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Country music history

Country music history: country music started its climb to fame with the invention of the radio.

In the 1930`s, country music was beginning to spread, thanks to the invention of the radio. This became a popular source of entertainment in a time of an impoverished economy. Radio was entertaining, and, it was virtually free. Gene Autry, Tex Ritter, and the Carter Family were all making their ways in the expanding world of music.

WSM`s Grand Ol` Opry, which began its long-running history in Nashville, Tennessee, started out as a radio show in the 1930`s. Because of its large range of popular country singing stars, record companies and "wannabe" singers from all over the United States were drawn to Nashville. It soon became known as "Music City USA."

Every singer had a nickname which pertained to their prominence in the world of country music, and Roy Acuff was no exception. Known to his fans as the "King of Country Music", Acuff and his band, which was called "The Smoky Mountain Boys", joined the Opry in the late 1930`s. Acuff`s Opry fame lasted many years until he passed away in 1992.

The Grand Ol` Opry went on to showcase many more singers, ladies and gentlemen alike, with the addition of Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs, and Little Jimmy Dickens, just to name a few. In later years, singers who made their marks in the music world would also grace the stage. These included big names like George Jones, Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Loretta Lynn, and Porter Wagoner.

In the 1950`s, the Carter Family was a maternally-directed group that consisted of Maybelle and her three daughters, Anita, June and Helen. This group joined the Grand Ol` Opry and was known as the First Family of Country Music. In years to come, June would gain further public exposure when she changed her name to June Carter Cash by wedding another country singer named Johnny Cash. Even though Cash`s early career was plagued by drug and alcohol problems, he pulled through it all and became a popular country star. Cash was known as the "Man in Black" because his outfits were always a solid black shirt, slacks, coat, and boots.

Even though they played basically the same instruments, which most always included guitars and drums, some of the singers and groups that took the stages in the 1980`s had their own sounds. While Reba McEntire and Randy Travis had the tradtional country sound, a group known as "Alabama" hit the scene with a country/rock sound. People loved their music, though, and bought their albums as soon as they hit the stores.

Finally, in the 1990`s, things changed when Garth Brooks hit the scene. He successfully attracted young people back into country music by crooning his heartfelt ballads. Other singers like the Dixie Chicks, Faith Hill and Shania Twain, as well as several other groups came on the scene too, and the audiences applauded their talents. It was also at this time that the controversy about what was and what was not real country music came to be. Shania Twain, for example, was said to have "crossed the line" over to pop music, even though her music was called "country."

Over the years, country music has changed and evolved into being the billion dollar industry that it is today. What direction it will take will undoubtedly be directed by the people. That is, the listening audience who buys and listens to the songs that come out of country music land.

The Empire of Todi

With the heights of the Bhairav terrain scaled our onward peregrinations now bring into view the most profound, finespun idea in melodic music: Raganga Todi. The encomia splurged earlier on the Bhairav dynasty carry over pari passu to the Todi clan. As in the case of Bhairav, Todi denotes a thAT, a rAga and a rAgAnga and all the three converge in the expansive Raga Todi. From ecstasy to frolic to pathos to bathos to melancholy - the prism of Todi has the capacity to refract every conceivable human emotion. To renew Todi in the portals of the mind is to know and experience the delights of intellectual sport. The Raganga is so fundamental to our musical milieu that it would not be absurd to speak of a "Todi gene" in the socio-cultural biology of India.

Let M = shuddha and m = teevra madhyam.

Raganga Todi

We begin with an inquiry into the Todi Raganga. The scale of the Todi thAT corresponds to the 45th Carnatic melakartA Shubhapantuvarali: S r g m P d N . The Raganga Raga Todi is known variously as Miyan ki Todi, Shuddha Todi and Darbari Todi. The kernel of Raganga Todi is embodied in the following tonal strip:

S, r, r<->g, g, r, S

This poorvAnga-based prayoga contains the heart of Raganga Todi and is sufficient to establish the Raganga. Additionally, a strong (nyAsa bahutva) komal dhaivat in the uttarAnga rounds off the overall Raganga picture. The ucchAraNa (intonation and punctuation) of the intimate interaction between r and g is critical else Todi would be dead on arrival. These two swaras are manifested 'en suite,' establishing, so to speak, a symbiotic relationship within the local melodic ecosystem, mutually imparting and receiving kaNs. The movement r->g with a nyAsa on the gandhAr is vital and the reverse g->r lingers on the rishab before its eventual dissipation on S . The r<->g interchange accrues as a gradual transition with one swara evolving into the other and precipitates the 'Todi effect', a palpable uneasy sensation. The Todi anga and its ucchAraNa are beautifully illustrated by Pandit Ramashreya Jha "Ramrang" -

The features of Raga Todi are now summarized:

S, r<->g, g r, S

This represents the Raganga signature.

g m d, N d, d m g r, g, r S

This movement highlights the nyAsa bahutva dhaivat and the langhan alpatva (skipped) nature of the pancham.

S r g m P, P m d, d N d, P, dmgr, g

Here the pancham is shown as a nyAsa swara. The specific treatment accorded P is a function of the performer's background and taste. Some prefer a liberal use, others use it as a repose location in avarohi prayogas only to release tension following an uttarAnga foray. The madhyam and nishAd are always at hand but subordinate to the other swaras. The nishAd is sometimes brightened (deergha), especially in the mandra saptaka, and occasionally skipped (langhan alpatva) en route to the tAr shaDja: d, d S" .

In Gurjari Todi, the pancham is eliminated but the overall conduct hews to the Todi line. Some musicians suggest additional artifacts to distinguish it from Todi such as a stronger role for the komal rishab. In this article, Ragas Todi and Gurjari Todi will be bundled together for purposes of discussion and demonstration.

This completes our overture. We have illuminated the central features and dispensed with the supporting details for there is only so much that can be effectively conveyed with the written word. The rasika will find a cornucopia of useful material in the audio banquet with which to probe further and strengthen her understanding.

We kick-off with a user-friendly suite of 'light' pieces. They are called 'light' but there is nothing light about them. M.S. Subbulakshmi's chanting of Adi Shankara's stotras sets the ball rolling. The verses are tuned by Kadayanallur Venkataraman -

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