Monday, October 20, 2008

Identifying Swaras in a Raga-Part 1

This post is in response to a query that I got a few days back:

"What's the way to identify the swaras that form the backbone of a song?Have been told to get a fix of Sa,Pa and move relative to that. But find it tough when I listen to different singers."

Yes, the first step would be to fix Sa and Pa and proceed with this as the basis. One needs to first get a grasp of the positions of the different varieties of the Swaras,namely,Ri,Ga,Ma,Dha and Ni- how these different varieties are sequentially arranged on the octave, as one proceeds in the ascending order from Sa in the lower octave to the Sa in the upper octave, and vice versa, as one proceeds in the descending order from the Sa in the upper octave to the Sa in the lower octave.

One could get an idea of the same with the help of an instrument like the keyboard, or a fretted one like the Veena. Students of violin may also find this easier, beacuse they are taught about the fingering techniques at each of these swara positions.

After getting an idea about the placements of the different varieties of the Swaras, like the Sudhdha Rishabham-Chatusruthi Rishabham, Sadharana Gandharam-Antara Gandharam, Sudhdha Madhyamam-Prati Madhyamam and so on, relative to the Adhara Shadjam Sa and Panchamam Pa, the next step would be to know about the Ragas which arise from different permutations and combinations of these fundamental Swaras.

The basic Abhyasa Gana (learning and practise lessons)in our system of Music helps in one's attempt of getting familiarized with different Ragas. The Gitams, swarajatis, Jatiswarams have been composed in several fundamental ragas, easy for beginners to learn and get acquainted with the Raga scales.

The next possible step would be to get acquainted with the 72-Melakartha Raga System, the way these 72 Ragas have been beautifully and meaningfully divided into 12 Chakras with 6 Ragas each.Melakartha Ragas are also known as Sampurna Ragas meaning those which have all the seven basic notes. If one studies in detail as to how these ragas within a Chakra vary with respect to its swaras, identifying a Melakartha Raga with respect to its inherent Swaras becomes an easy task. For instance, with repeated listening to(or singing, or playing on an instrument) the notes of Ragas within a particular Chakra, one can start identifying the differences between Raga Charukesi and Raga Sarasangi(both belong to the 5th Chakra), or the difference between notes of Kalyani and Lathangi (both belong to the 11th Chakra).

The above was with respect to Parent or Sampurna Ragas. When we consider Janya or derived Ragas, we will have to first try and identify the varieties of the seven swaras present in the Raga (again relative to Sa and Pa) and trace it backwards to see which parent Raga it would belong to. For instance, if one were to listen to Sriranjani, it might first sound like the parent Raga Kharaharapriya. But on listening intently, a few Swarams will be missing, in comparison with the parent Melakartha Karaharapriya. So, a new Raga is now learnt, which sounds like Kharaharapriya, but which is not actually Kharaharapriya.

This is how,by repeated listening, one's repertoire of knowing different Raga names gradually improves and thus learning to identify the inherent Swaras in a song/Raga becomes more easy. Subsequently, mapping the swara varieties to the different Ragas also becomes easier.

I shall soon expand on this topic and write further.


Sathej said...

Succinctly written. A problem often encountered and difficult to explain it out in words. Sarasangi and Charukesi was a problem for me for quite some time and listening to Lalgudi Mama's Ada Modi and TNS' Manaviche helped quite a bit. Listening helps a lot indeed.

Padma said...

I completely agree with you and the problems faced by beginers to identify a raga...I think the best way is to listen to it repeatedly and get hold of it...And as you pointed our instrumentalist get it easier..

I will try and attend your concert and thanks for informing before hand :)

preeya said...

Hi Gayathri,

thanks for sharing so much info. on carnatic music. i love Carnatic Music and can identify some raagas. but how the raagas have to be identified and how the songs can be enjoyed more with technical knowledge is what i learnt from your posts. thanks. hope to read more such informative and intellectual posts. all the best.


Manikandan said...

Dear Mam,
I landed up in to your blog while i was searching on some help for identifying swaras of any song.
very nice to read your writing.

i m learning vocal(beginner) at age 30 :-).I want to identify the swaras for songs.

for example i took "Aadi kondaar antha vedikai kaanaa" rendered by
sudha ragunathan (available in musicindiaonline)

I ll tell my approach.Could you please correct me and guide me.

Phrase taken "Aadi kondaar"
i could separate in to 4 swaras
1.Aa 2.di 3.kon 4.daar

then i try to sing like
Aaaaaa....diiii......konnnn..... daaaar..
just to spend more time on a swara for identification

hope i m correct in this step
Aa to me looks like upper sa
di --ni3
kon -- da
daar --pa
Aadikondar is sung like
Sa ni3 da pa
If you have time kindly help me in this.Thank you very much


Gayathri Girish said...

Hi Manikandan,

Way to go :-)

Nice to see your efforts in trying to decipher the words into swaras.What you have done so far is right.

Please let me know if you need any help during your attempt.