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Carnatic Glossary S - listed here are terms beginning with S. If you find a Carnatic term that isn't listed, just send a note.


sa - an abbreviation of shadjam

saadhaaraNa - meaning normal, this refers to the "ordinary" version of a raaga or a swara, especially gaandhaaram

saadhaaraNa gaandhaaram - the second of 3 ga's (G2), which corresponds to E-flat (D#) in the Western key of C

saadhaaraNa geetam - same as sancaari geetam

saahitya - the lyrics of a song (as opposed to the notes or swaras of the tune)

sabhaa gaanam - musical forms for concerts, includingvarnam (a link to abhyaasa gaanam), kritis, keertanais, tEvaram, tiruppugazh, divya prabhandam, tiruaruTpa, tirukkuraL, padam, jaavali, tillaanaa, raagamaalika, taarangam, ashTapadi, Daruvu, and pallavi

samaashTi caraNa - a caraNa (last section of the song) combined with the anupallavi. It may have slow and faster speed sections, and is performed after the pallavi in the absence of an anupallavi

samam - the first beat of the taaLa cycle (irrespective of where the song begins)

sama eDuppu - beginning a song (words, swaras, etc.) at the samam, at the first beat of the taaLa, as opposed to vishama graham

sama graham - same as sama eDuppu

sama mandilam - another name for madhya staayi

samanya geetam - same as sancaari geetam

sama yati - one of the rhythmic patterns in a taaLa where all the angas are of the same magnitude (if, for example, in aadi taaLa, all angas take 4 swaras)

sangati - a particular variation of a phrase in a kriti or song with slight or large changes in tune and gamakas. Each phrase maybe repeated with different variations or sangatis

sampoorna - raagas having a full complement of swaras (sa ri ga ma pa da and ni in both ascending and descending scales) without any absent

sampoorna raaga - another name for a mElakarta raaga

sampradaayam - tradition or the way things have been done in the past

samudaaya kriti - kritis or songs composed in a group on a particular subject or deity, such as pancaratna kritis

samvada Daru - a Daruvu that is a song that brings out a discussion between two people. In Arunaacala Kavi's RaamanaaTakam, "manninnil metta arasar pOl" in kalyaaNi describes the discussion between Raama and Parasuraama

sancaaram - same as sancaari

sancaari - (also sancaaram) a collection of phrases and swaras that completely describe the major characteristics of a raaga, including the nuances and possible anya swaras not included in the scales. They may also refer to elaborations of a single line or phrase in the song. When used in dance, they can specify the elaboration of the same line portrayed in different ways. Each different line, whether in dance or music, is a sancaari or sancaaram

sancaari geetam - a geetam that uses sancaaris in mandra staayi poorvaangam or taara staayi uttaraangam. Also called saadhaaraNa or samanya geetam. This type of geetam has simple lyrics

sankeerna - meaning 9, this is applicable to laghu, which would use 1 beat and then 8 finger movements to give sankeerna jaati. Also, sankeerna caapu has 9 beats (4 + 5)

sankeerna raagas - raagas which show the chaaya of more than one other raaga, ex: aahiri, which shows the chaaya of dhanyaasi and naTabhairavi, dwijaavanti, which shows the chaaya of sahaanaa, kEdaara gowLa, and yadukula kaambhOji, and ghanTa, which shows the chaaya of dhanyaasi and punnaagavaraaLi sometimes

Sanskrit - an ancient language of India, which is usually used only in songs, prayers (slokas), and scriptures. Many composers have composed in Sanskrit

sanyaasam - one of the 13 lakshaNas of a raaga. Sanyaasam means asceticism

sapta - meaning 7

sapta alankaarams - the 7 types of taaLas, each with a different set of movements (angas) and order (see intro to taaLa). These use only 3 angas, the anudrutam (U), drutam (0), and laghu (|). They use sasabda and nissabda movements

sapta taaLas - the sapta alankaarams

sarali varisai - a series of phrases that begin with the low swaras and move upwards, allowing students in the early phases of learning to match their swarastaanas and learn music. These are phrases such as, sr sr sr gm sr gm pd ns. Also known as a swaraavali

Saraswati - goddess of music and learning, consort of Brahma

sarva kaalika raagas - raagas that can be performed at any time of day, such as bhairavi, kaambhOji, shankaraabharaNam, and kalyaaNi

sarva swara gamaka vaarika raaga - these are raagas in which any note can be oscillated, even if all notes need not be oscillated. Thus, in kalyaaNi, any note can be oscillated, but G MUST be oscillated to give the feeling of the raaga. Also known as muktaanga kampita raagas, ex: mOhanam and tODi

sasabda - a taaLa movement which makes sound, found in the sapta taaLas. ex: visarjitam

scale of equal temperament - the scale used in Western music, where notes are exactly equally spaced with even intervals (for example, a piano) and played with little variation. The values of notes (in shankaraabharaNam or the major scale in cents are: s 0, r 200, g 400, m 500, p 700, d 900, n 1100, S 1200

scale of just intonation - the scale used in Indian classical music, where notes are not equally spaced but are slightly offset (for example, violin), performed with variations and gamakas. The values of notes (in shankaraabharaNam or the major scale in cents are: s 0, r 204, g 386, m 498, p 702, d 906, n 1088, S 1200. These values are not precise because of gamakas

second speed - the 2nd kaala, usually using 2 swaras per beat when 1st speed uses only 1 (in early musical practice). However, if 1st speed uses 4 swaras per beat, for example, 2nd speed will use 8. In concerts, the 2nd speed usually uses 8 swaras per beat

sei - another name for a janya raaga

semicolon - a semicolon indicates the equivalent of two commas, so that it is one-half eDuppu or two additional aksharakaalas. Thus if srgm becomes s;m then sa is first one count but in the second phrase it takes 3 counts

sha - an abbreviation for du-nu, the combination of D3 and N3 found in the 6th raaga of all 12 cakras (found in 12 raagas out of the 72 melakartas)

shaadava - meaning 6, this refers to raagas that have only six notes in either the ascending or descending scale (or both), meaning that they are missing one swara compared to sampoorna raagas

shaadavam - one of the 13 lakshaNas of a raaga, to describe whether the raaga is a shaadava raaga

shaanta - a rasa, or feeling, of peace or calmness in a song or raaga. Raagas like vasantaa, shyaamaa demonstrate this rasa

shadangams - the 6 angas, U (anudrutam), 0 (drutam), and | (laghu) which are used only in the sapta talas as well as 8 (guru), ^8 (plutam), and + (kaakapaadam) which are used in the 108 taaLa system

shadjam - sa, the base note or tonic note, which is also a drone note (in the background). There is only one form of sa, though it is usually sung at 2 octaves only (low and high). It corresponds to do of the Western do re mi system

shanmaargams - the 6 maargams (see maargam)

sharp - in Western music, a note that is a half-step (one swarastaana) higher, indicated by the symbol #. Thus B# is equal to C. Opposite of flat

shatshruti - the highest note of three, applicable to rishabam and dhaivatam

shatshruti dhaivatam - the highest of 3 da's (D3), which corresponds to B-flat (A#) in the Western key of C

shatshruti rishabam - the highest of 3 ri's (R3), which corresponds to E-flat (D#) in the Western key of C

shishya - a student, one who learns (see guru)

Shiva - god of destruction, whose dance shakes the heavens. Also known as NaTaraaja

shOdasangams - the 16 angas formed by adding the viramam anga to the 6 existing angas

shringaara - a rasa, or feeling, of romantic love or compassion in a song or raaga. Raagas such as asaavEri, bhairavi, husEni, kaanaDaa, kalyaaNi, kamaas, sahaanaa, and shuruTTi show shringaara rasa

shrOtovaaha yati - a river-like rhythmic pattern of swaras or words that is narrow at one end and widens, the opposite of gOpucca yati. For example, in the phrase dn-pdn-mpdn-gmpdn-rgmpdn-srgmpdn

shruti (1) - the musical pitch, especially of sa, pa, sa that is used, or the key. It can also be any particular pitch (for example, the shruti of ri in a raaga, or the shruti at which a violin's string is set). Men usually sing at a shruti of 1 to 1 1/2, while women tend to sing at shrutis of 4 1/2 to 5

shruti (2) - in tune, for example "always be sure you are singing in shruti"

shruti bEdam - the same as graha bEdam, but not necessarily involving only the tonic note. Shruti bEdam may also involve shift of another note in the scale of a raaga to create a different one

shruti box - an electronic or mechanical device that recreates the effect of the tambura by creating the sounds of sa, pa, and sa. Usually it can be tuned or played for any pitch. Instruments such as the harmonium may also be used as shruti boxes.

shruti maata laya pita - a saying, "shruti is mother, laya is father" which shows the sanctity of the union of melody and rhythm in Carnatic music

shuddha - meaning pure or good, this is a term used in raaga names and also in the first (lowest) forms or rishabam, gaandhaaram, madhyamam, and dhaivatam

shuddha dhaivatam - the lowest of 3 da's (D1), which corresponds to G# (A-flat) in the Western key of C

shuddha gaandhaaram - the lowest of 3 ga's (G1), which corresponds to E natural in the Western key of C

shuddha madhyamam - the lower of 2 ma's (M1), used in the first 36 melakartas, which corresponds to F natural in the Western key of C

shuddha madhyama melakartas - the 36 lower (1-36) melakartas with M1, also known as poorva melakartas

shuddha raagas - raagas in which the caaya is well brought out by playing swaras without any foreign notes (anya swaras), for example mOhanam, maayamaaLava gowLa, madyamaavati, and shree ranjani

shuddha rishabam - the lowest of 3 ri's (R1), which corresponds to C# (D-flat) in the Western key of C

Silappadigaaram - an ancient story in Tamil literature which describes many aspects and terms of South Indian music

slesha - double-meaning or pun, sometimes used by composers to lend multiple meanings to the same line of a song

slOka - a prayer or portion of a scripture used as prayer, often set to tune. It may also be sung as a raagamaalika

so - the fifth note, a perfect fifth from do, in the major scale and the do re mi system in Western music

solkaTTu - (also sollukaTTu) literally spoken-sounds, these are sometimes called jatis. They are sounds intended to imitate percussion, such as the sounds of the mridangam. Common sounds are tAm, ta ki Ta, tOm, dhIm, tatanu, tarikiTa, janu, and dhirana, among others. Sometimes they are combined with swaras like sa ri ga ma etc.

solkaTTu swara - (see solkaTTu) singing of swaras without the swaraksharas but instead with jatis such as taam, dheem, tOm, etc., as often used in tillaanaas

soprano - the highest voice in the Western system of harmony

spuritam - a gamaka which uses repeated notes, in twos, for example ss rr gg mm pp dd nn SS. Musical force from the first note is given to the next note for emphasis

sri - the combination da-ni, or D1 and N2, found in the 2nd of 6 raagas in all 12 cakras (12 raagas out of the 72 melakartas)

staayi - the octave (range of notes from sa to higher sa) at which a composition is performed. The mandra stayi is the middle octave and taara staayi is the higher octave

suladi - (from suda, an Indian word for geeta) a composition very much like the Bhagavad Gita in musical structure and arrangement. However, it is a taaLamalika, each section being in a different talas. Each section is independent by itself. As a result, the pallavi usually is not sung at the end.

suladi geetam - similar to a geetam, it can be a taaLamaalika, with each kanDam or section in a different raaga or it can be sung as a devotional song. It is often taught after alankaarams in many languages

suladi sapta taaLas - sapta means 7, so these are 5 times 7 = 35 taaLas, created from the 7 major taaLa types by incorporating the different possible laghus (see intro to taaLa for more information). Also known as sapta alankaarams

suraaga - a good raaga, which removes the evil eye and wards off bad karma to the performers and audience for performance of raagas at other than the specified times (ex, singing a morning raaga at an evening concert), as well as for any other improper deeds during the concert. Suraagas such as madyamaavati are usually used for the mangaLam song at the end of a concert because of this quality

sutra kanDam - one of the parts of the raagaanga raaga lakshana geetam, in which the letters of the swarastaanas come in order in the saahitya of the song. For example, if the geetam were in kalyaaNi, it could have ri (R2), gu (G3), mi (M2), di (D2), and nu (N3) coming into the words in that order

swaagata Daru - a Daruvu that is a song where a person speaks to himself (a soliloquy)

swara (1) - a type of musical sound that is a single note, but which is not of a defined frequency. Instead, a swara defines a relative (higher or lower) position of a note. There are seven swaras, sa ri ga ma pa da ni which correspond to Western do re mi fa so la ti, respectively. sa and pa are the drone notes that play in the background and are invariable but the other swaras have multiple forms. The swaras are sung by name in improvisations and in forms such as varnams

swara (2) - see kalpanaa swaram

swara (3) - the part of a song that defines the tune, composed of swaras (swara 1). The swaras usually have a saahitya

swaraantara - a raaga having only 4 swaras in either or both of the scales (ascending, descending) ex, srgpS Snmgs is a swaraantara-swaraantara raaga. A swaraantara scale is missing 3 swaras, and this is the smallest possible size of a raaga (smaller ones are very difficult to sing and are not usually pleasing)

swaraavali - avali means line or order, so this is a line of swaras, a regular set of swaras, also known as a varisai such as sarali varisai or kOvai varisai

swaraakshara - the use of the word sa (when singing) for the note shadjam, ri for rishabam, etc. This also applies to combinations of notes, singing nidha for N D, for example. It is sometimes used in kritis, for example "sarigama ..." so that they are in the context of the lyrics

swarajati - an abhyaasa musical form, which is helpful before learning varnam. It has pallavi, sometimes an anupallavi, and at least one caraNam. The themes are on bhakti, love, and courage. It is composition which usually has a pleasing melody and can be suitable for singing both in early lessons and in both musical and dance concerts

swara names - these are 16 even though there are only 12 swarastaanas, because 4 of the swaras (the vivaaDi ones) overlap in their pitch at times with others of the 12, and thus are distinct

swara-pallavi - same as jatiswaram

swara saahitya - using swaras in the saahitya of a kriti in place of words

swarastaana - the particular frequency of a swara in a given raaga. It is also the development of the seven swaras into their varieties, giving 12 swarastaanas (which have 16 names). Performers must make sure their swarastaanas are precise to ensure that the raaga is correctly elaborated

swaroopam - the form or spirit of a raaga, related to the caaya

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updated on 03/20/2009