A Question of Variety; Carnatic or Hindustani Music?
Yesterday, I read somewhere, not for the first time, that somebody preferred Carnatic music to Hindustani music because Carnatic music has more variety. I’m not one to begrudge anyone their preferences, (although I do sometimes idealistically wish everyone would love both and have a “love marriage” like mine). The “lack of variety” in Hindustani music however, is an assessment that is not entirely correct. A lot depends on the ear and on how it has been trained to listen.
The two systems are similar yet different, more importantly, they are performed differently these days.
In a contemporary Carnatic concert one is usually offered a range of different forms, from Varnams, to Ragam Tanam Pallavis and hopefully javalis and padams. Many different ragams are performed. Many speeds of music are visited. Many texts are sung (but not always pronounced correctly).
“Hindustani” is a rather generic term, and covers a lot of different forms and styles. What most people associate with a Hindustani concert is usually a Khayal concert. What tends to happen in Khayal and Dhrupad concerts is that a raga is expanded in great depth. The variety therefore, is expected to come from within the raga. One can spend two hours on Yaman and still not be done.
Second, there are different forms and styles of Hindustani music. Khayal and Dhrupad are the two major forms. Numerous “lighter” forms exist such as Thumri, Kajri, Tappa etc. Now a Dhrupad singer does not usually specialise in Khayal and vice versa. And while a Khayal singer may include a Thumri in a concert, there have always been singers who specialise in Thumri-Dadra and sing nothing else.
Third, a variety of different forms exist in Hindustani music, but not everyone is singing them brilliantly. Also, access to these forms remains limited. I return to my old pet peeve, there is a lot more on the net in terms of quality Carnatic music…
In sum, the variety exists in the North, but differently.