Saturday, December 31, 2011

Blog Shifted!!

Hi all!!!

So if you have not already checked out the new site here, please do.....I am done with the updation of the site.... :-)....I hope to see you all there....and please do subscribe to the RSS and if not too much could share it in your social networking pages too...

Thanks all!!

Best Regards,

IndianMusicFan :-D

Friday, December 30, 2011

Raga Ranjani Part 1

The next raga we will see about is ranjanI. It is one of my favorite raga though not so favored by few of my friends :-) . The name ranjani is supposed to mean ‘one who gives happiness’. The raga can give different flavors depending on its handling which we will see about in this post. It is specific to carnatic music and an equivalent scale is not found in hindustani (to my knowledge).The (popular) scale of ranjanI is as given below along with western notes with C as Sa.
Arohanam:        S   R2   G2   M2   D2   S’ ……. (C  D   D#   F#   A  C’)

Avarohanam:   S’  N3   D2   M2   G2   S ……. (C’  B   A    F#  D#   C)

but the avarohanam can also come as

S’  N3  D2  M2  G2  S  R2 S .. (C’  B   A   F#   D#   C  D  C) [footnote]

Some of the first things one can notice are
1. The scale has only 5 notes in the arohanam and avarohanam. This hence is a pentatonic scale (having only 5 notes per octave). So this is NOT a melakartha raga or sampoorna raga about which we had seen in the cArukEsi  raga post. Such a raga where the scale is not complete is called a Janya raga. We will see about this in the subsequent section.

Continue reading here

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Learning About Indian Music : Raga Charukesi

The next raga we will see is one of my very favourite, chArukEsi and thankfully for me it has the same name in both Carnatic and Hindustani ;-) . It is also a sampoorna raga without vakra swaras. So, first what is a sampoorna raga? And what are vakra swaras?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Indian Instruments : Nadaswaram

The next in the series of Indian Instruments after the Indian Flute that we will see is the Nadaswaram[1] or Nagaswaram.

The Name: Nadaswaram or Nagaswaram?

Firstly the name of the instrument. This instrument has been called by different names which includes popularly Nadaswaram, Nagaswaram, Nayanam, Nagachinnam. The fact that this instrument resembles a snake in its look probably was the reason it was named as Nagaswaram or Nagachinnam. In Tamil, Naagam(நாகம்) means serpent or snake. In Muthuswamy Dikshitar's Kriti, tyāgarāja mahadhvajārōha[2] about Lord Siva, Dikshitar mentions in the anupallavi or the second stanza of the song, ....nāga svara maddaḷādi vādyaṃ[2] Lord Siva as the One who is accompanied by the music of Nagaswara and Maddala.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Work In Progress

Hi all, Presently, I am in the process of moving my blog contents and pages to my website at I hope to shift everything there as soon as possible, hopefully by coming weekend.

Do check out regularly. :-) This shift to the new site is because of the flexibility of better static pages which is not so helpful here in blogger.

So cheers!!! Hope to see you there too!!



Sunday, October 23, 2011

Learning About Indian Music: Raga Mayamalavagowla Part-2

In this part, we will see the mood that Mayamalvagowla creates, the handling of this raga in different songs and basic phrases that are used in while it is played as a raga alaap. This is the continuation from the previous post.

We will first see the moods that mayamalavagowla creates and then see how some of the popular compositions reflect (if at all) these moods. I had previously said that this raga is used while teaching the beginning singing exercises. Towards the end of the post, I will try to highlight on why this is so.

I : The basic mood and color that Mayamalavagowla creates:

Mayamalavagowla / Bhairav is a raga steeped in bhakti. In hindustani, Bhairav is considered as a morning raga. (In hindustani music, the ragas are sometimes classified according to the time of the day when they are sung/played based on the mood it creates. Though, many people have argued against such a classification, I for one, like it as one can try to analyze if a particular raga generates really a feel to be sung during a particular time of the day).

So this raga invokes a sense of bhakti, devotion, piteousness and is apt to be sung in the mornings. In South India, a typical morning in a traditional home begins with the mother getting up early in the morning and after her bath, drawing a kolam outside the doorway, with suprabhatam being played in the background. Typically I have always felt this kind of a scene in my head whenever I play/sing this raga.

The point to be noted is that, though this is classified as a morning raga, it is not that if you sing it in the evening it will sound bad. But the mood it generates is like a refreshing dose of morning dew with a scent of rain in the air, beckoning us to get up and see what a glorious day lies ahead of us. :-) (woow that paints indeed a nice picture ain't it?? ;-)
II : The songs that have been set in this raga:

We had seen in the previous post some of the songs set to this raga. Now we will take up the songs (not all though) and see if the lyrics match the mood of the raga.

First song is Tulasi dhalamulace, a song by Saint Thyagaraja swamy set to roopaka (or rupaka) tala (3/6 beat cycle). This is a video-mp3 of the song sung by Sangita Kalanidhi Sri Nednuri Krishnamurthy.

In this song, Sri Thyagaraja swamy says he will worship Lord Rama, the personification of righteousness, the prince of Ayodhya with the tulasi. He will garland him with fragrant flowers like champaka, lotus, lily jasmine etc.

The tulasi plant is very sacred in India, particularly to the hindus. This plant is considered holy and also scientifically has some medicinal values. I had described of a picture of an early morning scenario in a previous para. Such a morning ritual is never complete without the worship/watering of the tulasi plant. In traditional homes, the tulasi plant occupies a prime spot of its own in the back-verendah or in front of the house (rarely though).

The import of the song is in the fact that Thyagaraja swamy describes how he would do pooja (worship) to the Lord which is usually done in the mornings and Mayamalavagowla seems a very nice fit to the mood of the song. =). Here is Ilayaraja sir's version of the song from his album How to name it. Its one of my most favourite and why I love Ilayaraja the best!! But if I start on the Raja I would never stop and that is for another day soon perhaps :-)

Sri Thyagaraja Swamy has also composed the beautiful mErusamAna krithi in which he prays to Lord Rama to bless him with the opportunity to see the Lord. He goes to describe the Lord in detail, the way Lord Rama is perceived to be. It is a wonderful krithi and invokes a sense of pure bliss soaked in bhakti mingled with pathos. I had learned this krithi from my guru Sri Trivandrum Venkatraman sir. I had never remembered listening to that song before but to tell the truth, I fell in love with mayamalavagowla after learning that krithi. :-)

Other popular kritis in mayamalavagowla in carnatic music are, (I had said this before) dEvadEvakalayAmithe by Sri Swathi Thirunal, nAdAdi guruguhO by Sri Mudduswamy Dikshithar, both sung in praise of the Lord, and both with lyrics rooted in devotion.

This video is a jugalbandi by Dr M. Balamurlikrishna and Pandit Bhimsen Joshi in raga Bhairav. Its very nice and brings the similarities of the hindustani and carnatic versions of the raga.

In films as said before, this raga has been used extensively. Many of the songs invokes a sense of devotion or piety. But Ilayaraja sir successfully uses this raga to convey love. I still cannot fathom why but they all are amazing to say the least. Maybe that is why he is such a great music director!!

The following is me playing a small raga alaap of Mayamalavagowla. I have played with the pitch set to E. The background drone that is heard in the recording is that of a tanpura about which I will write about in the Indian Music Instrument section soon.

Mayamalavagowla Flute

Mayamalavagowla: Why is it taught as the basic raga in carnatic music classes?

From my early days, I have been associated with music and musicians. Of those, I have always been a big fan of Madurai GS Mani sir. I have had many opportunities to discuss little bit of music, little bit of astrology, cinema, poetry, Indian culture and still many other topics. The current info that I want to share here was also one that I learned in one of those discussions.

In carnatic music, raga alaap is something of immense importance and significance. This is because "scale" can never be a raga. The way the swaras are handled only defines a raga. This means that there can be two ragas with same swaras but they are differentiated by the way the swaras are handled. This is commonly referred to as the sruti. In carnatic music, the oscillations associated with a swara defines its character and subsequently the raga too. For example with the the pitch set to E, the Ga2 is G. This swara can be played in different ways for different ragas. I have played here the Ga2 for ragas

Hindolam ( Sa Ga2 Ma1 Da1 Ni2 Sa'....Sa' Ni2 Da1 Ma1 Ga2 Sa),  
Suddha DhanyAsi (Sa Ga2 Ma1 Pa Ni2 Sa'....Sa' Ni2 Pa Ma1 Ga2 Sa) and
Todi (Sa Ri1 Ga2 Ma1 Pa Da1 Ni2 Sa'....Sa' Ni2 Da1 Pa Ma1 Ga2 Ri1 Sa)


Shuddha DhanyAsi


I have played the Scale as flat swaras and then I have played  a very brief sketch of the raga as it is usually played. Then it is followed by the Ga2 as it is used in the raga for all the three ragas above.
So we can see that the characteristics of a raga depend on the way the interval between the swaras are bridged. I would write about this in detail in another post or in the website that I am developing for this blog you visit now there is nothing there though).

Ok coming back, we were talking on why Mayamalavagowla is taught as the basic raga. Mayamalavagowla  has the Ga3 which has actually minimum to no oscillation associated with it. The complimentary note for Ga3 is Ni3 (meaning the oscillation associated with Ga3 is similar to Ni3). For singers this is supposed to be difficult to master, these two notes. The raga ShankarAbharanam or KalyAni (the same scale as the former but with Ma2) also have Ga3 and Ni3 they are not complimentary. Also the interval length (measured in terms as distance between the swaras) is quite large and easy to grasp in case of Mayamalavagowla when kids start to learn. With this characteristic associated to the swaras in Mayamalavagowla  one can practice full throated singing which is essential in the early stages of learning to mould one's voice.

So these are the reasons why Mayamalavagowla is taught as basic lessons. The basic lesson structure was defined by the father of carnatic music, Purandara Dasa, a great composer and devotee of Lord Krishna.

Well, with that we come to the end of the first raga Mayamalavagowla (Bhairav in Hindustani music) in our quest to learn about Indian Music. The next raga in the series, I have not decided yet. But then, I will come up with a nice exciting raga and we will continue our journey. :-)

Go to next post.                                                           Go to previous post.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Learning about Indian Music : Raga Mayamalavagowla: Part-1

Well, in the previous post we had seen some basics about classical music and I had told we will start our discussions from the next post. So here we go. For the first raga, we will take up Mayamalavagowla  as it is called in South Indian Carnatic Music or an equivalent Bhairav as it is called in the North Indian Hindustani Music. This raga is the first taught in carnatic music classes. The swaras that comprise this raga are as follows.

Sa  Ri1  Ga3  Ma1  Pa  Da1 Ni3 Sa' in the Arohanam or the ascending scale and
Sa'  Ni3  Da1  Pa  Ma1  Ga3  Ri1  Sa in the Avarohanam or the descending scale.

You can try to play this here. With C for Sa, the swaras are

Sa    -  C
Ri1   -  C#
Ga3  -  E
Ma1  - F
Pa     - G
Da1   - G#
Ni3    - B
Sa'     - C

and it would have sounded like this


Here are a few videos in classical music and film songs based on this raga.

The first is by Pt. Bhimsen Joshi. He has sung with the sruthi being set to D, i.e. the Sa that he is singing is at D. It is only a mp3 in video format.

In carnatic music, there have been numerous compositions in Mayamalavagowla. Very famous among those are Meru samAna, Tulasi dala mulache both by Saint Thyagaraja, Deva deva kalayAmithe by Swathi Thirunal. Legend has it that Sri Mudduswamy Dikshithar composed his first song in this raga, the song is sri nAthAdhi guruguho on Lord Muruga after being blessed by the lord when he was in meditation.

The following is the rendition of Deva deva KalayAmithe by Smt M S Subbulakshmi. She has sung with G as Sa.

 In film music, mayamalavagowla  has been extensively used. Some of the very famous songs in tamil have been set in this raga. Solladi abhirAmi in the film AthiparAsakthi (first stanza) , Kallellam mAnikka from the film Alayamani are some that come to my mind from the olden days. Ilayaraja Sir has given some amazing numbers in this raga. The one I have given here is one of my favourites, madhura marikozhundhu vAsam from the movie enga ooru pAttukAran. Other songs like andhi varum neram from the movie Mundhanai Mudichu, Kaadhal kavithaigal padithidum neram from the movie Gopura Vasalile are evergreen melodies.

Appreciating Mayamalavagowla and its essential phrases.

Mayamalavagowla (or  equivalently Bhairav) is a very soulful raga. When played or sung with a perfect sruthi alignment, it sounds divine. (Well for that matter most ragas would sound divine when sung perfectly pitch aligned :-)

Go to Part-2

Go to next post.                                                           Go to previous post.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The First Steps In The Quest To Know About Indian Music

So, today we start our journey, a journey  in which I hope I will also learn to understand and appreciate Indian Music more.

Music as I had mentioned before is a collection of sounds and silences. But it is not as random as it seems. Sound is, as our friend wikipedia says, a mechanical wave that is an oscillation of pressure transmitted through a solid, liquid, or gas, composed of frequencies within the range of hearing and of a level sufficiently strong to be heard. So basically, sound is a frequency. Hence music is directly a collection of frequencies. (Silence is zero frequency!!:-)

In western music, people assigned names to particular frequencies. The frequency of 440Hz was chosen and named A. Why this frequency is beyond the scope of this blog, but more information is available in this, this and this page. Now, only 12 fixed frequencies (notes) were assigned names and they are
A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#.

A# is pronounced Yay-Sharp and likewise the others and they are called semitones. The mathematical relation between the notes and the frequencies and music is given in this page. Its a nice read!! :) These 12 notes repeat in both directions i.e lower and upper and are called octaves. So its like this

.....D . D# . E . F . F# . G . G# . A . A# . B . C . C# . D . D# . E . F . F# . G . G# .A . A# . B . C ......
 If the A is the 440Hz frequency, then the notes below are the lower octave notes while those beyond G# are the higher octaves.

Well, now after that head-reeling para, we will start with how notes are described in Indian music. Here too, we have the same 12 basic notes. you may think, "Hey, but we have always heard of the saptaswara!!!" OK! There are seven notes called swaras. They are

S  - pronounced as Sa
R  - pronounced as Ri
G  - pronounced as Ga
M - pronounced as Ma
P  - pronounced as Pa
D  - pronounced as Da
N  - pronounced as Ni

Just like the A, B, C, D, E, F, G!! Got it?? yup!! The rest five are the semitones :-D

But unlike the western music structure, the Indian music notes are floating!! Yea, music does makes you fly sometimes but this is not that floating!! One can understand this with the concept of the XY-axis plane. Well, without throwing more such jargons, in simple words I will try to explain that. :P

(If you take your computer screen and assign that the left bottom corner is the Origin, then we can identify every point on the screen as a distance travelled to the right and then above. This is basically me trying to expalin the XY plane. Please don't take offence.)

Anyway, in Indian Music, this origin has to be defined. Take one of the western music frequencies and assign it as origin and all the notes then get fixed according to that. So let us say we assign A to be Sa then we have

A - Sa
B - Ri
C - Ga
D - Ma
E - Pa
F - Da
G - Ni

Similar to the western notes, the Indian Music notes also have the higher and lower octaves. The thing to be noted is that the frequency assigned to Sa is not fixed to 440Hz. If C was assigned as Sa then the same table would look only a little different.

C - Sa
D - Ri
E - Ga
F - Ma
G - Pa
A - Da
B - Ni

Ok but what about the semitones?? Here the beauty of Indian Music starts. When Sa has been fixed, I had mentioned all the other notes are fixed. Well, always in Indian Music, for starters, we can have only 7 swaras defined. So somehow the semitones also have to be assigned with the same swaras. So how to do this?? Its done as follows. We assume that A is Sa.

A    A#     B       C      C#     D     D#     E    F      F#     G     G#
                            Ri3                                                          Da3 
Sa  Ri1   Ri2   Ga2   Ga3  Ma1 Ma2  Pa  Da1  Da2   Ni2    Ni3
                Ga1                                                          Ni1   

and we are done!!! :-P

So we see that there are more than one Ri, Ga, Ma, Da, Ni but Sa and Pa  are only one in number. The names of the different Ri Ga and so on, I feel are not essential for appreciating Indian Music. And so, we will have the same notation hence forth in all our discussions i.e with numbers as Ri1, Ga2 etc.

We also can see that Ri2 = Ga1; Ga2 = Ri3; Da2 = Ni1 and Ni2 = Da3. And these are not some mathematical equations :-P

So with A as Sa, when we play A B C D E F G A' where A' is the higher octave we have the following tune.


And when we play all the 12 notes finished with A', we have


We will quicken our pace a bit. A raga is a combination of the aforementioned swaras. In particular, the ABCDEFG.mp3 we had seen before is the A-Major scale, the raga ShankarAbharanam of the South Indian Classical Music.

A look above and one can see the huge number of possible combinations. Generally a raga is supposed to have atleast 5 swaras.

A raga has ascending and descending scales (called Arohanam and Avarohanam). Each direction can be comprised of atleast 5 or more swaras. For example, the raga Mohanam is

S R2 G3 P D2 S' in the ascending scale or arohanam
S' D2 P G3 R2 S in the descending scale or avarohanam

and when we play S R2 G3 P D2 S'....S' D2 P G3 R2 S, we hear the following tune.


Tala is the basic rhythm period. We will not go too much into the intricacies of Tala as it has a direct relation to Mathematics and I do not want you guys running away once such a discussion starts!! ;-) So the thing to remember about tala is that it is a rhythmic pattern on which a song is based. One can have a period of 3,4,5, (6 beats is similar to 3, and 8 to 4 and likewise). The periodicity generally is maintained throughout in a song. More intricacies about the tala if necessary would be discussed when necessary!!! :-D

In the subsequent posts, we will take up different Ragas one by one and compare the ways different composers both in classical and in semi-classical and film music have handled them. I hope if you have taken the pain to read till here, you would really like the posts that are coming!! So keep up your enthusiasm to know more about Indian Music.

Go to next post.                                                           Go to previous post.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My idea about Music and appreciating music

Following this entry, we will look through the basics of the language called music and in particular about Indian Music from subsequent posts. :-D

Music can be appreciated without knowing many intricacies at a very superficial level. Still, I have always believed that the appreciation of music, the ability to identify the similarity of two given tunes, distinguishing a good tune from a better one and many more can all be developed and that too exponentially when one starts to understand more and more about the foundations that make up music. Like other languages, Music too has its grammar but unlike them, you need not be very strong in the grammar to appreciate and understand music. This though is my personal belief and I am yet to be proved wrong. I have many friends who have not been musically trained but can identify when a singer misses his/her pitch and in some cases also give ideas as to how a tune could progress to make it sound better. Such ability is developed by associating oneself regularly with music. Listening is the first lesson that any musician must learn.

OK! After that rather weird intro(?) we will dive right in from the next post!! So you want to know about Indian Music?? This is the blog for you!! ;D

Go to next post.                                                           Go to previous post.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

About Indian Music

This blog is to cater to those who want to know more about Indian Music; especially the classical genre.

What is Music?

Music, as defined in our wikipedia, is an art form based on sound and silence. There is music in everything; from a baby wailing to the sound of rain drops, from a train whistle to the divine sound of a flute. In sound as well as in the silence that lies in between... There are various genres of music, and understanding every form well enough to appreciate is, though not impossible, a trifle overwhelming.( ;) ) 

Here in this blog, an attempt is made to analyze the basic Indian music forms. The blog is intended for people with zero or a very basic understanding of music to be able to identify the significance of and learn how to appreciate Indian music.

What are the forms of Indian Music? 
Indian Music boasts of a huge gamut of styles and genres. Folk, Classical, Improvisational, Devotional, Popular, Cinema... and the lists goes on. Trying to analyze each style individually might take years, and probably would be worth many PhDs (!) and therefore, is not the idea of this blog.

We'll look at popular songs, composers, compositions and analyze their musical structure, the relevance and interdependence of one style with another. We'll (attempt to) bring out the intricacies that lie within the simplicity of Indian music, and its links to the western music world.

Go to next post