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.

37 responses to “The Glossarie of Carnatick Season Terminologie for Peter Purposes”

  1. Thoppai Mama Avatar

    Truly, the crowd at the Chennai season is at the most exalted, multiple doctorate level of poseurs, expounding as it does on shadjams and daivathams.

    See, we in the backwaters are still at the level where we know it is Hamsadhwani when we hear Vatapi Ganapathim. Masters level is where we confidently declaim that Raguvamsha sutha is the only caamposition in Kadanakuthoohalam. We just stop short of a ‘saashtanga namaskaaram’ when the significance of ‘varshaya varshaya’ in ‘Anandamrtha varshini’ is explained to us. This is the person we call a musicologist.

    It is far more commonplace at our concerts to hear the bejewelled, see-and-be-seen brigade turn to one another and say ‘This is a Meera Bhajan’ when Salim Kausar’s ‘Main Khyaal hoon, kisi aur ka’ is sung in the tukkda section.

    PS: I had previously made this comment to Bikerdude’s earlier post, but is worth repeating, I think.

    BTW, have you seen Rajkumar Bharati do his 32 beats/cycle raagam? (name escapes me). This was the full monty with fingers snapping in a circle before him to mark the cycle. Never having seen anyone else do this, I have always considered this to be peter vuttufying at the musician level.

    BBTW, the sigh of unfettered relief from the audience when TNS descends from Olympus and performs a ‘familiar’ piece like “Needhaan mecchi koLLa vaeNdum”
    Ashok: Great comment 🙂 I have not seen RB do this. But the king of musician level peter vuttufying has got to be Balamuralikrishna. Self composed songs in newly named raagas set to 11/4 and 13/4 time signatures in a voice spanning 3 octaves

  2. Srinivasa Avatar

    > 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.

    I’m surprised at this comment. Aren’t IT types essentially B.Com types by another name?
    Ashok: Not entirely yet. At the moment, the Satyabhama “University” type graduate boys are taught that girls are from Venus in a literal planetary sense and therefore aliens to be shunned. The major kadalai-goshti from the B.Com/BSc colleges hasn’t completely replaced “engineers” altogether quite yet.

  3. Giridhar Avatar

    there is a theatre in my madurai, The Mapillai vinayager theatre. They used to screen only english action movies. Every sunday we go there and i watch ppl watching movies. if somebody laughs, everyone laughs, if they clap, the crowd follows. All they want is action, and most cant understand the fast english.

    If i follow ur tactics, probably ill be like those guys watching engish action movies without understanding the dialogues.. BTW …am a dathi when it comes to carnatic music. 😀

  4. Priyank Avatar

    Guides and glossaries like these should be banned. I’ll lose my monopoly over the ‘Gnaanam’ part… 😉

  5. Lavanya Avatar

    Devastating!!! And to think I passed all my Carnatic exams without any of this gnaanam!! Syllabus change aa?? (For better only:))

    Is it safe for you on the streets of Chennai?! I’m planning to send this to my Mom. You want to consider hiring security, dude?

  6. konguththamizhan Avatar

    engUrla iNNum intha kacceriyellAm pemous Akale. Ana ennikAchum engkUrkkAnuka evAnAchum ‘Peter’ vuda pAthAnukannA itha veccE keLappIralam. rOmba thanksungka.

  7. maami Avatar

    KA: Thanks ba.This Peter story is familiar in my memories only. Alas, I ‘m stuck to Jaya TV and Vijay TV these days for any strains of December music where assorted maamas and maamis hold a mike like an ice cream cone and ask questions to the performer.
    Lady performers answer primarily in English, interspersed with little Tamizh of the maami variety. (Why? Any gnaanam on that?)
    Gents like S.Subramaniam will try a M D Ramanatha cum GNB tactic and answer in dismissive monosyllables.

  8. Pri Avatar

    saar vy yuver haawing taapless madals? is vary indecent. i abjekt.

  9. Bikerdude Avatar

    Lovely poshtu man. Apropos Sri Peter Murali Krishna. He once announced in a concert: “Aa- this saang yis compozedu by none another than myself.” And then proceeded to sing something like the “One Note Samba” in some bizarre 4 note ragam called Lavangi.

    Well I guess we all need some lovingi.

  10. RK Avatar

    For people whoare interested in music but are not able to guess the ragas it will be difficult rather below their dignity to ask the neighbour regarding the raga. Then they have to keep listening to the next seat mama or mami to utter the name of the
    raga loudly so that everybody will come to know that they know very well all the ragas.
    Is there any lovers who go to the carnatic music concerts instead of to cinema or beach.
    You said the NRI boys and indian girls will talk about the music they know at the concerts just to know about each other and to initiate talk.
    You have omitted the canteen items which are talked about more than the music.
    Naradhagana sabha and musi academy are supposed to be serving good food for the stomach also along with the food for the ears.

  11. Ramsu Avatar

    Nice post!

    Especially loved the hip-hop rendering. I wonder what he would be called. Mista T sounds like a possibility.


    ps: Don’t worry too much about the elephant in the room. You da man. Just keep doing the jalsa in your own style, and you will find that the room grows big enough for a few more pachyderms to get in.

  12. Vik Avatar

    I was like ROFL and LMAO big time when I read your note. The gnanam part was the highlight. Great writing matey.. Keep up the good work.

  13. charukesi Avatar

    *worse than an alpha-male hippo trying to dance Mohiniattam* that is a mental image I am not going to get rid of so easily :))
    and I think thani aavarthanam – a chance for the main kacheri pannarava to do the aaha and all the rest of it…

  14. radha Avatar

    Critics nra perla koothu adikkara gumbalai vittuteLey indha goshtilendhu ! They are peter, paul and mary and then some ! With three letter pseudonyms ( jkh,asd,vsv,nmk etc.), extraordinary spite and an unfailing personal agenda these guys are the most insufferable. Once some guy even wrote stuff like ” indha varusham srichurna goshti romba dominanta irukkum pola irukkey “and passed it off as music criticism.

    ps :ananda vikatan’s latest review of a TMK concert has special mention of his kadukkan,beard etc . :))

  15. Aaarti Avatar

    hahahaha… niraiya kutcheri ketta anubavama illa avvalavu sangeeta rasanaiya???? 😛

  16. inbavalli Avatar

    Great post. But how could you talk Season without Canteen? Abachchaaram 😉

  17. 10yearslate Avatar

    Valid point re critics Radha-mami.

    None of these critics is formally trained in music appreciation ( I understand most Western universities offer this graduate level course).

    I am told that once Subbudu walked into a Yesudas concert late. The bearded one broke off and said ‘Indha kacheri ungLukku illai-poittu vaango’.

  18. 10yearslate Avatar

    Sorry..’none of these critics are’..just in case the good doctor is reading this.

  19. Pradeep Avatar

    Are we seeing our very own Ze Frank in the making??

    Thoroughly entertaining, absolutely original and sparkling wit…everytime!

    Hey! cliches apart I also get to learn a new word every time I read your blog mate…aneurysm…? Did you go to medical school???

    Brilliant! Thanks!

  20. maxdavinci Avatar

    carnatic moosik and me is like a bld man using a comb. That explains why most maamis shiver at the fact that I can’t even lay a finger on any instrument. It happens, some people are ‘carnatically challenged’.

    My research however tells me that the sabhas are famous for the ‘keerai vadai’ and ‘carrot halwa’ served at the canteens. And before anybody accuses me of pulluting the minds of chamathu tambram boys here, i’ll pull out.

    cheerio KA, and thank you for this informative post!

  21. Yogi Avatar

    Brilliant wit! For someone who has not attended any December season kacheris in Chennai, the sense of ‘missing’ it so badly has reduced!!
    Too good …let them keep coming!

  22. Sushmita Avatar

    ooh lala!! absolutely loved it…
    after having left sangeetam classes after 3 years with not all that much info in my pocket to brag about.. atleast i can pretend to, after reading this!

  23. hasta Avatar

    good one dude!! very useful for ppl like me who know zilch on carnatic music (any music for that matter) you shoudl write a post for jazz, rock, metal, pop etc varieties as well!! music for the moo-sicks!!

  24. gayathri Avatar

    excellent post!!!!very funny and unfortunately true!!!!

  25. kausikram Avatar

    i thought chakravaham and aahir are the same..:P
    Ashok: Precisely 😉

  26. […] Now let me go grab a plate of sambar vadai from Kaiyendhi bhavan, pick up Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy from the thaathaa at Luz Corner and go watch some over-decked maamis at The Music Academy make good use of this. […]

  27. Guru Avatar

    Hmm.. Nice analysis of all the peter ways on the concert circuit. And the ‘Gnaanam’ part is superawesome. I don’t think you can learn to recongnize the raaga’s if your just a listener, there are so many of them, right ? So it is upto the truly talented to identify the raaga, and the rest just ‘eavesdrop’ as you say.

    Also the rasikas also give samma build up about their ‘music knowledge’,usually they are a closed group, and they look down upon know-nothings like me as if i don’t deserve to live. Now everytime when someone does that i’ll know whats really running in their mind .. hmm..

  28. Gundapati S. Rao Avatar

    What does “peter vuttufying” mean?

    1. krishashok Avatar

      “Peter Vuttufying” in a Madras Bashai term that refers to using fancy, high-falutin terms without actually knowing what one is talking about

  29. Gundapati S. Rao Avatar

    Very enjoyable blog. Like the description of those cheap NRIs who come to Chennai to get marrried. The term “baby incubator” while rather insulting is quite true

  30. K.Ramachandran Avatar

    Awesome post. This rivals gr8 social satirists like Johnathan Swift, and others whose name i’ve forgotten. ” foibles of the human race “.

  31. Ramdas Menon Avatar

    Absolutely brilliant, Krish.

  32. agence webmarketing Avatar
    agence webmarketing

    Merci pour l’info. J’attend avec impatience la suite. Amicalement,

    référencement internet seo expert

  33. Lakshman Avatar

    Anybody pls send me the lyrics of “nee dhhan mechi kolla vendum”.

  34. Latha Ramalingam Avatar
    Latha Ramalingam


  35. Ramdas Menon Avatar
    Ramdas Menon

    Absolutely brilliant, man

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: