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Introduction to Carnatic Music

Carnatic Music or Karnatik Music is one of two styles of Indian classical music, the other being Hindusthani Music. The origin of Indian music can be traced back to the Vedas (a large body of text originating in ancient India), particularly the Sama Veda. The Sama Veda consists of hymns set to musical tunes; these musical tunes initially had 3 musical notes or swaras and then later included 7 swaras. Until the 12th century A.D., only one form of music prevailed all through India. With the establishment of the Islamic Sultanates in Delhi, musical practice in North India came under the influence of Persian and Arabic cultures and this became known as Hindusthani (Uttaradi) music. In southern India, the original music was preserved and handed down to the current generation and is known as Carnatic (Dakshinadi) music.

Carnatic music is primarily vocal based i.e. it is meant to be sung. Like other forms of classical music, Carnatic music has a strict grammar that a performer must adhere to, while still offering immense scope to showcase individual creativity. A Carnatic music concert is a well balanced presentation between preset compositions and spontaneous improvisation. Carnatic music compositions are mainly in South Indian languages and predominantly devotional in content.

To read more about Carnatic music, here is a series of columns: Carnatic Music Columns

Listen to a sample of Carnatic music: