4 Differences between Light Music & Carnatic techniques

Posted by Pratibha Sarathy on 01 Nov 2016

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In my experience as a trainer, I have come across several singers who pursue Light Music after having trained in Carnatic vocal. So I find it quite relevant to discuss about how the 2 styles of music differ and how you can transition from one genre to the other. Prior Carnatic training can be a great strength as it comes with a good command over swaras, ragas and musicality in general. However, a very strong Carnatic influence can also pose a hurdle to your Light Music renditions. Here are a few pointers that could help you understand the key differences between the 2 genres and how you can adopt the right approach for both the styles.

1.Voice Production - Voice production is the key difference between Carnatic and Light Music genres. Traditional schools of music have insisted on a deep vocal tone for Carnatic vocalists. There was extensive use of the throat and chest register and minimal use of other vocal registers. This is slowly beginning to change and upper ranges are being promoted in contemporary schools of music. Light Music as the name suggests uses a lighter tone, which is produced from the various resonating cavities like the chest, nasal cavity, sinus etc. So to be able to master Light Music as a genre, it is mandatory for us to explore our chest register, mid register and head register and learn how to transition between them.

2.Emphasis - Carnatic music by its very nature lays significant emphasis on the various swaras of a Sangathi. Each gamaka is very clearly articulated and well defined. Light Music on the other hand demands a more subtle treatment. The sangathis in Light Music are expected to take up a more flowly form compared to the well defined nature of Carnatic sangathis. Think of it as the difference between a square with sharp edges and one with curvy edges. Most often, in Carnatic, the transition from one note to the next is sharply defined, whereas in light music it is often a more curvy and subtle transition.

3.Raga improvisation - In Carnatic music, it is very important for an artist to adhere to the structure of a Raga. Light Music on the other hand is more flexible and uses creative license to blend Ragas and Talas. It focuses more on the mood and emotion of the song and may deviate from the conventional protocol of a particular Raga.

4. Pronunciation A neutral accent is very essential for Light Music (especially melodies). Some singers adopt a nasal tone while rendering certain words. Some others tend to open the jaw horizontally leading to an unnatural accent, rather than drop the jaw vertically which brings out a more open, natural sound. Both these influences don't pan out very well in the Light Music genre.