Monday, 10 September 2012

Pocket guidebook to Carnatic music

Song types: Geetam

Varaveena (in the raga Mohanam) and Sree Gananatha (in the raga Malahari) are among the most common songs young students of Carnatic music are asked to sing before their first audiences of friends and relatives, often as a chorus in the classroom.

They are both geetams, songs in one of the simpler forms in the system. Both are set in the Rupaka tala.  Unlike more complex forms of songs in Carnatic music, geetams are generally not divided into distinct sections like pallavi, anupallavi or charanam. Similar to most forms of songs in Carnatic music, geetams are in praise of God.

Geetams are sung in a succession of flat notes, i.e., they are characterised by a lack of sangatis. Each syllable of the song simply represents a distinct swara or note. The song is sung in a series of stanzas, with each stanza containing lines identical in tune to the other stanzas, but with the words changing from stanza to stanza. The song is first sung in solfa notes before the lyrics are sung. For example, ma pa (SREE-EE) dha (GA) sa (NA)  sa (NAA) ri (THA) ri (SIN) sa (DHOO) dha (OO) pa (RA) ma (VAR) pa (NA), where the swaras are in lower case and words are in upper case.

In brief, a geetam is a simple melody, with an unvarying tempo, and no ornamentation or sangatis, learnt by students soon after they have completed the basic lessons of sarali and other varisais.

The creation of the geetam as a form of music has been attributed to Purandara Dasa, widely regarded as the father of Carnatic music.

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