The Republic of India is located in southern Asia, bordering the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, between Myanmar (Burma) and Pakistan.
Two music traditions co-exist in India, that of the North (Hindustani) and of the South (Carnatic). They share the same basic systems but differ greatly in the instruments used, by the Ragas played, and by the concept of musical expression. It is very rare for musicians to master both traditions.
Carnatic is the music of South India, six states. The name comes from the Carnatic wars fought in the state of Karnataka centuries ago. The state of Karnataka just north of state Kerala had the origins of this music. The father of this stream of music was Purandara Dasa of Karnataka who laid down the grammar of this stream of music.
Purandara Dasa was a vaishnava saint meaning one who was a worshiper of Lord Vishnu (The Preserver among the Trinity) and created several compositions in His Praise. He was actually a sinner turned saint and originally was an usurious moneylender rolling in considerable wealth. But good sense dawned on him one day and he became a renunciate wandering about in the streets and singing the praises of Lord Vishnu.
Although the music evolved in Karnataka, it was enriched with ornamental compositions by another Saint named Thyagaraja from the State of Andhra Pradesh (North East of Kerala). He sang several songs in praise of Lord Rama (seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu). However, in later years the musicians who practiced this great art were from Tamil Nadu the Eastern State of Kerala. Even today, Tamil Nadu is the seat of this great art holding most of the annual functions in connection with this glorious art.
Throughout their 500-year history, the Fakirs of Bengal have refused to conform to the conventions of Bengali society. Their final goal is to discover the divine inner knowledge, an ideal that they believe lives within the body of every man, but may take a lifetime of wandering, singing and self-exploration to discover.
The Sufi Fakirs Of Bengal have preserved a series of esoteric spiritual teachings on breath, sex, asceticism, philosophy and mystical devotion, as well as amassing a treasury of enigmatic teaching songs about love, humanity and devotion that map out their path towards their inner vision.
The Fakirs, and their Hindu counterparts, the Bauls, believe that God is found not in the heavens, or even in the afterlife, but instead in the present moment, in the body of the man or woman who seeks the truth: all that is required is to give up your possessions, take up the life of the road, find a pir, and adhere to the path of love. Each man is alone, they believe, and must find his own way. Mixing elements of Sufism, Tantra, Vaishnavism and Buddhism, they visit their wayside shrines and there sing songs on a simple one-string instrument called ektara.
A. R. Rahman
Aashish Khan Desharma