News & Notes

Karnataka Sangita Vahini of Prof R Sathyanarayana, a study

Scholar Aarti Rao’s lecture on Karnataka Sangita Vahini written by Prof  R. Sathyanarayana, also known as “RaSa”, was something I found very intriguing. Karnataka Sangita Vahini, discusses the development and changes in Carnatic music, a classical tradition rooted in Southern India, with a profound history spanning centuries. R. Sathyanarayana, a distinguished senior music and dance scholar, has played a pivotal role in unraveling the nuances of Carnatic music. In his acclaimed work, Karnataka Sangita Vahini, he  shares immense knowledge and insights into the evolution of melodic structures, the dynamics of veena tuning, the significance of talas, and the changing landscape of Carnatic music education. 

Evolution of melodic structures

Sathyanarayana sheds light on the historical development of melodic structures in Carnatic music. He notes that the current use of Venkatamahi's swara system, where melas are groups of raga named after the most prominent raga in each group. However, Sathyanarayana highlights a shift in approach post-Ramamatya and Vidhyaranya, where melas were artificially calculated, marking a departure from the earlier mela system.

Veena tuning and fretting

The scholar delves into the tuning and fretting of the veena, highlighting the contributions of historical figures such as Ramamatya sand Pandarika Vitala. He notes that the old veena tuning mirrored the current sitar tuning system. Particularly intriguing is the distinction between akhilaraga mela veena and ekaraga mela veena, where fixed frets in the former allow for easy transitions between ragas, while the latter requires adjusting the frets to change raga.

Talams and Melodies for Different Situations

Sathyanarayana underscores the significance of talas, highlighting the existence of marga and desika talas in early Carnatic music. He also explores the diversity of melodies, emphasising that different situations call for distinct musical expressions.

Gamakams and Sahityam

The scholar draws parallels between gamakas and elements of nature, emphasising their emotive power in Carnatic music. Sathyanarayana also reflects on the changing dynamics of sahityam, urging musicians to enhance their storytelling abilities. He notes that while Carnatic musicians need to learn sahityam from gamakas, the latter should possess a deeper understanding of Carnatic music.

Music therapy and the unexplored potential

Sathyanarayana's discourse extends beyond the technical aspects of Carnatic music and focuses on its therapeutic potential. He acknowledges the long-standing global recognition of music therapy as a tool for healing mental issues and stresses that the full potential of music, in general, is yet to be explored.

The lecture was a great session that provided a fresh perspective on Carnatic music. Prof R. Sathyanarayana's profound insights serve as a bridge between tradition and evolution, inspiring musicians to preserve the essence of Carnatic music while embracing its potential for innovation and healing.


Saarang Anand