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Gamakas in Carnatic Music

10:41 PM Posted by Vijayasri


Most of the carnatic music singers use the term 'gamaka' or 'gamakam'.

What are gamakams?

Gamakas are subtle decorations of notes, usually referred to as "shaking the note." They come in various forms and are incorporated into ragas, giving each note a unique characteristic and a delicate beauty when performed. The graceful movement of the swara, that fine pull of the string, which brings happiness to the hearer and make them feel the emotion or divinity is termed as a gamaka. Different gamakas arouse different emotions. Singing or playing the same kind of gamaka throughout, makes it dull and monotonous. A happy combination and intertwining of the various gamakas is what is wanted.

I would say one needs to be a master of music with a good stamina to sing dead slow Gamaks or Gamakams, with the necessary "stress" on the swaras.

The types of gamakas are below:

aarOha - this is the ascending scale. Moving from one note ascending to the next is a gamaka. These can also be done rapidly and in succession, giving long runs of great beauty when executed with skill. ex: s r g m p d n S R G M
avarOha - similarly, moving down from a higher note to the next lower note is also a gamaka. ex: M G R S n d p m g r s
daatu - using one note as a base and jumping to others in succession. This is great for emphasizing one note and also giving almost a rhythmic tone to the singing. ex: sr sg sm sp sd sn sS
spuritam - these are repeated notes, in twos. In such cases, the second note is usually stressed. ex: ss rr gg mm pp dd nn SS
kampitam - this means singing a note between two notes. For example, ma can be sung instead as gpgpgp... giving a shake to the note
aahatam - using notes in succession (ascending) but paired with the next note. ex: sr rg gm mp pd dn ns It can also be used as gmg rgr srs
pratyaavatam - the same as aahatam but in the descending scale. ex: Sn nd dp pm mg gr rs It can also be used as sns ndn dpd ...
tripuccam - repeated notes in threes. ex: sss rrr ggg mmm ppp ddd nnn sss
aandOLam - also called dOlakam, this is, for example, srsg srsm srsp srsd srsn srsS
moorcanai - this is using the proper gamakam of the raaga. If a raga requires the use of a particular gamaka for a certain note, this must be performed when singing the scale or whenever the note is sung or performed
daaTu - this is jumping of notes within a scale, skipping notes. ex: sg rm gp md pn dS
jaaru - a glide or slide from one note to another (whether successive or from a distant note) ex: s .... S
hampitam - a rarely used gamaka in recent years, this is the use of the syllable "hoom" (like boom)
naabhitam - swelling a note in volume (like a crescendo)
mudritam - humming, singing with the mouth closed ex: mmmmm...
tribhinnam - performing multiple (usually 3) notes at once, as in a chord. This is for instrumental performers only
mishritam - using a mixture of any gamakas listed above.

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