There’s foot-tapping, hand clapping, head nodding, and lip-syncing. Where do you think you are? 

A concert. 

Yes! But, what sort of concert? 

Rock or pop probably. 

You wouldn’t be wrong but we’re referring to a Carnatic music concert! 

If you haven’t been to a Carnatic concert, you must put it on your bucket list of things to do in life! Personal and understated, deep and meaningful, the Carnatic music experience is individual and yet the sense of communion with the largely discerning audience is heartening. The energy, vibes, and positive ambience are simply captivating. 

And who are those people tapping their feet and semi-dancing and gyrating?! It is the thathas (grandpas) and pattis (grandmas) no less enthusiastic than the younger fan base! What makes the young and old, residents and non-residents alike flock to online and offline Carnatic music concerts? The answer would lie somewhere amidst melody and rhythm, complex technicalities, and different styles which all come together to make it a thoroughly enriching experience.

Additionally, music has therapeutic benefits; and Indian classical music and particularly Carnatic music with its ragas and bhavas can calm the restless and anxious mind. For starters! Check out some of the reasons why Carnatic music is so popular.

Benefits of Carnatic music

  • Acts as a stressbuster
  • Connects you to your cultural roots
  • Keeps the mind alert
  • Encourages creativity 
  • Instills discipline 
  • Enables self-expression
  • Spurs thinking

Carnatic music for an active mind

Carnatic music is filled with patterns, techniques, and improvisations. It is a good exercise for the brain. There is also a lot of unpredictability in it that makes listeners as well as learners think. Whether it is counting talas, guessing the raga, discussing the alapanais, comparing the singer and musicians’ (typically the violin,  mridangam, and ghatam players) coordination, choosing a favourite neraval, or completely immersing themselves in the raga, Carnatic music lovers have lots to do as they listen. The songs energise and enthrall audiences as well as the singers and players themselves. 

Latha Shankar (name changed), daughter of a Carnatic enthusiast says, “My father is normally hard of hearing but it always amazes me how quickly this is forgotten when he is in a Carnatic concert. He is keenly tuned in and doesn’t seem to have a problem hearing and guessing the raga!” 

You can read more on what SaPa’s founders have to say on why adults should learn Carnatic music.  

Apart from these benefits, science has also substantiated the positive effects of Carnatic music. Take a look at some of these health benefits of Carnatic music in particular, and Indian classical music in general, as proven by studies that make it a pastime, hobby, and profession worth pursuing.  

Scientific benefits of Carnatic music

1. Improved auditory skills

  1. A 2014 study has found that Carnatic music has a significant impact on auditory temporal resolution which is critical for understanding speech in a noisy environment for those with disorders and implants as well as those with normal hearing. So, those who have learnt Carnatic music have increased ability to alleviate listening-in-noise difficulties.
  2. A 2016 study states that Indian classical musical training enhances pre-attentive auditory discrimination skills in musicians compared to non-musicians. 

2. Improved memory

Have you been learning Carnatic music for more than three years? If you have, you will enjoy enhanced memory power. You might have heard people suggest music as one of the best extracurricular pursuits along with academics. The extra retention capacity might be why. So, if you are preparing for an exam, chances that your powers of concentration and focus are enhanced as a Carnatic music learner are higher than if you are not. Courtesy this study:

“More than three years of Carnatic singing experience can enhance the neural coding to discriminate subtle differences leading to working memory capacity.” 

3. Increased capacity to perform mental tasks

Do you listen to music in the background while you undertake your daily tasks? It probably makes you feel good by lifting your mood. But it might be doing more than that; you might even  become more efficient in the performance of those tasks if you are listening to the ‘right’ kind of music. This 2016 study found that listening to Indian classical instrumental and Indo Jazz can enhance powers of concentration and attention, increase brain functioning, and improve task performance.   

According to this 2021 study of effects of Carnatic music: “Active or passive participation in Carnatic music has several benefits. It stimulates the brain pathways which process the spatial reasoning skills and also results in a positive state of mind, helps in relaxation, and enhances memory.” 

4. Improved mathematical skills

Carnatic music makes use of different elements in Mathematics – calculations, counts, and patterns. For example, Carnatic vocalists and musicians compose their own kalpana swarams, different patterns of notes set to a particular tala. This requires understanding of patterns. Tala, in itself, is based on numbers. So, Carnatic music, inherently, has many mathematical concepts embedded in it. This 2020 study found that those children who learnt Carnatic music along with their academic curriculum displayed better mathematical skills than those who didn’t.  

Keeping this and many other benefits of learning music in mind, SaPa started SaPa in Schools so that the benefits of music can percolate to every child.

5. Decreased depression and anxiety levels

There is much to be said about the calming nature of Indian classical music. At the end of a long, hard day, you might want to immerse yourself in the relaxing and stress-relieving, melodic, and harmonious tunes of Carnatic music. 

A 2009 study found that Indian classical music improved the quality of sleep in individuals suffering from depression. Another study corroborated that it reduced stress, anxiety, and depression levels in those who heard it. 

6. Enhanced articulation of vocal skills

An award-winning research paper on ‘Vocal training and practice methods: A glimpse on the south Indian Carnatic music’ has found that the exercises and practices of Carnatic music lessons help in promoting better articulation of vocal skills and continuity in the voice. The paper has stated that the creativity of these exercises impacts voice production as well. 

While more research needs to be conducted on the positive effects of Indian classical music and Carnatic music in particular, it is clear that this system of music can only improve the quality of life by bringing out the best in individuals. 
You can also experience the benefits of learning Carnatic music with LIVE classes at SaPa in Carnatic vocals, Carnatic violin, flute, mridangam, and konnakol with music educators who are also performers. Learn and listen your way to good health. Join the SaPa family now!

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