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Types of jazz music
Jazz music types and how the history of jazz music evolved. This article gives a brief overview of four styles and elements.
Jazz music originated solely in the United States. It is a distinctly and uniquely different style of music. Jazz music can be considered a musical collision of American and African cultures. It evolved out of three centuries of cultural and racial conflicts, meaning a clash of the more subdued dominant culture and the more powerful subculture. Jazz is composed primarily of four musical elements: melody, harmony, rhythm and tone color. However, harmony does not play such a powerful role in the evolving of the music itself. The melody, rhythm and tone color make up the primary elements of jazz.
The varying styles of jazz include the "Work Song." This is mainly a rhythmic song which could be referred to as making hard work easier and to go by faster. These are usually unaccompanied upbeat rhythm songs that are usually repeated over and over, a sort of chanting, to make the time go by faster on the job.
Another style is the "New Orleans." This style began in the 1890`s as brass band performances of gospel songs and marches. With this came along the formation of the big bands, such as the great jazz pianist and bandleader William Basie. Mr. Basie`s band, known as the Count Basie Orchestra, was famous for the driving beat considered to be the epitome of the swing feel. This style of jazz still exists today and is normally referred to as the original style of jazz. This style is also considered to be ensemble jazz and is known for its polyphonic texture.
The "Chicago Style" of jazz music evolved after 1917. Chicago then became the home of jazz music because of the prohibition in the south. Unemployed musicians moved to the Chicago area playing new sounds and searching for places to play the new, exciting style of jazz. With this style the musicians play popular songs with a more homophonic sound. This is the era when the piano is introduced into the background accompaniments.
"Bebop" came about through and after World War II. Due to an opposition of white establishment, jazz took a turn. It became a fast, but upbeat use of tempos, using elaborate melody and rhythmic patterns. With Bebop, the beat of jazz became lighter. During the later 1940`s, Bebop combined dissonance and abstract chording with traditional jazz. This style showed more emphasis on the solo performer.
Later came the style known as "Fusion." This style of jazz reflects back closer to the jazz tradition. Only now the use of electrical and acoustic instruments gives a more modern sound. Jazz popularity grows at this time to a time high due to the use of electrical instruments and the formation of jazz clubs and festivals, directed toward the youth of America.
Jazz music has and will always reflect the artist of the time through the different styles this form of music has taken. Through the years jazz music has changed to meet the needs of changing times and the people`s changing taste of music, and for the people`s listening enjoyment. Jazz has introduced new sounds and styles to stay afloat in the ever-changing modern world.
The core of jazz music has not changed that much since it began all those many years ago. The framework is still there and always will be. However, the surface will change, as in the different styles that have evolved over the years. The deep down earthy tones, melody and rhythm have made jazz music what it is today and has enlisted memories in all of what it once was.
Unusual Pallavi Themes
V. N. Muthukumar and M. V. Ramana
V. N. Muthukumar is currently at the Department of Physics, Princeton University.
M. V. Ramana is currently at the Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton
Muthukumar and Ramana's past articles on SAWF:
Ragas Khamas and Harikambodi
Papanasam Sivan - Inspirations And Expressions
A Tribute To Tyagaraja
M. V. Ramana
Until the late 19th century, the primary location for performances
of Art music was at the abodes of kings and other rich patrons. These concerts are
described as being centered on ragam-tanam-pallavis, elaborate exercises in musical
creativity, usually in major ragas like Sankarabharanam, Todi and Bhairavi. The
modern concert format (kaccheri paddhati), on the other hand, is largely dominated
by kritis, which were either composed by "the trinity" – Syama Sastry, Tyagaraja,
and Muthuswami Dikshitar - or vaggeyakaras following their styles.
The relationship between these two musical forms – ragam, tanam, pallavi (RTP)
and kriti – is complex. One hypothesis that is often advanced is that many kritis
were constructed using a famous pallavi as the pallavi or the first line of the
kriti. The proponents of this theory claim that the above hypothesis explains why
the word "pallavi" refers to both. Some of the examples quoted in this context are
gana lola karunala vala in Todi (where the kriti was composed by Chinnaswami
Dikshitar) and mahimai teliya tarama in Sankarabharanam (where the kriti
was composed by Anai Ayya brothers). This is also supported by the tradition of
singing certain pallavis in fixed ragas.
In course of time, the converse also became prevalent, viz., musicians started
using the pallavi line of a kriti (usually a famous one) as the refrain of an RTP.
Examples of this are the (Begada) pallavi lokavana chatura and the (Kharaharapriya)
pallavi rama nee samanamevaru. T. Lakshmanan Pillai describes a great musical
contest between Coimbatore Raghava Iyer and Tanjavur Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer that
took place in the court of Ayilyam Tirunal. On the second day of the contest, Maha
Vaidyanatha Iyer sang a pallavi in Kharaharapriya which employed the first line
of the kriti cakkani raja.1
There are also pallavis constructed from other lines of a kriti, e.g., oru
taram sivachidambaram endru (from sabhapatikku in Abhogi) and tamarasa
dala netri tyagarajuni mitri (from amma ravamma in Kalyani) – as the
refrain of the RTP.
There is at least one unambiguous case where a pallavi led to a kriti. Tamizh
Thatha U. Ve. Saminatha Iyer recounts the following incident in one of his books.2
Ghanam Krishna Iyer, a contemporary of Tyagaraja (and Saminatha Iyer's great grand
uncle) once went to Tiruvaiyaru to meet Tyagaraja. Saminatha Iyer says:
" Tyagaraja and Ghanam Krishna Iyer knew each other well. Tyagaraja's disciples,
Kamarasavalli Nanu Iyer and Tillaistanam Rama Iyengar sang Tyagaraja's E papamu
in the raga Atana. Tyagaraja then requested Krishna Iyer to sing. Inspired by the
singing he heard, Krishna Iyer composed a pallavi in Atana, cumma cumma varumo
sukham (lit. does pleasure come for free?) and began singing it with great relish.
Being in the presence of a great vidwan (Tyagaraja) and his disciples, Krishna Iyer
sang with enthusiasm and as his singing progressed, the listeners came to appreciate
the ghana marga that Krishna Iyer was proficient in. After he finished singing,
Tyagaraja honored him by presenting him a shawl.
Later, when Krishna Iyer returned home, at the insistence of his disciples and
others, he composed a kriti in the raga Atana using this pallavi as the refrain
of the kriti."
< -- Aruna Sayeeram
Our first recording features this kriti. Aruna Sayeeram sings Ghanam Krishna
Iyer's cumma cumma:
For a variety of reasons, the bulk of lyrics in Carnatic music, in both kriti
and pallavi formats, are mostly concerned with devotional themes. Kritis exemplify
this tendency to a much greater extent. Practically all are along the lines of "O
Lord(ess)! Save me" or "Blessed am I". The only prominent counter-example to this
practice is Tyagaraja, whose kritis span a variety of themes.3 For
example, some are addressed to "the Guru" and some others deal with music. It is
not clear why latter vaggeyakaras have not chosen to follow this path and explore
Pallavis, on the other hand, explore a larger variety of themes. In fact, some
of them may not have any obvious theme. (For example, the pallavi we mentioned earlier
uses the line cumma cumma varumo sukham, which by itself is devoid of context;
the sentence does not even have a subject.) One reason for this may be that lyrics
play a relatively minor role in RTPs.
A story may help clarify this point:4
"There was a Zamorin at Calicut who was fond of music and had also a good knowledge
of the art. He used to patronise deserving musicians and give them rich presents.
Once a great pallavi vidwan happened to go to Calicut; the Private Secretary to
the Zamorin, himself a rasika, arranged for a concert by the vidwan at the palace.
The Zamorin had one weakness - he would ask the artist to give beforehand, the wording
of the song he proposed to sing. When the vidwan had elaborated a raga and was about
to begin the pallavi, the Zamorin made his usual demand. The vidwan got wild and
shouted ‘Which fool would care about the sahitya of a pallavi?' and went away from
the palace. The Zamorin also got angry. The Private Secretary was a tactful man;
he pacified the two and arranged for a recital the next day: he had managed to get
the Zamorin to waive his stipulation regarding the wording of the pallavi. The vidwan
started the pallavi and elaborated it with such mastery and skill and charm that
the Zamorin was highly pleased and made extra presents to the vidwan. When, the
artist was about to leave the palace, the Zamorin asked him to give the wording
of the pallavi at least then. The vidwan faced the Zamorin and said, ‘I am prepared
to give you the sahitya on the condition that you will not get angry.' The Zamorin
agreed to the condition, and the vidwan gave him the sahitya, and immediately ran
away. The Zamorin was taken aback, and got into a rage, but he could not do anything
as the vidwan had in the meantime run away. The sahitya was samoodiri thavidu
thinnu meaning that the Zamorin ate the chaff, the implication being that instead
of enjoying the pure art of music, the Zamorin was after the words which especially
in a pallavi was as insignificant as the chaff as compared to the grain."
A Bhairavi pallavi illustrated -- >
The emphasis on pallavis having some religious content may be more a phenomenon
of the 20th century. This is borne out by looking at the refrains of some traditional
pallavis compiled by P. Sambhamoorthi:5 aattangarai oratthile
oru vandu girrena girrena katthute (On the banks of a river, a bee hums “girr
girr”) – Raga Bhairavi, Jhampa Tala
kutthalatthu kurange maratthai vittu irange (Get off the tree, O monkey
in Kutralam) – Raga Bhairavi, chatusra jati triputa.
Along similar lines, U. Ve. Saminatha Iyer refers to the pallavis sung by Peria
Vaithi and says they were hardly noted for their lyrical content.6
< -- Tiger Varadachariar
Lest the reader think that such pallavis are mere oddities, we refer to the great
musician Tiger Varadachariar. In the words of S. Y. Krishnaswamy, Tiger felt that
"pure music, which is important in a pallavi, for instance, depended very little
on words. He then proceeded to demonstrate this view by singing a pallavi which
translated to ‘the breeze blows through the window'."7 T.K. Sethuraman
narrates an incident when Tiger performed in Sirkazhi village and was asked to sing
a new pallavi after he had sung an elaborate alapana and tanam in Kambodhi.
Apparently, a street-vendor came around at that time, selling brinjals (eggplants)
shouting "katharikkai, katharikkai" and Tiger sang katharikkai vanga vayendi
tozhi. (Come with me to buy brinjals, O friend.) Another pallavi he was fond
of elaborating was uppuma kindadi penne, nanraka. (Hey lass, stir the uppuma
well.) Unfortunately we have not come across any recordings of Tiger singing such
Via Agra: (seated L to R) Lalgudi Jayaraman, Palani Subramania Pillai and
K. V. Narayanaswamy -- >
The pallavis we mentioned so far are not in vogue. There are, however, a few
traditional pallavis that deal with unusual themes. Perhaps the best example of
a popular pallavi without a devotional theme is the one in Natakurinji, ciranta
engalatu nattai kurinji enbar (This great land of ours is called kurinji8).
This pallavi was one of K. V. Narayanaswamy's favorite pieces in Natakurinji:
< -- D.K Pattammal
There are also several pallavis composed in praise of an individual. Our first
example is a pallavi sung by D. K. Pattammal, at the Tyagaraja Aradhana in Tiruvaiyaru.
The lyrics of the pallavi are the first line of Tyagaraja's famous pancharatna kriti
in Sriraga, entaro mahanubhavulu, anthariki vandanamu (There are several
great people and I bow to them all). It is worth noting that Pattammal, who is often
described as a musician with great fidelity to tradition (whatever that should mean),
sings it in the raga Kambodhi and not in Sriraga.9 V. Sethuramiah
and Palakkad Mani Iyer accompany Pattammal in this recording:
The next example is Madurai Mani Iyer's rendition of mahatma mani mozhi
vazhi nadappom, maperum talaivar gandhi (Let us follow the footsteps of the
great leader Mahatma Gandhi) in Shanmukhapriya at an AIR concert on Gandhi Jayanti.
Mani Iyer was a staunch Gandhian and has also sung pallavis about the rattinam (spinning
Madurai Mani Iyer with Lalgudi Jayaraman and Palani Subramania Pillai
Balamuralikrishna is a musician who has innovated extensively. Not surprisingly,
he has sung several interesting pallavis, which are often marked by intelligent
and catchy movements. Here we present a short pallavi in Natabhairavi, the theme
being musical notes:
M. Balamuralikrishna, Nagai Murali(violin) and K. V. Prasad
Another singer who exhibits a flair for wordplay in coming up with unusual pallavi
lyrics is T. N. Seshagopalan. He also had an interesting variation on the pallavi
mentioned earlier, ciranta engalathu, by singing it in Nattai, Kurinji and
Among present day singers, Sanjay Subrahmanyan seems to sing several pallavis
based on unusual themes. Some examples are vandadum solaiyile, malayamarutam
visum in Malayamarutam, parukkulle nalla nadu, engal bharata nadu in
Shanmukhapriya and apakara nindai pattuzhalathe, ariyatha vanjarai kuriyate
in Chakravakam. We present the first of these in the following clip. The recording
is from a concert organized by the Carnatic Music Association of North America (CMANA)
in New Jersey this year. Sanjay is accompanied by R. K. Shriram Kumar on the violin
and K. Arun Prakash on the mridangam:
Sanjay Subrahmanyan accompanied by R. K. Shriram Kumar on the violin
and K. Arun Prakash (not in the picture) on the mridangam
Note that the pallavi includes the raga name and refers, obliquely, to a popular
song in Harikamboji.10 Sanjay's rendition is a good illustration
of how even a small pallavi can be elaborated through intelligent vyavahara.
In the above, we saw that Pallavis deal with a variety of themes. A few post-trinity
vaggeyakaras have composed kritis along the lines of the pallavis discussed here.
Some examples are Tanjavur Sankara Iyer, Balamuralikrishna, and T. S. Lakshmanan
Pillai. Pillai's kriti in Punnagavarali, vayillata made, is arguably the
only kriti that talks about animal rights. We wonder why more such kritis cannot
be composed and why it is that most kritis stick to familiar themes.
We thank the Carnatic Music Association of North America (http://www.cmana.org)
for providing us with a recording of clips from Sanjay Subrahmanyan's concert. We
also thank Sanjay Subrahmanyan for obliging us by singing the pallavi in Malayamarutam.
We thank "Pallavi" (http://www.pallavi.org)
for permitting us to use photographs from their albums and S. Pasupathy (http://www.comm.toronto.edu/~pas/)
for discussions and providing us a recording. Some of the photographs in this feature
were culled from the magazine, Sruti.
As always, it is our pleasure to thank Anita Thakur and Rajan P. Parrikar for their
assistance in putting this feature together.
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