I find vocal carnatic music extremely irritating. As much as I love the instrumental version, I simply can’t stand the vocal version. The vocal stuff gets on my nerves and drives me mad. On the other hand, I find instrumental stuff extremely pleasing and soothing, and an excellent background music when mugging, etc.
Could it be because of the fact that I am more familiar with the instrumental version (i’m a trained violinist)? I don’t know how that should make a difference but perhaps it is a fact that I connect better with string stuff. However, I like instrumental carnatic music across the board – irrespective of the instrument. So this reason is a little hard to believe.
Another reason for it could be the lyrics. As you might know, the basis for most carnatic music is praise for God, and even though most of the lyrics are in Gult/Tam/Sanskrit – languages i’m ok but not very proficient with – that might be a reason why I get put off. instrumental music on the other hand has no lyrics. Just the wonderful note-combinations and the gamakas and and sequences.
I’m also wondering whether it has something to do with the voices. Let’s face it – a large number of “big” singers (those that are usually featured on Shruti – on worldspace) are well past their “prime”. This is not to say that the elderly can’t sing well – Asha Bhonsle I think sings as well as she used to – but maybe the voice-music combination just isn’t right. A lot of voices I here are old and shaky, and while they may sing all the notes perfectly, I’m not sure if they do full justice to the music.
I’m not even sure if it has something to do with the age of the singers. The other day I was listening to a fairly young singer and he too failed to make an impact – in a positive way i mean. Maybe it has to do something with the choice of an extremely low frequency base ‘sa’ note. I’m not really sure.
Of course the irritation is not universal. The other day I was listening to Remember Shakti (yes, i consider that to be Carnatic music) which had Shankar Mahadevan providing the vocals, and it was simply superb. A few differences between this and “normal Carnatic music” I would like to point out. Here, Shankar, was singing but the other instruments also had their share of microphone volume. this is something that seldom happens in classical classical where the singer even drowns out hte other instruments. Another difference was that there were no lyrics in what Shankar was singing. It was mostly “aaaaa” etc. And most importantly it was Shankar – say what you want but Shankar’s voice is definitely superior to that of most contemporary and not-so-contemporary classical classical singers.
Any other reasons you have to offer???