Gamaka also known as Kaavya Vaachana is a unique form of storytelling by singing. This originated in Karnataka, India. One person reads a stanza of a poem with highest emphasis on meaning, applying suitable raga or a Dhaati (melodical line) usually matching the emotion of the poem. Another person then explains the meaning of the stanza with examples and anecdotes. Gamaka draws raagas from traditional Kannada folk Dhaati(tunes) and Carnatic music . The singing itself is called Gamaka and the singer a Gamaki. The explanation of the rendering is called Vyakyana. The emphasis in Kaavya Vaachana is on literature (Saahithya) and not on music where singer splits compounds words in poems to make it easier to understand. One of the noticeable thing in this art is that singing is not to a rhythm.
The poems are chosen mostly from old Kannada epics such as 'Karnataka Bharatha Kathamanjari', Jaimini Bharatha, Harischandra Kavya, dEvi bhAgavata, and Torave Ramayana.
Gamaka is a traditional art unique to Karnataka. It brings alive great epics for the benefit of the common man. Gamaka is centuries old, believed to date back to the time when Valmiki narrated the Ramayana and twins Lava-Kusha sang them.
Gamaka includes rendition of the verses in epics like Torave Ramayana and Kumaravyasa Mahabharata set to a classical raga, and an interpretation of the same with a brief explanation generally called vyakyana.
Earlier Gamakis were part of Maharaja's court, but their art was not limited to the palace. They sang at temple, wedding, village katte, popularising it among the people. The art slowly faded away but was revived during the 1900's by eminent persons of literature like Prof. A.R. Krishna Shastry, D.V. Gundappa and others. Gamaki gained ground during G. Narayana's tenure as Kannada Sahitya Parishat's President and later as Karnataka Gamaka Kala Parishat's President since 1982.
Some of the early Gamakis included Abhinava Kalidasa Late Basavappa Shastry, Late Bharat Bindurao, Late Krishnagiri Krishna Rao and Late Shakuntalabai Panduranga Rao while the recent names include B.S.S. Koushik, Hosahalli Keshavamurthy, Gangamma Keshavamurthy and others.