What is Carnatic Music?


Carnatic music is a system of music commonly connected with the south India states Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamilnadu, but also practiced in Srilanka. It’s one of two main sub genres of Indian classical music that evolved from ancient Hindu traditions. The main weight in Carnatic music is on vocal music, most compositions are written to be sung, and even when played on instruments, they are meant to be performed in singing style. Although there are stylistic differences, the basic elements of ‘SRUTI’, ‘SWARA’,’’RAGA’, &’TALA’ (the rhythmic cycles) form the foundation of improvisation and composition in both Carnatic and Hindustani music. Although improvisation plays an important role, Carnatic music is mainly sung through compositions, especially the ‘Kriti’ is a form developed between the 14th, 20th centuries by composers such as PURANDARA DASA and the Trinity of Carnatic Music. Carnatic music is also usually taught and learned through compositions. Carnatic music is usually performed by a small ensemble of musicians, consisting of a principal performer (usually a vocalist), a melodic accompaniment (Violin), a rhythm accompaniment (Mridangam), and a ‘TAMBURA’, which acts as a drone throughout the performance. Other typical instruments used in performances may include the GHATAM, KANJIRA, MORSING, VENU & CHITRAVEENA. The most outstanding performances, and the greatest concentration of Carnatic musicians, are to be found in the city of CHENNAI. Various festivals are held throughout India and abroad which mainly consist of Carnatic music performances, such as the MADRAS MUSIC SEASON, which has been considered to be one of the world’s largest cultural events.