, someone who can perform under such stringent technical constraints, and elaborate tala structures is considered to be of great talent. The rigidity in Carnatic music, though important for technically skilled musicians, loses mass appeal.
Communities that once listened only to Carnatic and Indian cinema songs, soon realized the need for their own music for their own expression. They sought to learn more to gain knowledge technically. They went to India and learned under some of the most proficient musicians of their day adapted it to suit the musical interest and aspirations of their own people. Today they have a distinct, recognized music of their own. Perhaps this is a cause for the low interest we have for classical music. We do not have music that appeals to our own people. We still try to learn to enjoy others and what they have created. We hope to make it ours by listening to it, learning it and excelling in it. The music that is presented to the public now, may not be the one that can evoke the natural, cultural patriotic pride.
Classical fine arts require maturity for understanding and appreciation. Just as one cannot just dive into Shakespeare and love it, one cannot delve into Carnatic music and love it. Its beauties must be taught first and slowly. The listener is taken to the river of Carnatic music through a thick, discouraging forest. In Hindustani music this path is clear, through the well-worn path created by Gazhal. This light, airy music that still includes the virtues of the classical, helps to draw masses into the arts. This simpler version, serves to get people accustomed to the form, and develop a taste for such music and to hunger for more. Its verse is of life and love. Its sweet sounds soothes the soul, intoxicates and makes you yearn for a bit more intricacy, and a bit more, till you reach the level of enjoying classical Hindustani music. This is how one is weaned into a devoted Hindustani classical listener.
We have to create a similar form of music as a gateway to Carnatic music. Today in Toronto, there are more than 1000 students learning Carnatic music. However, the parents who encourage them to learn rarely ever attend concerts that their children are not a part of. Can the reason be the lack of mass appeal of Carnatic music? Can the average person ever learn to love Carnatic music? Is there a bridge between light and classical music? Is it possible to find answers to these nagging questions? The desperate need to bring Carnatic music to all Tamils especially in Toronto gave rise to the creation of Isaiyarangam, specifically established to explore and find practical means to achieve our goal.
Propagating a musical structure that is unique to Eelam Tamils.
Easing the transition of appreciation of light music to classical South Asian music by exposing listeners to key elements of fine art.
To foster and preserve our traditional music by:
Fays Zavahir (Picture)