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Varnam is one of the most important parts of Carnatic music.

It has two types:

  • Tāna varnam
  • Pāda varnam

On the concert stage, the varnam occurs quite often. At the opening of any concert, one varnam will be performed.

Varnams are considered vocal exercises in a particular raga. The patterns in a varnam are considered to be characteristic patterns of a particular raga or scale. Varnams are considered the most complex of the vocal exercises in Carnatic Music. They are designed to help develop voice culture and proper control of rhythm. Indeed, varnams are often practiced in double and triple speeds and proper rhythmic control (tala) must be kept.

Tana varnams are considered pure vocal exercises, and pada varnams are generally sung to accompany South Indian classical dance (bharatanatyam). Pada varnams generally contain much more text and lyric content than the tana varnam. The tana varnam is composed of just a few lines, and words may be extended through many notes. For example, many varnams contain the lyric "Sāmi", meaning God, may be extended to "sa a a a a a a m i i i i i i i"... and so on.

The varnam is subdivided into several sections:

  • Pallavi: the first line, sung with lyric
  • Anupallavi: a sort of recapitulation, sung with lyric
  • Muktāyi Swaram: sung completely with syllables -- or swaras -- (like sa ri ga ma pa da ni sa)
  • Charanam: sung with lyric
  • Charanam Swaras: sung completely with syllables. In a Pada varnam, there are lyrics which correspond to the Charanam swaras. The swaras occur in several groups or stanzas.

Generally, a varnam is sung as follows:

  • Pallavi
  • Anupallavi
  • Muktayi Swaram
  • Pallavi (in double speed)

Repeat, then Pallavi sung in triple speed, or in original speed.

  • Charanam
  • Charanam Swara Group 1
  • Charanam
  • Charanam Swara Group 2
  • Charanam
  • Charanam Swara Group 3
  • Charanam
  • Charanam Swara Group 4
  • Charanam

There are generally 3-5 swara groups in every varnam. In a concert, the entire charanam section is sung at approximately 1.5 speed.

Varnams are generally sung in 2 varieties of talas, or metric systems, Adi Tala (8 beat cycle) and Ata Tala (14 beat cycle), where Ata Tala varnams are generally more complicated and advanced.

Famous adi tala tana varnams include "Sāmi Ninne" in raga Sree and "Valachi Vacchi" in a navarāgamālika, or 9 ragas. Famous ata tala varnams are "Viriboni" in raga Bhairavi, and "Nera Nammi" in raga Kānada. A famous adi tala pada varnam is "Chalamela" in raga Nāttakurinji.

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.