Why do i hate vocal Carnatic music?

I find vocal carnatic music extremely irritating. As much as I love the instrumental version, I simply can’t stand the vocal version. The vocal stuff gets on my nerves and drives me mad. On the other hand, I find instrumental stuff extremely pleasing and soothing, and an excellent background music when mugging, etc.

Could it be because of the fact that I am more familiar with the instrumental version (i’m a trained violinist)? I don’t know how that should make a difference but perhaps it is a fact that I connect better with string stuff. However, I like instrumental carnatic music across the board – irrespective of the instrument. So this reason is a little hard to believe.

Another reason for it could be the lyrics. As you might know, the basis for most carnatic music is praise for God, and even though most of the lyrics are in Gult/Tam/Sanskrit – languages i’m ok but not very proficient with – that might be a reason why I get put off. instrumental music on the other hand has no lyrics. Just the wonderful note-combinations and the gamakas and and sequences.

I’m also wondering whether it has something to do with the voices. Let’s face it – a large number of “big” singers (those that are usually featured on Shruti – on worldspace) are well past their “prime”. This is not to say that the elderly can’t sing well – Asha Bhonsle I think sings as well as she used to – but maybe the voice-music combination just isn’t right. A lot of voices I here are old and shaky, and while they may sing all the notes perfectly, I’m not sure if they do full justice to the music.

I’m not even sure if it has something to do with the age of the singers. The other day I was listening to a fairly young singer and he too failed to make an impact – in a positive way i mean. Maybe it has to do something with the choice of an extremely low frequency base ‘sa’ note. I’m not really sure.

Of course the irritation is not universal. The other day I was listening to Remember Shakti (yes, i consider that to be Carnatic music) which had Shankar Mahadevan providing the vocals, and it was simply superb. A few differences between this and “normal Carnatic music” I would like to point out. Here, Shankar, was singing but the other instruments also had their share of microphone volume. this is something that seldom happens in classical classical where the singer even drowns out hte other instruments. Another difference was that there were no lyrics in what Shankar was singing. It was mostly “aaaaa” etc. And most importantly it was Shankar – say what you want but Shankar’s voice is definitely superior to that of most contemporary and not-so-contemporary classical classical singers.

Any other reasons you have to offer???

4 thoughts on “Why do i hate vocal Carnatic music?”

  1. What do I tell you my friend. How can one explain Carnatic music to a person who calls Shakthi as Carnatic music? Please note, that I have performed number of times as a guest artist on Shakthi before you further explain Shakthi to me. Also, it doesnt mean Shakthi is not good or even close to it. Shakthi is brilliant in its own neo-classical music… And coming to Shankar he is a brilliant vocalist, and I have heard him rue a number of times that he is not giving a full fledged carnatic concert. Coming to instrumental music: Every instrumentalist(melody instruments) dreams to play as close to vocal music as possible. To be precise, the Gayaki style of playing and only such players were famous, are famous and will be famous. Vocal music is the brithplace of instrumental music. If a melody instrumentalist does not know vocal, he hardly qualifies for a being a musician. This is the reason if you observe, every instrumentalist after his initial 15 year training, goes to a vocalist for advanced training. Now coming to the voice. Is music just voice? Can a bad voice give good music? How about Bryan Adams and the so many metal vocalists who literally grunt or roar to get an applause? Again, I am not playing down the value of a good voice, but Carnatic Music is much much more than an excellent voice. Ofcourse good voice, with excellent music is a great combination, whereas a Great voice and bad music hardly makes an entry. Please dont make such wayside comments when probably you have heard a handful of vocalists. I am feeling sad that I wasted my time writing this, but I think it is important that I write and elucidate. Internet is a powerful medium which is abused rather than used where every layman goes to become a critic without absolutely no knowledge whatsoever. I would have agreed if it was a comment coming from someone who has spent some time listening, reading and understanding music, but from the writing its clear that you are far from it. I would have agreed if you had quoted some facts like hindustani vocalists have better voice culture or an opera singer can sing easily in 3 octaves etc. If you have read about Dr.SAK Durga and her voice culture techniques and comments about vocalists and different styles of music, then your comments can be atleast read. Internet should really moderate such writings because it has a wide reach and a lot many students read it and are definite misled by such thoughtless writing. I dont know why i tried to explain so much to person who is taking baby steps into the realm of music. I feel its like teaching, Integral Calculus to a kindergarten kid. I pity you my friend.

    1. Consider this statement of mine, Shastriya sangeet has traditionally been vocal music but not lyrical music, neither was it compositional, Carnatic music in its present form is just trying to imitate the lyrical music of the west (it was written mostly in madras presidency) So it leaves it nowhere, what i find hilarious is because of this unholy union some of the Kritis are left with unbelievable anomalies like one word going through as many notes as one full octave (“the………le……….Sii………..ii.”). this is garbage of the highest order. I am a hindustani music lover but when somebody calls a 10 word khayal a beautiful poetry i feel like slapping him. I think the author is right in saying that he finds the vocal music irritating whereas, instrumental interpretations would not seem that bad because they dont suffer with the same problem

      1. I don’t know if you are simply a troll who knows nothing about any Indian music in general, or if you are simply horribly misinformed and prejudiced against Carnatic music. To claim that Carnatic music is an imitation of western lyrical music is ridiculous, but what shows even greater ignorance and idiocy is to claim that it was written mostly in the Madras Presidency. Many of the krithis considered to be the greatest are written in Telugu and Sanskrit by composers such as Annamacharya and Purandara Dasa, who came from Andhra and Karnataka, during the 1400’s, quite some time before the “lyrical music of the west” made its way to meaningful exposure in India. The music written by geniuses such as Tyagaraja during the time of the Madras Presidency is influenced directly by much earlier Carnatic compositions, not by Western music (although there are a few, short pieces which are generally never taken as an example of a grander krithi, which were written to mimic westen musi for fun). I am an avid listener and performer of Carnatic music and an avid listener/admirer of Hindustani music, and love both very much; I feel each has something uniquely special, as do western forms of music such as classical and jazz; for me, Hindustani music has the greatest bhaava and depth, but comes nowhere near some of the mathematical and rythmic complexity of Carnatic music.

        In the future, please reconsider posting words that showcase your asinine ignorance, and know that because in all likelihood you can barely croak out an alaap yourself, your mindless rubbish has no credibility and is best left unsaid. Especially hilarious is your calling a word which traverses an octave garbage of the highest order. Words in Carnatic music are so beautifully and poetically written that instances like the one you mentioned are a perfect merging of sound and lyric, where the meaning and emotion of the word is reflected by the tune of the word. Again, like I’ve said, someone with as little understanding and comprehension of more complex music in general may be unable to understand some finer nuances of a highly traditional art form.

  2. Take it from a metalhead buddy….I used to hate Carnatic more than anything.
    But the technicality of Carnatic music is astounding….you have just taken baby steps when you start listening to Canatic instrumentals you will eventually get into Vocal stuff too.

    The reason their voices shake or vibrate is because Carnatic musicians and vocalists use heavy glissando or sliding to achieve micro tones….in a guitar context(Sorry that is the only string instrument i know i cannot explain it to you in terms of a violin) rock, metal and jazz musicians can only achieve upto a 3/4th or a 1/4th bend…but a carnatic musician can do a 1/10th bend or a 1/5th bend..please check out a performance by an acclaimed Carnatic musician to check out the same.Special mention- Compositions of Dikshitar

Put Comment