Classical Indian Music in Two Traditions

On 7 March the School welcomed sitarist Chirag Katti to the Smith Theater stage. Joined by a percussionist on the tabla, he performed Hindustani music of the North Indian tradition. [See photos here] One of the most promising young sitarists in the field of Indian classical music, Chirag learned the sitar from his father, earned his diploma from Mumbai University, and is a graded artist of All India Radio. He lives in Mumbai but has performed all over the world, collaborated with Bollywood artists, and recorded movie soundtracks and commercials.
 
The morning complemented a February Hall in which Aditya Mahadevan I, Siva Emani II, and Hari Narayanan V gave an overview and performance of music of the South Indian classical tradition known as Carnatic music. [See photos here] Both forms of music originated from intonated chants of Hindu scriptures but the North Indian style was more affected by Arab influence. Carnatic music is similar in organizational style but different in tone. Siva explains:
 
“Although Carnatic music is slightly more structured, it basically follows the same organizational pattern. A refrain line of music will be introduced and then embellished and then others will be introduced and embellished, yet always returning to the refrain as home base. “
 
The students organized themselves back in August and petitioned Director of Music Rob Opdycke for the mid-winter presentation—Aditya on mridangam (drums), Hari on vocals, and Siva on viola. Siva continues:
 
“Much of the artistic aspect of Carnatic music is based upon improvisation with the singer or instrumentalist extemporizing with patterns of notes that fit the rhythmic cycle and raga (scale), as in Jazz music. The ‘conversation’ between the instrumentalist and the percussionist, in which the percussionist repeats what the instrumentalist has played, is characteristic of Carnatic music and is called Jugalbandhi. The noticeable difference between the two styles of music lies mostly in the ragas they utilize. Hindustani music has a touch of western influence, combining major and minor modes to form variegated fusion-like tones. Carnatic music tends to be much more polar; some songs are upbeat and others are somber. Also the music is characterized by much more intense embellishment of notes called gamakam.”
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