Tiago Roger on the Lake Geneva shoreline

Warning: The following post may not make sense if you cannot immediately recognize that the Hungarian minor scale is really just Keeravani wearing a bowler hat.

Somewhere in the place we call the “past”, two subspecies of the branch Homo Sapiens Madrasicus split. The evolutionary difference between them had to do with music, and the intervening years have, rather unfairly, kept these two groups more apart than necessary. I am talking about the two kinds of music that caused this schism in the first place. Interestingly enough, both genres contain the word “Classic” in the adjectives used to describe them.

1. “Classical” music, a.k.a Carnatic music a.k.a Raga and Rule
2. “Classic” rock, a.k.a 1970s music a.k.a Rock and Roll

Since I enjoy both genres immensely, I feel rather strange that I don’t have much company (with the exception of him, perhaps). If one were to draw a Venn diagram of this situation, A (ulta U) B would not just be tending to zero, but sprinting towards it in all earnest. In other words, the union of both of these sets seems to have resulted in divorce without any marriage counseling. Therefore, this post seeks to make the first moves in reconciling fans of “Nagumomu” with the fans of “Smoke on the Water”.

And talking of those 2 songs, here is a typical conversation between 2 folks, KD Gandhari and Vaadaamalli, who find themselves sitting next to each other on 47A from Besant Nagar to ICF.

KDG: You know that feeling when you go to a concert, and you wait 2+ hours for your favourite song, and they don’t sing it?

VM: Oh yes, I do. It’s happened to me many times. It feels like eating a Mirchi bajji and being informed that there is only boiling hot water available to drink. Not a good feeling at all.

KDG: I mean, for example, this song, one of my all-time favourites, is such a global hit, that not performing it at a concert completely defies explanation

VM: I fully empathize. It happens pretty frequently with my favourite song as well. Huge hit, and yet, all to frequently ignored in the playlist.

KDG: I love this song sooo much. The beauty of the minor pentatonic with the descending full scale..hmm..delectable

VM: Yeah. I can just feel the harmony. Roger was at his best.

KDG: Agree. Roger must have known right away that he was composing one for the ages.

VM: Yes. Totally unforgettable tune, that one.

KDG: Amen to that.

VM: Totally. The lake must have been such as inspiration

KDG: You mean the river

VM: No. Lake.

KDG: Why do I get the feeling that we are not talking about the same song?

VM: Yes. This sudden cognitive dissonance involving the type of water body is rather jarring. Like C and F# being played together all of a sudden.

KDG: I am referring to the river Cauvery

VM: And I, Lake Geneva

KDG: Aaaaaaaaaaaah. I’ve been talking to an insufferable classic rock fan

VM: Aaaaaaaaaaah, I’ve been wasting my time on a pompous music academy peter party

(Cold silence ensues)

So that’s been the typical tone of conversation so far, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. Classic Rockers and Classical Raagers can get along. On the face of it, both genres seem about as far from each other as Anu Malik and original compositions, but that’s just an illusion. There are many similarities between Classic Rock and Carnatic music.

For starters, both these genres have a strong live-performance-creativity element. One has Kalpana swaras and the other, extended Guitar leads and one has Thani avarthanams and the other, pounding drum solos. Carnatic music is about reaching the Higher Being, Classic Rock is about generally being high.

So, here we go: Tiago Roger’s Smokin’ lead

and Deep Purple plays Nagumomu

Peace out.

46 Comments

Leave a Comment

  1. Ausam, as usual!!!

    Raga and Rule, Anu Malik & Originality and Higher Being/Being High had me in splits!

    BTW, the ‘DP plays Nagumomu’ clip tapers out at 00:56. The rest of the silence is for the ‘thalangu tahakidhimi takadhimithom’s???

  2. Totally agree. Being a student of carnatic music, i am looked at with much horror and amzement if head bang to some maiden song, by my fellow carnatic pilley. Let the groups unite…

    btw saar i humbly request you to visit my blog http://nakulps.blogspot.com

  3. In fact carnatic has a lot more similarities with jazz than with classic rock. And Ilayaraja has done some amazing fusing of carnatic and western classical in his How To Name It. I always wonder, why hasn’t there been even one other album like HTNI in the next 20 years!

    Similarly themed blog post I wrote sometime back (sans the kaamady of course :D) – http://rfc9000.livejournal.com/93467.html

  4. Now let me confess, you know what exactly music means… And i guess this is the same thought process that goes through AR Rehman’s cerebral tissues!

    Awesome composition…

  5. Hey, I have this conflict within the family itself. I think that’s where it split, the two sub-species. My Dad is a Carnatic Vocalist and me, I’m a rocker!

  6. Wow!! What a bridge you’ve drawn! ‘Classic Rockers and Classic Raagers’, ‘Carnatic music is about reaching the Higher Being, Classic Rock is about generally being high.’ – Amazing! I bow to thee!

  7. Higher being and being high – Zimply Hilarious i tell you.

    Comfortably Numb and Kalaivaaniye can indeed have a handshake. My paatis fav song was Pettai Rap which was a secret to many since she was mostly headbanging to Thiyagaraja Aradhana.
    But who says we cant mix it a notch, the cocktail will simply mesmerize.

    Good one.. besh besh!!!

  8. That ulta U you are looking for wouldn’t, perchance happen to be: ‘∩’? Unicode, my friend. Unicode.
    But unicode can’t solve the problem of laziness, can it?

  9. //both genres seem about as far from each other as Anu Malik and original compositions, but that’s just an illusion

    illusion??? ONLY the former …Right???

  10. Brilliant!

    fyi, I believe there might be a relatively large group of such souls… torn between these two music worlds. And they will cheer your arrival with open arms: Welcome, oh messiah, oh krishna, to dispel this maya and open the world’s eyes to the unity of music.

    You should write a book… Bhagavat Geetam.

  11. like a typical programmer, i ignored the warning!

    result –
    enjoyed reading the blog, but the correlation between the two attachments went over my head.

  12. Hey,

    I work for a very well-known record label and feel that reading through posts like this sparks off a potentially brilliant idea! I wonder if the classic carnatic rendered in the classic rock style would find a large audience….my guess is ‘yes!!’
    Brilliantly drawn parallels and to think it was always there and none of us thought of it!

  13. (silence )

    (deep breath)

    then – lonnnnnnnnnnnng drawn out phull peter-putting clap clapping

    🙂

    Zimbly sooperaairrku.

    Buttermilk! Buttermilk!

  14. I am a Music Illiterate. I understood every single word of this post as individual words but not put together. But I liked the musical fusion in the end. You stirred it (Kalakitta).

  15. Dear KA-sir,

    I fail to understand how the Hungarian Minor scale has any relevance to Smoke on the Water. As far as I know, the guitar solo in this song is played in the minor pentatonic scale, plus a few borrowed notes from Dorian and Mixolydian modes.

    Other than that, well-played, sir.

    Another question – what software did you use to make the drum loops?

    Thanks,

    Puppy Manohar.

  16. Dear KA…your prayer for peace between Rock and Raga may have been answered at last, at least in the ad world…just watched an ad on MTV/ [V] where 2 long haired rock types are playing a sitar like it were a guitar and an elderly hindustani gamagam uttufying types is going on and on with an alapana and finally ends it with the bol “sweet child of mine”. I forget what it was an ad for (typical ad…good concept recall…no brand recall), but I do hope it is a start of marriage between raga and rock

  17. Dear Dictator-for-life-of-the-Canine-Chemistry-Club,
    The warning was not intended to be related to the post. It was only meant as a qualification exam to warn non-musical-geeks that the post could be rather musicotechnical. It’s sort of like saying “The following post on Half Life 2 may not make sense to you if you do not think that the crowbar is the best way to kill headcrabs”, but going on to write about something even more trivial about HL2.

    And oh, the drum loops. Garageband + Jam packs + cut-paste trickery on (shameless promo warning) Macbook Pro

  18. Hi ,

    I was reading ur blog posts and found some of them to be very good.. u write well.. Why don’t you popularize it more.. ur posts on ur blog ‘Doing Jalsa and Showing Jilpa’ took my particular attention as some of them are interesting topics of mine too;

    BTW I help out some ex-IIMA guys who with another batch mate run http://www.rambhai.com where you can post links to your most loved blog-posts. Rambhai was the chaiwala at IIMA and it is a site where users can themselves share links to blog posts etc and other can find and vote on them. The best make it to the homepage!

    This way you can reach out to rambhai readers some of whom could become your ardent fans.. who knows.. 🙂

    You can also win an exciting t-shirt by winning the contest which is going on in rambhai.com…. hurry up the contest is from 10 – 24 august…

    Cheers,

  19. ‘Carnatic music is about reaching the Higher Being, Classic Rock is about generally being high’

    ….Killer statement!… you really rock! too good..

  20. (off topic but still relevant! Apologies for the hijack)

    I’ve said it before here and may I please say it again:

    http://nitawriter.wordpress.com/2008/08/21/the-british-and-the-americans-dont-like-marathi-chauvinism/#comments

    Mere words aren’t enough to express my appreciation of the Tamil/S. Indian language and culture centric blogs such as this and bengaloorubanter.

    A read through NitaWriter’s post on the awful Western arrogance toward Marathi should get a few minds thinking!

    So – KS dude – again, please do not apologise for the Tamil centric in-jokes. I love them and work as hard at understanding the more complex ones – the same way I strive to get the in-jokes en Francais!
    🙂

    /end of commentsujack

  21. Hahaha. Brilliant.

    May I ask who played the Deep Purpled nagumomu solo?
    Ashok: Your’s truly (using a Carlo Robelli electric violin through a GNX3 guitar processor) recorded on Garageband running on a Macbook Pro

  22. # Keeravani with a bowler hat has a name: Simhendramadhyamam (which can be crudely translated as ‘Lion Subdominant)

    # Great job with the music! The arguments in the next point notwithstanding, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

    # … Yes Carnatic and Rock Music have a lot in common but there is a crucial point where things don’t gel. It is an element that I can call the “spirit” of the music. This “spirit” is determined by the mindset and the intention of the composers for a given genre. The spirit of Rock may be summarized as “I may have lots of issues in my life, still I am in control and I rule”. On the other hand for Carnatic it goes, “I completely surrender to the beauty and grace of a superior being”. Just like the tune and the rhythm, this spirit is also something that is part of the composition. When you start adding stuff like an electric bass and snare drums to a kriti, it may sound musically correct, but it takes it away from “I completely surrender to the beauty and grace of a superior being” and closer to “I may have lots of issues in my life, still I am in control and I rule”. Vice versa applies when you use tambouras and mridangams in Rock concerts. This is hard to digest for the respective audiences -> just as it is hard for someone who has been eating sandwiches and salads throughout his life to digest naan and alu gobi masaala. One more point is we have to make sure that the true “spirit” of compositions like nagumomu as intended by the composer must be preserved over time. I mean you wouldn’t want your grandson to ask you, “Thyagarajar must have been really doped when he played the electric guitars on Nagumomu, right?”

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