Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

328/365 – Yazh

Yazh is a direct ancestor of modern day Veena or Lute. It was named so, because the tip of stem of this instrument was carved into the head of the animal Yali.

The yazh was an open-stringed polyphonous instrument, with a wooden boat-shaped skin-covered resonator and an ebony stem.

The gut strings are called as Narambu in Tamil. Thiruvalluvar, the celebrated Tamil poet from 200 BC, mentions Yazh in his work Thirukkural.

Many major Tamil classical literary masterpieces written during Sangam period dating back 200 BC have mentioned Yazh. Silappatikaram written by a Jain monk Ilango Adigal mentions four kinds of yazhs.

Periyazh with 21 strings

Makarayazh with 19 strings

Cakotayazh with 14 strings

Cenkottiyazh with 7 strings

Other types of Yazh’s are

Mayil Yazh – resembling peacock

Vil Yazh – resembling Bow

Yazh is a Tamil word. But the Vedas dating back some 1500 BC mention it as Vana in Rigveda and Atharvaveda, from which the modern Veena originated is said to have hundred strings, and is also called as Shatatantri veena or the hundred stringed lute.

The Tamil literature Perumpāṇāṟṟuppaṭai says the strings of a yazh should not have any twists in them. Silappatikaram mentions four types of defects in yazh.

Other Tamil literature which have mentions on yazh are Seevaga Sindhamani and Periya Puranam. Yazh is seen in sculptures in the Darasuram and Thirumayam temples in Tamil Nadu and also in Amaravati, Andhra Pradesh.

Swami Vipulananda has written a book of scientific research (Stringed Musical Instruments) in Tamil called the Yal Nool.

Thiruvalluvar had mentioned about the instrument, in one of his hymns as

Kuzhal Inidhu Yazh Inidhu Enbar Thammakkal

Mazhalai Sol Keladavar


Categories: General Knowledge, Music

168/365 – Carnatic Music

February 14, 2012 2 comments

Carnatic music is a system of music commonly associated with the southern part of the Indian subcontinent, with its area roughly confined to four modern states of India: Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu.

It is one of two main sub-genres of Indian classical music that evolved from ancient Hindu traditions; the other sub-genre being Hindustani music, which emerged as a distinct form because of Persian and Islamic influences in North India.

In contrast to Hindustani music, the main emphasis in Carnatic music is on vocal music; most compositions are written to be sung, and even when played on instruments, they are meant to be performed in gāyaki (singing) style.

Temple music in different forms of Kerala as early as 7th CE, well structured 12 CE Vachana form of music of Karnataka which is currently adopted for both Carnatic and Hindustani music styles, preliminary kiirtana style compositions by Annamacharya of Andhra and ancient music of Tamilnadu including folk-music served as a background for today’s Karnataka music founded by Purandaradasa in late 14th CE.

Although there are stylistic differences, the basic elements of śruti (the relative musical pitch), swara (the musical sound of a single note), rāga (the mode or melodic formulæ), and tala (the rhythmic cycles) form the foundation of improvisation and composition in both Carnatic and Hindustani music.

Although improvisation plays an important role, Carnatic music is mainly sung through compositions, especially the kriti (or kirtanam), a form developed between the 14th and 20th centuries by composers such as Purandara Dasa and the Trinity of Carnatic music.

Carnatic music is usually performed by a small ensemble of musicians, consisting of a principal performer (usually a vocalist), a melodic accompaniment (usually a violin), a rhythm accompaniment (usually a mridangam), and a tambura, which acts as a drone throughout the performance.

The Carnatic music festival season during the month of December–January in Chennai is a world famous cultural event, and over the years it is also taking place in many other south Indian cities such as Bengaluru, and Thiruvananthapuram.

The Carnatic music in its present form survived through a considerable amount of changes, influences over the years right from ancient times and alongside it is significant enough to highlight that Carnatic music existence has a major contribution from the ancient form of classical Tamil music.

Among all Indian languages Sanskrit has played the major role in the development of South Indian Classical music since vedic times. The first known sanskrit language Karnataka Music composition in today’s format was by the founder Purandara Daasa.


Categories: General Knowledge, Music

122/365 – Mridangam

December 30, 2011 Leave a comment

The mridangam is a percussion instrument from India of ancient origin. It is the primary rhythmic accompaniment in a Carnatic music ensemble.

The mridangam is also played in Carnatic concerts in countries outside of India, including Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States. During a percussion ensemble, the mridangam is often accompanied by the ghatam, kanjira, and the morsing.


In ancient Hindu sculpture, painting, and mythology, the mridangam is often depicted as the instrument of choice for a number of deities including Ganesha and Nandi. Nandi is said to have played the mridangam during Shiva’s arcane Tandava dance, causing a divine rhythm to resound across the heavens. The miruthangam is thus also known as “Deva Vaadyam,” or “Instrument of the Gods.”

The word “mridangam” is derived from the two Sanskrit words mŗda (clay or earth) and anga (body). Early mridangams were indeed made of hardened clay. Over the years, the mridangam evolved to be made of different kinds of wood due to its increased durability, and today, its body is constructed from wood of the jackfruit tree.

Modern usage

Today the mridangam is most widely used in Carnatic music performances. These performances take place all over Southern India and are now popular all over the world.

Significant players of the mridangam in modern times are Late Palghat Mani Iyer, Late Palghat Raghu, Dr.T.K.Murthy, Umayalapuram K. Sivaraman, Vellore Ramabhadran, Trichy Sankaran,T.S.Nandakumar, Karaikudi Mani,Madurai.T.Srinivasan(Seenakutti),Yella Venkateswara Rao, Srimushnam Raja Rao, Tiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam who have been playing and advancing the technique since decades.

Palghat Mani Iyer – Mridangam


Categories: General Knowledge, Music

86/365 – Flute

November 24, 2011 Leave a comment

The flute is a musical instrument of the woodwind family. Unlike woodwind instruments with reeds, a flute is an aerophone or reedless wind instrument that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening. According to the instrument classification of Hornbostel-Sachs, flutes are categorized as edge-blown aerophones.



A musician who plays the flute can be referred to as a flute player, a flautist, a flutist, or less commonly a fluter.

Aside from the voice, flutes are the earliest known musical instruments. A number of flutes dating to about 40,000 to 35,000 years ago have been found in the Swabian Alb region of Germany. These flutes demonstrate that a developed musical tradition existed from the earliest period of modern human presence in Europe.

The oldest flute ever discovered may be a fragment of the femur of a juvenile cave bear, with two to four holes, found at Divje Babe in Slovenia and dated to about 43,000 years ago. However, this has been disputed. In 2008 another flute dated back to at least 35,000 years ago was discovered in Hohle Fels cave near Ulm, Germany. The five-holed flute has a V-shaped mouthpiece and is made from a vulture wing bone. The researchers involved in the discovery officially published their findings in the journal Nature, in August 2009. The discovery is also the oldest confirmed find of any musical instrument in history.

The flute, one of several found, was found in the Hohle Fels cavern next to the Venus of Hohle Fels and a short distance from the oldest known human carving On announcing the discovery, scientists suggested that the “finds demonstrate the presence of a well-established musical tradition at the time when modern humans colonized Europe”. Scientists have also suggested that the discovery of the flute may help to explain “the probable behavioural and cognitive gulf between” Neanderthals and early modern human.

A three-holed flute, 18.7 cm long, made from a mammoth tusk (from the Geißenklösterle cave, near Ulm, in the southern German Swabian Alb and dated to 30,000 to 37,000 years ago) was discovered in 2004, and two flutes made from swan bones excavated a decade earlier (from the same cave in Germany, dated to circa 36,000 years ago) are among the oldest known musical instruments.

Categories of flute
– The Western concert flutes
– The Indian bamboo flute
– The Chinese flute
– The Japanese flute


Categories: General Knowledge, Music

54/365 – Guitar

October 23, 2011 Leave a comment

The guitar is a plucked string instrument, usually played with fingers or a pick. The guitar consists of a body with a rigid neck to which the strings, generally six in number, are attached. Guitars are traditionally constructed of various woods and strung with animal gut or, more recently, with either nylon or steel strings. Some modern guitars are made of polycarbonate materials. Guitars are made and repaired by luthiers. There are two primary families of guitars: acoustic and electric.

Acoustic guitars with hollow bodies have been in use for over a thousand years. There are three main types of modern acoustic guitar: the classical guitar, the steel-string acoustic guitar, and the archtop guitar. The tone of an acoustic guitar is produced by the vibration of the strings, which is amplified by the body of the guitar, which acts as a resonating chamber. The classical guitar is often played as a solo instrument using a comprehensive fingerpicking technique.

Electric guitars, introduced in the 1930s, rely on an amplifier that can electronically manipulate tone. Early amplified guitars employed a hollow body, but a solid body was found more suitable. Electric guitars have had a continuing profound influence on popular culture. Guitars are recognized as a primary instrument in genres such as blues, bluegrass, country, flamenco, jazz, jota, mariachi, metal, reggae, rock, soul, and many forms of pop.

Acoustic guitars
– Renaissance and Baroque guitars
– Classical guitars
– Extended-range classical guitars
– Flamenco guitars
– Flat-top (steel-string) guitars
– Archtop guitars
– Selmer-Maccaferri guitars
– Resonator, resophonic or Dobro guitars
– Twelve-string guitars
– Russian guitars
– Acoustic bass guitars
– Guitarrón
– Tenor guitars
– Harp guitars
– Extended-range guitars
– Guitar battente
Electric guitars

Famous Guitarists
Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Yngwie Malmsteen, Eric Clapton, Joe Satriani, Kirk Hammett and Keith Richards and So on.


Categories: General Knowledge, Music

32/365 – Veenai

October 1, 2011 2 comments

Veenai is a popular Carnatic music instrument that is said to be many centuries old. Western music scholars believe that the instrument has many characteristics that belong to European style lute. The Veenai has many discrepancies in sound and shape it has been customized and improvised over the decades to create a unique style from the lute.

This 1.5 meter long instrument has two drones on both the side to give it an even balance and is connected with four different strings along with frets that give different harmonics than any other music device. Veenai being an age old musical instrument holds religious importance and also symbolizes ancient culture and heritage in southern India.

History of Instrument

The history of Veenai dates back to the Vedic period which is about 1500BCE. The legend states that it all began when a hunter first discovered a different sound from his bow when it began to vibrate. The curious hunter tried various grass roots and animal fiber to create music, which in turn gave birth to the formation of Veena.

Once the basic structure of the Veenai was formed, further changes took place to bring about a distinctive sound. In the olden days this instrument had very few frets but today the Sarswathi Veenai is said to have 24 frets on it. Besides this, the instrument also has religious association, as it has been described in many sacred texts that as goddess Sarawati playing this instrument. She is also represented as the Goddess of Knowledge.

– Saraswati Veena
– Rudra Veena
– Vichitra Veena

Kolkata craftsmen have been well known for creating the best Saraswati Veenai and Thanjavur artisans are famous for producing some of the finest Rudra Veenai and Vichitra Veenai in the world.

There are many modern day versions to it such as Ranjan Veenai and Mohan Veena. While the former looks similar to the sitar, the latter has a close resemblance to the guitar.

Famous Veenai Players
Veenai Ranganayaki Rajagopalan, Veenai Dhanammal, Rugmini Gopalakrishnan, Doraiswamy Iyengar, Veene Sheshanna, Veenai Venkatagiriappa, Emani Sankara Sastry, Chitti Babu, Rajhesh Vaidhya and so on.


Categories: General Knowledge, Music