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What is Alankars in Indian Classical Music?

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What is Alankars in Indian Classical Music?

What is Alankars in Indian Classical Music?

Alankars:
In the perspective of Indo-Pak classical music, alankar means ornaments and the function of an alankar is to embellish or enhance the beauty of raga. When we talk about alankars today, we specifically refer to embellishments to a swar or a note. There are 33 types of alankars and alankars were first used between 200 BC and 200 AD.

There are two major groups of alankars which are Varna Alankar and Shabdalankar. Shabdalankar is comprised of  Varna based alankars of earlier times. The four Varnas, asthayee, arohi, amrohi, and sanchari were arrangements of notes in a particular sequence or four kinds of movements among notes. Asthayee refers to halting at a single note, arohi to an upward movement,  amrohi to a downward movement.

 Sanchari is a combined upward and downward movement. This classification of alankars related to the structural aspect of a raga. Shabdalankar, include the artistic aspect and refers to the sound production technique and performed by singer or with instrument. All the informal variations that a performer created during a performance within the raga and taal limits could be termed as alankar, because these variations embellish and enhance the beauty of the raga, the taal as well as composition. By the time definition and gamut of shabdalankars seems to have changed. Besides the raga, the tala and the bandish, which are the fixed portions in a performance, the process of ornamentation has been divided into several stages.

In instrumental music these stages comprise the alaap-vistaar , sargams, taans, in vilambit laya and drut laya in case of khayal and Alaap.In Indian music and especially in raga sangeet, staccato (disjointed) or straight isolated notes are almost unheard. In instrumental music, each note has some link with its preceding or succeeding note. It is this extra note or grace note that lays the foundation of all alankars.

The shrutis or microtones are very important in raga sangeet. The alankars in general use today include Meend, Kan (grace note), Sparsh and Krintan, Andolan, Gamak, Kampit, Gitkari, Zamzama and Murki. Many of these alankars are raga form khayal, thumri in instrumental music. Wrong or unnecessary appliance of alankar may ruin an entire rendition or performance. There are four basic kind of alankars which are given below.

Alankara, also referred to as palta or alankaram, is a concept in Indian classical music and literally means "ornament, decoration". An alankara is any pattern of musical decoration a musician or vocalist creates within or across tones, based on ancient musical theories or driven by personal creative choices, in a progression of svaras. The term alankara is standard in Carnatic music, while the same concept is referred to as palta or alankara in Hindustani music.

1. Andolan Alankar
Andolan alankar is a gentle swing or oscillation that starts from a fixed note and touches the edge of next adjoining note. Andolan is the path of the oscillation, which touches the microtones or shrutis that exist in between notes. The note that is being oscillated within an Andolan is known as andolit swar. It must be noted that these andolit swars are raga specific and should not be applied to any other raga.

2. Meend Alankars
Meend is one of the most difficult elements in a raga music. On a string instrument like sitar, surbahar and veenas, when a note is struck and the string is pulled outwards or crosses a fret to reach a higher note or several higher notes from that single stroke, it is called a Meend. Meend is a glide from one note to another on instruments. Vocal singers can also glide from one note to another in meend performance. One has to take care of the accuracy of the starting and ending swars but also on the kan swars of the ragas, the speed of these meends and the tone of intermediate swars.

3. Krintan Alankars
The movement of notes in the Krintan is descending. For example in G R, the forefinger is placed on R and the middle or ring finger is placed on G and immediately after plucking G, the finger on it is moved transversely across the string to produce a secondary plucking (without the help of the right hand) so that R is sounded. Here, R is the main note and G is the sparsh swar. Though the musical idea behind Krintan is the kan swar. These instrumental kan swars produce rather different effects from the kan swar produced vocally. The principal action in playing a Krintan involves complex plucking on string with both hands. The resulting sound has a slightly metallic resonance and can never be reproduced by the human voice.

4. Kan Swars
Kan swars are very important for the proper rendition of a raga. Each note has some link with its preceding and succeeding note. These linking notes are called grace notes or Kan-swars. The Kan swar is never fully pronounced and is sung or played in a very delicate manner. In fact, two or more ragas sharing a common note or phrase differ vastly from each other mainly due to the application of their Kan swars. Meend often begins with kan swars. However, if a kan swar is played on an instrument using a swift meend, the effect is not so different from its vocal counterpart.

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