What it is:
Carnatic music might just be Greek and Latin put together for some people, but others know the true meaning of carnatic music. Actually, many a mathematician has understood carnatic music better than the next.
Muthuswamy Dikshitar is a famous composer who wrote quite a lot of compositions in carnatic music. Baluswamy, the younger brother of Muthuswamy, learnt Violin and bits of Celtic music. He practiced it at home in Manali and the master composer and elder brother Muthuswamy took note. Later Muthuswamy set Sanskrit shlokas to the tunes and we know it today as the Nottuswara Sahitya. There are some 36-40 of these works set around the Raga Sankarabharanam. Nottuswara sahithyas are the best way to introduce carnatic music to kids.
The content and language:
Why is it called Nottu swara? Well, it stands for Notes Swara, i.e. ‘Western notes’ swara. They are also termed ‘European airs’ by the English who took note. But to really get to the bottom of all this, let us all go back in time to 1800, a bit North of Madras to Manali, where today we have all the refineries and all that, the very same place which was bombed by Emden.
The nottuswara sahityas are a body of compositions based on western original melodies and Sanskrit text. The melodies that feature in this genre, that are largely of Irish, Scottish origin, are entirely Western in terms of melodic content and approach. Some English songs are based on the nottuswara tunes. Such as:
|Santatam Pahimam||God Save the Queen/My Country, ‘Tis of TheeAnthem|
|Vande Meenakshi||Rakes of Mallow Leroy Anderson/Live version|
|Kamalasana Vandita Padabje||Galopede / Yarmouth Reel / Persian Ricardo Jabara/Concert/Reel|
|Shakti Sahita Ganapatim||Voulez-vous danser?|
|Shyamale Meenakshi||Twinkle Twinkle Little Star/Mozart’s variations on Ah! vous dirai-je, Maman|
|Jagadisha Guruguha||Lord MacDonald’s Reel|
A study of the nottuswaras reveals the contrast between the light-natured tunes and the classical sahityas that enchant them. Kritis and nottuswara sahityas addressed to the same Gods/Goddesses show interesting parallels in lyrics. It is also of great significance to note that the nature of the meticulousness that characterises the lyrical component of Dikshitar’s work also spreads throughout the nottuswara sahityas.
To children this is a great way of getting used to the Indian classical world. . .
If you ever wanted your kid to learn carnatic music, nottuswaram is the great way to start with.