Back to Basics – Abhyasagaanam – Part 1

In the second episode of our podcast we take you back to the basics of Carnatic music where we talk about the primary exercises – Sarali and Janta varisaigal, Dhaatu swaras, Alankaras and Geetams. Why are these exercises so crucial?

Sarali varisaigal are sequential swara patterns sung in Ragam Mayamalavagowla. They help students get a good grip of shruthi or pitch, talam or rhythm and a good foundation of the different notes. Janta varisaigal are patterns of two notes while the Dhaatu swaras are zigzag patterns that give students greater control over the notes. Later when students attempt kalpana swaras using their imagination, these initial exercises come in handy. So even if you’re grumbling and moaning while your teacher is relentless in making you practise these exercises, you’ll certainly thank her later! Students of Hindustani music learn these swara patterns in raag Bilawal, which corresponds to raga Shakarabaranam in the Carnatic scale.

Beginning with sarali varisaigal, students learn to sing 14 different patterns in three different speeds. Once they master sarali, they move on to the janta. My teacher often asked me to practise singing the same sarali and janta varisagal in different ragas (sampoorna ragas which had all seven notes) to break the monotony! Practising the dhaatu varisaigal, whether as a vocal or an instrumental exercise, helps students get a firm grip on the placing of the notes at any point. The melstayi and mantra stayi patterns exercises the vocal chords in higher and lower octaves.

Alankaras, the next stage in abhyasagaanam introduces students to the tala scheme of Carnatic music. There are 7 different tala families in the system, each tala having 5 varieties, thereby allowing 35 possible talas in the system. The three kinds of beats in a tala are anudhritam (one beat), dhrutham (two beats) and laghu (3/4/5/7/9 beats).

Geetams and Swarajathis are the next stepping stones on the path of learning Carnatic music. Geethams are basic songs with simple swara patterns and lyrics. I remember the day I Iearnt my first geetam, Shri Gananadha in ragam Malahari. Finally after several weeks of hearing me sing swaras, swaras and more swaras my teacher got tired of seeing my mournful face in class. When he began teaching the song – one which had lyrics I felt I had stepped into the big league-:)There was a renewed surge of energy in my music classes as I waded my way through the geethams, each captivating me with a magic of its own. As you listen to the podcast, please remember to comment on the blog (the good, the bad and the ugly). Happy listening!

In case you missed our first podcast on Gamakas, you can catch it here

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2 responses to “Back to Basics – Abhyasagaanam – Part 1

  1. Dear Chitra/Ashok, Excellent work! Appreciated the discussion on Lakshana Geethams. Could you please sing for us some random samples of Sarali, Janti, Dhatu and Alankarams in other ragas too? For more advanced students of music, it would be interesting to hear how a musician incorporates an Alankaram or Dhatu swara pattern in a kalpana swaram rendition.

    Like

  2. Dear Chitra/Ashok, Excellent work! Appreciated the discussion on Lakshana Geethams. Could you please sing for us some random samples of Sarali, Janti, Dhatu and Alankarams in other ragas too? For more advanced students of music, it would be interesting to hear how a musician incorporates an Alankaram or Dhatu swara pattern in a kalpana swaram rendition.

    Like

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