Carnatic Music:

pronunciation: CUR-naah-tick. The art music of the four southern provinces of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. This music was formalised gradually over the last four hundred years or so, during which period many south Indian musicologists went to north India and studied with north Indian masters, thereafter returning to south India and successively modifying the existing music. This explains why there is no Dhrupad in south Indian music, as also why many Raga names in Carnatic music bear the Sanskrit names mentioned in north Indian Texts like Sangita Ratnakara (a 13th century text written by the Kashmiri musicologist Sharngadeva who, fleeing Muslim onslaught, settled in central India.)

The following comparative table juxtaposing the features of the two systems of art music (Hindustani and Carnatic) in India may be of interest to the gentle reader:-

Hindustani and Carnatic systems
Hindustani (North Indian) Music

- Continuity back to Vedic times (6,000 BC)

- Codified in a large number of ancient and medieval music treatises

- Developed independently of folk music, albeit occasionally importing folk or regional elements, metamorphosing them suitably

- Raga based music, hence almost entirely (99%) improvised

- Capable of intense expression in very slow speeds

- Vast range of ornaments, particularly during slow passages. Subtle use of microtones in slow passages

- Steady, long-held notes, mostly approached and/or quitted by ornaments or little ornamental phrases

- Gradual building up of tempo from very slow to very fast

- Convention of time and season

- Clear enunciation of rhythmic cycle by percussion accompanist (in dominant present day forms like Khayal, Sadra, Thumri, Bhajan etc.)

- True to Hindu traditions: so-called “Persian influences” fully integrated within its essential and ancient grammatical format developed by Hindu scholars known as Gandharvas.

There was an attempt at Islamisation when Amir Khusrau (12/13 century AC) forcibly imported some Persian rules. However, these Islamic influences were purged and the music firmly brought back to its Hindu roots by the great musician-musicologist Tansen (16 century AC). The one major change brought about by Amir Khusrau that remains today is the fixing of the tonic and the dominant (Sa and Pa) without assigning sharp or flat variations to them, the provision of flattened versions alone for the supertonic, mediant, submediant and leading notes (Re, Ga, Dha and Ni) and the provision of a sharpened version alone to the subdominant (Ma).

The great Muslim musicians - from Sultan Hussain Sharki, Wajid Ali Shah, Haddu Khan, Hassu Khan, Bade Gulam Ali Khan, Abdul Karim Khan, Alladia Khan, Amir Khan, Nissar Hussain Khan, etc. down to present day exponents - had/have their own unique style of performance known to and recognised by the qualified listener as the Muslim style (as opposed to the Hindu style), but the music in all essential respects strictly adheres to the grammatical tradition codified by the Gandharvas.

The "Muslim style" of performance came into being because the early Muslim musicians in India could not learn formally from Hindu scholars and so they (the Muslim musicians) imbibed the music by careful listening and analysing it as best as they could. Also, unlike Hindu musicians for whom the introspective and spiritual element of the music was paramount, Muslims musicians performed primarily to please their patron and receive material rewards: so they concentrated more on the virtuositic and entertaining elements in the music.
Carnatic (South Indian) Music

- Of more recent origin

- Codified in many texts written by musicologists, the influential ones among whom studied in North India and thereafter returned to South India to fashion Carnatic music out of the prevalent regional musical forms to be found in South India. In fact, many south Indian Ragas are rooted in north Indian ragas, such as "Baggisvari" (from Bageshri), "Begada" (from Bihagada) and many more.

- Composition based music, hence very little improvisation, which usually occurs only in the Alapana and in the Kalpana Svaras towards the end. The main composition ("Kriti") or Varnam or Pallavi is fixed.

- A fairly quick tempo from the start, so lacks the intensity, introspection, microtones and several ornaments found in Hindustani music

- Notes are not held for long and are mostly quitted by a characteristic oscillation using indeterminate pitch

- Constant and fairly fast tempo throughout

- No convention of time or season

- Percussion accompanist does not enunciate rhythmic cycle clearly, so a second percussionist and/or a timekeeper showing and/or clapping out beats (in which the audience joins) is necessary. Often, there is a main percussionist (Mridangam), a side percussionist (Ghatam or Jew's Harp) and a timekeeper in addition.

- Contrary to advocated argument, has Muslim influences: witness Raga names like "Hejjujji" etc. In fact, the southern part of India, called Deccan (from the Sanskrit word "Dakshina" meaning south), was Islamised many centuries ago. Even before the first influence of Islam across land in north India (the Arab invasion of Sindh occurred in 712 AC), there was a steady trade route across the Arabian sea from Arabia to the western coast of south India. The first village in the whole of India to convert to Islam was Kangalore, near Mangalore, in south India. Hyderabad and its sister city Secundrabad, in south India, were great Islamic centres from medieval times. There were many more such centres, all having a strong influence on south Indian culture.