Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Carnatic music gets a Christian touch - The Times of India

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    • It's a music tradition that's believed to have divine origins. The lyrics of traditional Carnatic music compositions are usually devotional or philosophical in nature, drawing on Hindu religious tenets and now Christian choir groups too are setting their hymns to classical ragas and talas.

      The words may not be so different from the hymns sung at prayer services, but rather than standing behind the priest and singing to the organ, these choir singers sit cross-legged on the floor as a traditional Carnatic ensemble, complete with violin, harmonium and mridangam. They even wear pattu pavadais, silk saris and jasmine flowers. And the trinity they sing praise to are the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

      Limsas, a choir based in Purasawalkam that sings at religious congregations across the city, starts its kutcheri' with a small prayer and the traditional sa pa sa'. Beulah Santhi, the choir teacher, teaches people aged between four and 40 Tamil kritis, all in the name of Jesus, written by various composers. They have a book of 400 Christian kritis in Tamil set to different ragas, which clearly mentions the raga and tala in which the songs should be sung.
    • Purists too are not averse to the idea. Carnatic vocalist Bombay Jayashri says, "Music is a religion and singing Christian songs in Carnatic style is an interesting way to combine two religions. Christians all over the world adapt local customs and sing prayer songs in local languages."

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