23 March 2005

What to listen to?

A comment in the previous post asked can "you recommend a good starting point [in Carnatic music] for someone who listens mainly to Western folk/rock styles?"

My initial answer would be .. whatever you seem to like. I initially found intrumental music more appealling. Probably because it may take a little while to get over the language barrier. Within the instrumental arena, the Western instruments like saxophone (Kadri Gopalnath) and mandolin (U. Shrinivas) are a good start. Then you can move on to other instruments like violin (MS Gopalakrishnan, Ganesh Kumaresh, TN Krishnan, Lalgudi Jayaraman) and flute (Ramani, Sikkil Sisters).

It is important to check and see what raga you are listening to and what the song is called. After a while when you listen to another recording you will recognise that it sounds familiar - that is it is probably in the same raga as you have heard before. Most people would associate a raga with a particular song first So you are listening to something and you keep thinking this sounds like say "Nagumomu" - when you link it back to the raga, you realise it is in fact the raga Abheri. If you listened to music subconciously as a kid, then it is most likely that some of the songs that your parents used to play often will be remembered.

In terms of vocal music, again you should listen to what ever you can tolerate and like. In the early stages it will probably be based purely on the voice. That is for instance why Dr. K. Yesudas is so popular - he has a captivating voice. Anything is fine and as you listen to more and more you will probably find you enjoy more and more styles, voices, etc.

I think I initially started listening to people like MS Subbulakshmi, Chitti Babu and Yesudas (because that is mainly what we had at home). There is a Beginner's Listening List on Todd McComb's web site. He also has an article there on why he, an American, is attracted to Carnatic music.

For the more technical aspect, its probably easier if you can find someone to explain the basics to you practically but the plethora of information available on the net can be useful. The first few articles listed here will be of use.

Would be interested to hear what others would recommend.