Carnatic Flute

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An Introduction to the

An Introduction to the

Carnatic Flute

Carnatic Flute

No part of this presentation either wholly or partially

No part of this presentation either wholly or partially

be used as references without the mention of the

be used as references without the mention of the

Vamshidwani institution. For the propagation and

Vamshidwani institution. For the propagation and

promotion of the arts, conditional rights will be given

promotion of the arts, conditional rights will be given

upon written requests.

upon written requests.

All rights reserved.

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Objectives

• Create an awareness on the nature of the

Carnatic flute & the Hindustani flute

• Understand the basic fingering of the notes

• Understand the major contributions of the

Carnatic flute to Indian music

• Understand the development of the Carnatic

flute

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Synopsis

• Origins

• Technique

• Performers

• Survival

• Conclusion

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Origins

Topics:

• Early Music

• Sangam Music

• Post-Sangam Music

• Vedic Music

• Modern Era

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Origins – Early Music

• Across many cultures around the world, the

flute has been the first melodic instrument

that has captured the imagination of man

• Built with a diverse range of materials from

animal bones, to hollow wood tubes, bamboo

& even metal, every major culture in the

world has its musical origins from the flute.

The only exception that makes them unique

from each other is the type of music that

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Origins – Early Music

• Types of Early Flutes

– The earliest known flutes are made of animal bones and often produce limited tunes. Most surviving types are found throughout Europe & China

– Ancient cultures including the Assyrians, Egyptians, Jews, Chinese & Indians also developed flutes with mainly wood based materials

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Origins – Early Music

• Some Examples of Early Bone Flutes

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Origins – Early Music

• Other Types of Flutes

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Origins – Early Music

Materials

 Bamboo however, became the preferred instrument in the East over centuries of evolution by Japanese, Chinese & Indian scholars

 Though Japanese & Chinese flutes have been redesigned today with metal parts, the Indian bamboo flutes remained exempt of such

modifications & it remained as an important music instrument in pre-historic Indian music until the

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Origins – Sangam Music

• During the 3 Great Sangam Eras, the evolution of Tamil music saw a new peak with the introduction of ragas, thalas, playing techniques & design of the

flute

• The Silappadikaram is the first Indian treatise, written in Tamil that introduces the classical flute with such important details – Kovalan, the protagonist of the epic is an expert flautist

• The introduction of scales like Harikhamboji, Kalyani, Mohanam, Valaji & Hindolam defined the flute

fingering of all the 16 notes of South Indian music that is still used today including the playing posture

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Origins – Sangam Music

• The Silappadikaram quotes 3 types of

flutes:

– Kondraikulal

– Ambarkulal

– Mullaikulal

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Origins – Sangam Music

• The Sangam eras also showcased the

importance of the flute with its association

with classical music thereby being the first

civilization to use the flute for classical music

in the world

• It is to be noted that the Sangam era

pre-dated the period of the vina, a successor to

the Sangam lute. In addition, the flute

became a standard instrument of assessing

the competency of Sangam music bards for

their patronage in royal courts & temples

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Origins – Post-Sangam Music

• Sarangadeva, a North Indian musicologist of repute, began to read & write extensive commentaries on Indian music & its instruments with strong emphasis on the flute

• His work the Sangitaratnakara became a technical masterpiece of Indian music literature that is only parallel to the Silappadikaram

• It is the only pre-Moghul Sanskrit literature that is highly regarded by both Hindustani musicians & Carnatic musicians

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Origins – Post-Sangam Music

• 15 varieties of vamsa (flute) are mentioned by Sarangadeva: – Ekavira - Vasu – Umpati - Nathendra – Tripurusha - Mahananda – Chaturmukha - Rudra – Panchavaktra - Aditya – Shanmukha* - Manu – Muni - Kalanidhi – Ashtadasangula

*In practice, only the Shanmukhavamsa types are in common use, the rest are either too short or too long for practical application

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Origins – Post-Sangam Music

• After the fall of the last Sangam era, the

pre-medieval kingdoms of South India devoted their scholars to compile & consolidate all remaining Sangam literature

• The Cholas in particular took a great leap in

enshrining art by building numerous temples of art, & preserving important art manuscripts

• They were also the first & the last southern kingdom to patronize Sangam music in the courts & temples before being absorbed into the Vedic traditions in the early years of the first millenia A.D.

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Origins – Vedic Music

• The spread of Vedic philosophy from the

Gangetic plains of North India through

conquests & intellectual interaction made

possible for new discoveries in the evolution

of Hindu music by the invention of the vina,

which according to the research of the

world-renowned musicologist of Carnatic music,

Padma Bhushan Prof. P. Sambamoorthy had

its origins from the flute

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Origins – Vedic Music

• With the rise of the Vijayanagar empire & the

decline of the Cholas, the influence of Vedic

music took precedence as its vocal music

tradition appealed more to the educated elite

of the royal courts

• The flute declined in its importance as a

classical music instrument giving way to the

rise of string instruments which easily

emulated the vocal nuances of Vedic music

as compared to the flute

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Origins – Vedic Music

• In a time warp, the flute returned to its early

origins in folk music while Indian music

literature continued to expand in leaps &

bounds under the Vijayanagar empire

• The art loving Moghuls however had a

penchant for flute music & patronized

flautists from South India. However no

developments in flute took place in Moghul

India. Recorded patronage of flute music was

last noted in Jehangir’s Memoirs.

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Origins – Modern Era

• It was only in the closing years of the 19th century,

that the flute gained its due classical status. The blind musical prodigy, Sharaba Shastri revived the instrument by easily playing the compositions of the Trinity with flair & quality. Even though, the

instrument did not achieve the popularity of vocal music

• Playing on the 7-hole Carnatic flute, which is much similar to the modern bansuri form of North India

Sharaba Shastri gave a concert worthy status to the Carnatic flute

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Origins – Modern Era

• It was the 8-hole flute which eventually gave a vocal status to the Carnatic flute which was introduced by T.R. Mahalingam or better known as the infamous flute prodigy, Flute Mali

• Influenced by the Nageswaram players using the

same fingering techniques as the ancients used, Mali created the vocal nuances on the 8-hole flute, &

added the 8th hole to reach the anumandira rishaba

• Today most successful Carnatic flautists employ the same techniques introduced by Mali

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Technique

Topics:

• Basic Fingering

• Playing Posture

• Advisory

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Technique – Basic Fingering

• The preceding slides will show some of the

basic fingering that is required to play the 7

basic notes:

• Shadjam

• Rishabam

• Ghandharam

• Madhyamam

• Dhaivatham

• Nishadam

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Technique – Basic Fingering

• Shadjam

– Mandira & Thara Sthayi

– Played by closing the first 2 finger

holes from the blow hole

– Thara sthayi

Shadjam is played by overblowing, until a shrill is achieved

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Technique – Basic Fingering

• Suddha Rishaba

– Mandira & Thara Sthayi

– Played by partially closing the 2nd finger

hole from the blow hole & closing the 1st

hole

– Thara sthayi

Rishaba is played by overblowing, until a shrill is achieved

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Technique – Basic Fingering

• Chatushruthi

Rishaba

– Mandira & Thara Sthayi

– Played by closing the 1st finger hole

from the blow hole – Thara sthayi

Rishaba is played by overblowing, until a shrill is achieved

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Technique – Basic Fingering

• Sadarana

Ghandaram

– Mandira & Thara Sthayi

– Played by partially closing the 1st finger

hole from the blow hole – Thara sthayi Ghandaram is played by overblowing, until a shrill is achieved

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Technique – Basic Fingering

• Antara Ghandaram

– Mandira & Thara Sthayi

– Played without closing any finger holes

– Thara sthayi Ghandaram

fingering may vary with different flutes

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Technique – Basic Fingering

• Suddha

Madhyamam

– Mandira & Thara Sthayi

– Played by closing all finger holes except the 1st & the 7th holes

– Thara sthayi Madhyamam is played by

overblowing, until a shrill is achieved

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Technique – Basic Fingering

• Prathi

Madhyamam

– Mandira & Thara Sthayi

– Played by closing the first 5 holes & partially the 6th hole

– Thara sthayi Madhyamam

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Technique – Basic Fingering

• Panchamam

– Mandira & Thara Sthayi

– Played by closing the first 5 holes – Thara sthayi

Panchamam

fingering may vary with different flutes

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Technique – Basic Fingering

• Suddha Dhaivatha

– Mandira Sthayi – Played by closing

the first 4 holes & partially closing the 5th hole

– Thara sthayi

Dhaivatha fingering is rarely played & only possible in certain flutes

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Technique – Basic Fingering

• Chatusruthi

Dhaivatha

– Mandira Sthayi – Played by closing

the first 4 holes – Thara sthayi

Dhaivatha fingering is rarely played & only possible in certain flutes

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Technique – Basic Fingering

• Kaisiki Nishada

– Mandira Sthayi – Played by closing

the first 3 holes from the blow hole

– Thara sthayi

Nishada fingering is rarely played & only possible in certain flutes

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Technique – Basic Fingering

• Kakali Nishada

– Mandira Sthayi – Played by closing

the first 2 holes & partially the 3rd hole

– Thara sthayi

Nishada fingering is rarely played & only possible in certain flutes

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Technique – Basic Fingering

• Playing Posture

– Posture should be upright & elbows perpendicular to the ground

– Head should be straight

– Position of the flute may be tilted

accordingly but may change when

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Technique - Advisory

• It is to be noted that the above demonstrations only serve as a introductory guide to the budding flute student

• Only the close guidance of a competent flautist is important to achieve in playing the notes correctly

• Due to the distance between the holes of the flute & the thickness of the bamboo, fingering for certain swaras may vary

• Certain flutes may altogether require different fingering for some notes

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Performers

Topics:

• Sharaba Shastri

• Palladam Sanjeeva Rao

• T.R. Mahalingam

• Dr. N. Ramani

• Shashank

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Performers – Sharaba Shastri

• Seated far right, Sharaba Shastri was the first Indian flautist on the concert

circuit. By reviving the ancient instrument, he pioneered the concert tradition of the Carnatic flute & became an

inspiration for future

Carnatic flautists including the legend Palladam

Sanjeeva Rao (seated far left)

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Performers – Palladam

• Palladam Sanjeeva Rao

(seated far left) who was the first major concert flautist in Indian classical music. He played on the 7-hole Carnatic flute excluding the blow hole & used parallel fingering like his guru which was different from the ancient cross fingering technique. He became an inspiration to successive flautists like the prodigy T.R. Mahalingam who was inspired to learn from him

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Performers – Flute Mali

• Perpetually hailed as the Emperor of the Carnatic Flute, T. R.

Mahalingam revived the Carnatic flute to its ancient glory by reviving the cross fingering technique used by Nageswaram players in order to execute the vocal nuances on the instrument. He was a major inspiration to many imminent

musicians & legends like G.N.B & Semmangudi, who would flock to Mali’s concerts in guise to savour Mali’s divine music. He trained a legion of disciples. The foremost of them is Dr. N. Ramani.

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Performers – Dr. N. Ramani

• An avid fan of the legendary G.N.B., Dr. Ramani took his style &

incorporated the best tenets of his own guru, Flute Mali, & amplified the glory of the flute that his guru has given. He had given many

jughalbhandis with Hindustani

musicians & has introduced longer bass flutes in Carnatic flute recitals. So vast is his musical acumen in the instrument that even his own guru, the legendary Flute Mali has learnt some compositions from him! Till date his performances are very well received by laymen & connoisseur alike. He has a strong following of disciples around the world & has also given support to vocal legends like Maharajapuram & K.V.N. His

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Performers – Shashank

• A prodigy in his own light,

Shashank stormed the flute world at the age of 7 & has advanced the instrument to the next level of Neo-classical music with

innovations such as transposed fingering & double octave blowing. His vigorous vocal training with the legends K.V.N & R.K.

Srikantan has given him immense advantage in the executing of the rich gamakas on the Carnatic flute very well. Self-taught on the

instrument, Shashank has given Jazz fusion & Jugalbhandi

concerts with Western &

Hindustani musicians with much international acclaim as his

Carnatic flute recitals around the world

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Survival

• It is disheartening to notice that Carnatic flute is often perceived as a light music & fusion instrument. Even experienced

Carnatic music lovers do not support Carnatic flute concerts for favour of vocal music

• In the past legendary vocalists very much seeked musical

inspiration & techniques from instrumentalists & each created a unique style of their own which appealed the masses.

Examples include M.S.S., Semmangudi S. Iyer, & G.N.B. • The Vamshidwani team hopes that with this ample

understanding of the Carnatic flute, more Carnatic music lovers would attend Carnatic flute recitals & support the survival of the instrument for the next millennia & beyond

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Conclusion

• The presentation serves has platform to

create an interest of the Carnatic flute to all

classical music lovers & to appreciate the

musical richness & value the instrument

possess.

• The team also would like to dedicate the

presentation to the legend, T.R. Mahalingam

for contributing the basic fingering technique

which formed the basis of playing the

Figure

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References

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