The Glossarie of Carnatick Season Terminologie for Peter Purposes

It is the Chennai music season and if you are a newbie, and feel hopelessly lost as the elite carnatic crowd throws around complex sounding jargon, this is the guide for you.


AaahaExclamation used by peter-vuttufying rasikaas to show off their advanced abilities at recognizing subtle nuances in the music. If you are a beginner and do not quite know when to aaaha, use this guide, and be assured that most of the crowd around you is aaahaing randomly. So as a starting point, you can aaaha at:

  • Any time the performer seems to be raising his hands in the direction of the sky. Aaaha. Besh.
  • Any time the performer closes his eyes and simulates an aneurysm using facial muscles. Umm. Aaaha.
  • Any continuous stretch of something that sounds high-tempo. Oooho. Aaaha

AalaapanaThe slow, careful and thoughtful exploration of the entire audience for all young, nubile, marriageable girls by American accented, Carnatic-loving NRI guys who have come back to Madras in search of a full-time cook and baby incubator. The exploration usually starts low, in the ground floor of the Music Academy, in the VIP areas first, and then goes high, towards the balcony areas, before coming back to earth in the realization that local chicks are not impressed by greenbacks anymore.

Gnaanam – The fine art of raga identification through the careful honing of ones ability to eavesdrop on raga identification dialogues from far away. Sample for the Newbie

Absolutely Appaavi: What raaga is this, I wonder?

Comfortably Gnaanam: Hmm..hmm..err..sounds like Aahir Bhairavi..hmm. (switches on advanced eavesdropping in-ear device). Beep. Real expert located sitting 4 rows away, and is heard saying “Oh..Chakravaaham”.

Absolutely Appaavi: Oh. Aahir Bhairavi.

Comfortably Gnaanam: (Closes eyes for a moment and feigns deep concentration) No. no. Not Aahir Bhairavi. This is Chakravaaham. Very similar, but the nuances give it away easily.

Absolutely Appaavi: Aah. You have so much gnaanam ya.

Kalpana Swara The concocted, imaginary technical details of a song’s raaga, taala and composer by a kadalai-puttufying rasika who has bought his carnatically ignorant girlfriend along to try and impress her with his encyclopedic gnaanam. The newbie is instructed to use the following styles to impress his own girlfriend.

  • This sounds like Karnaataka Devagandhari..
  • This has a chaayam of Nalinakaanthi…
  • This is definitely a janya of Dharmavathi, but the exact name escapes me..
  • The lyrical style seems to suggest Syaama Sastri, but I could be mistaken

NiravalThe creative exploration of various conversational topics by a boy and girl who have been set up by match-making maamis to socialize at a season concert to get to know each other before tying the knot. The boy is usually an IT or MS-Phd type whose abilities at making small talk with women are slightly worse than an alpha-male hippo trying to dance Mohiniattam.

A good niraval session involves two basic themes

  • Boy (Vocalist) trying to show off coolness, broad-mindedness and yet, a love for simple things like curd rice
  • Girl (Violinist) trying hard to figure if she is going to get stuck up with an unromantic, possessive egomaniac

The initial sangadhis are simple

  • So where did you go to school/college?
  • Who’s your favourite actor/actress/food item?
  • Work related stuff. Do you have a friendly boss?

And then it starts to get complex

  • Are you comfortable with my friends eating non-veg?
  • What is your favourite city and where would you prefer settling down in life?

RTP A verb that suggests that the performer is going to waste 45 minutes of the audience’ time by getting away with just 4 lines of verse, rehashed aalapana, pre-composed niraval and full mugged-up kalpana swara. Sample dialogue: Did TMK RTP today? Oh? Yes aa? With RMKP also aa? Oh. Full heavy matter no? (RMKP = Ragamalika Kalpana Swara)

Taalam – Of late, with artistes exploring strange new raagas and hard-to-follow time signatures like 5/4 and 7/4 more often than not, the first few sangadhis of a really popular song (like Nagumomu or something) cause everyone in the audience to heave a sigh of relief and vigorously proceed to clap to the beat. As the saying goes – Familiarity breeds Taalam. The newbie is advised to follow along. A few aaahas at this point will help too.

Tani aavarthanam – Coffee/snacks Break.