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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 University. (http://www.princeton.edu/~globsec/)

Muthukumar and Ramana's past articles on SAWF:

Bhimpalasi Inc

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 it further.

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 pallavis.

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 wheel):

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 Natakurinji.

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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