Songs in praise of religious deities are commonplace in
Tamil Nadu. Although the polytheistic
Hindu religion inspires much of this music,
the Muslims and Christians have their share of songs too.
The saints, seers and composers of classical music have basically composed songs only as a means of expressing their devout feelings and also to communicate with the 'self' and 'soul'. Music, when presented to God as an offering, inspires the person and the devotional excitement therein, gives rise to a torrent of tuneful outpourings.
Singing in praise of God awakens the singer's consciousness of the Divine and makes him / her sensitive to the divine message. Songs, therefore, establish a direct contact between the divine and human spheres, between the spiritual and phenomenal realms. The poet-saints of Bhakti never composed their devotional verses as merely literary artifacts but clad them in melody and sang them before the chosen deity.
The Musical Instruments Associated With The Deities
In Hindu mythology, music and God have always been portrayed together. Many deities are assigned their own instruments and are all hailed as music lovers. Lord Krishna, the foremost of flautists, indicates his musical inclinations by assessing that he is Sam Veda among the Vedas.
While Lord Shiva is the embodiment of 'Nada' and 'Tandava' (cosmic dance), Goddess Parvati is hailed as the embodiment of 'Lasya'. Goddess Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning is always associated with the 'Veena' (known as Vipanchi). Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth is believed to revel in music while Lord Vishnu, her consort, plays on the percussion.
Among the saints, Narada and Tumburu are hailed as Vainika-Gayaka (experts in music and Veena). Nandi, the bull, is the master of 'Laya'. The separate set of demi-Gods like 'Yaksha', 'Kinnara' and 'Gandharva' are all believed to be proficient in music and musical instruments. In fact, music is known as "Gandharva Vidya".
Present Day Scenario Of Devotional Music
In the present day scenario, devotional music has assumed a new connotation and an individual status. Today, semi-classical / light music with religious themes and lyrics are referred to as Devotional music. One observed that the new 'Devotional music' is more mass-oriented, with very little classical base.
Tamil Nadu has a rich tradition of folk music. Folk music
has rich aesthetic ingredients and variety. Rythmic aspects observed in
occupations like agriculture, fishing etc., were transformed into the
thalas - a dominant aspect - of folk music. Although it is most often
associated with the rural milieu, folk music remains a major source of
inspiration for the more popular film music. Recent efforts have revived
interest in folk music and good recordings are available these days.
Folk Music Instruments Folk music instruments can be broadly classified into Percussion instruments, Wind instruments and String instruments. Of these three, Percussion instrument dominates over Wind instrument. String instruments are rarely used.
Tamil folk music tends to be vivacious and is best experienced at a live performance. Private albums and performances of folk music have attracted wide audience. In terms of identifying human beings, feelings and expressions, folk music is more close to people than classical music.
Many of the ragas of South Indian music resemble folk music. It's interesting to note the different kinds of folk music resemble different kinds of ragas. Vijayalakshmi Navaneethakrishnan and Pushpavanam Kuppuswamy are two of the principal contemporary "folk-musicologists" who are reviving popular interest in this traditional music form.