About Carnatic Music:
Carnatic Music today symbolizes an effort to bring an ancient performance practice to the contemporary audience and listener. What once was the traditional music of the temple halls and "darbars" (royal court concerts) - a music soaked in "bhakti" (devotion), "rasa" (emotion), and "manodharma" (personal creativity), is now re-contextualized incorporating a new pallet of sounds and innovative instrumentation to connect the audience to the inspiration of that tradition.
A distinctive feature of this music is the use of the Tambura / Tanpura ("drone"). The tambura does not play a melody, but rather creates a meditative ambience, supporting and sustaining the performance of another musician or vocalist. Parallels can be drawn with the Scottish pibroch piping; didgeridoo music in Australia, the sustained tones found in the Japanese gagaku and the Byzantine chant's "ison".
Carnatic music is also characterised by spontaneity - songs are often decided by the lead performer on stage as the recital progresses. Musicans also challenge each other through improvisation.
Carnatic music is monophonic - only one note is played at a time without harmonies or melody in counterpoint. On this basis, a blunt definition of Carnatic music is that it is "Raaga" music. The term Raaga itself can be understood as a scale with a set of ascending notes ("Arohanam") and a set of descending notes ("Avarohanam").
About Sanjay Subrahmnayan:
Sanjay Subrahmanyan is one of those rare and complete performers whose concerts are the product of a lively and intelligent mind. His music has the high authority and purity of tradition and the creativity of an exceptionally gifted artist. His concerts, like those of the great musicians of the past, convey an air of freedom. They sang in the presence of an audience, but they sang for their music.
Sanjay sings with an air of freedom and abandon that few can match. His repertoire is vast and varied and an unending work in progress. He delights us with the unpredictability and newness of what he chooses to sing. The intensive and exhaustive elaboration of unconventional ragas, and those that are outside the major mainstream, is a unique feature of his concerts that finds him in his elements. At the same time his treatment of the time honoured classical raagas like Todi, Kalyani, Khamboji, and Sankarabharanam, find new and refreshing interpretations each time he essays them. This unique combination of tradition and modernity is what makes the fans throng to his performances – be they in Chennai or Chicago, New Delhi or New Jersey, Salem or Sydney. Sanjay’s fondness for his mother tongue, Tamil, deserves a special mention. This ancient language finds the singer in his elements, as he offers classic Tamil compositions in tandem with those that he assiduously mines of composers whose works have not seen the light of day. This is a much anticipated aspect of his performances.
The great artists of Carnatic music have always sought after the infinite and taken us along with them in their quest and striving. The best among them today, like Sanjay Subrahmanyan, harmonise the wisdom and stabilising influences of the past with their own artistic and intellectual creativity.