Carnatic Classical Music goes contemporary.
An introduction to Carnatic Classical Music with Chandana Bala.
The popular notion is that The True School of Music is primarily a western music school, which is a completely justified assumption given the nature of the courses offered at the school. However, the key message that TSM includes in its communication is that it is a contemporary music school. This word, ‘contemporary’ makes all the difference and needs to be understood a little deeper. Why does TSM call itself a comprehensive institute for contemporary music? Well, contemporary signifies all things progressive; it allows for the inclusion of a vast array of ideas and influences from across the globe and integration of these into the older, more classical traditions. Being contemporary means merging the past with the present as well as going beyond stereotypes and typecasts. This is why though The True School of Music is primarily a western music education institute, teaching students western classical traditions, it has included Hindustani classical traditions of rhythm and raags as modules too. This helps inculcate a more holistic approach to music and its understanding, creation and renditions.
It is with this contemporary focus in mind that TSM will be integrating Carnatic Classical music into its curriculum. On the 5th of June 2014, TSM welcomed Chandana Bala, a powerful and virtuosic carnatic classical singer, to touch upon the various aspects of this very unique genre native to South India. Chandana began to demonstrate the various aspects of this genre by singing backed by a tanpura. Not only did she exhibit astounding singing prowess, she was jumping time signatures with such litheness that many attendees were left bewildered as they were trying to keep count.
After this the master class moved on to Chandana addressing the attendees and breaking down the basic concepts of Carnatic music. She explained that all Carnatic raagas were created with a certain order of notes to evoke specific emotions and hence the structure of notes and following the rules of raagas is a very important aspect of Carnatic music. She then went on to further elaborate on the structure of Caranatic compositions for the concert format, most of which were written in the 15th and 16th centuries. Each piece has a head followed by a small verse and then the main 4-line verse and these compositions are called Kritis. Similar to jazz standards these Kritis were meant to be sung in the way that they were written keeping in the mind the rules of the raga. That being said, there is a certain freedom with which musicians can render these compositions too. She then moved on to the lyrical aspect of these compositions explaining that most of them revolve around deities or devotion; the source of inspiration is very spiritual.
Chandana then went on to present the students with some Carnatic vocal exercises. These exercises, she explained, increase fluidity in vocal expression and can really be integrated into any repertoire that a musician is delivering. The principles of Carnatic music transcend genre and can be applied across the music spectrum. The Raaga system was devised by a muni called Venkatamakhi and she went on to explain the foundation of his principles and demonstrate his technique, passed on from generation to generation. This was followed by a Q&A session where Chandana further clarified the concepts of Carnatic music. Judging from the attendees’ positive feedback, The True School of Music is truly evolving with the inclusion of this very important form of raag and rhythm in its curriculum.