He learned music from Tiger Varadachariar, Sabesa Iyer, Ponniah Pillai, and Sathur Krishna Iyengar. He received a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, where he also taught.
He had disciples who have carved names for themselves such as P.UnniKrishnan, S. Sowmya, Savithri Sathyamurthy, Seetha Narayanan, Vasumathi Nagarajan, Sukanya Raghunathan (veena),Geetha Bennett(veena and a renowned short story writer in Tamil), Vidya Hariharan (veena and vocal),Thiagarajan/Raju(Vocal),Banumathy Raghuraman(veena),Latha Radhakrishnan (violin and vocal), Padma Gadiyar (veena),Vanathy Raghuraman(Vocal)
He also has composed many varnams and kritis, which have been popularized by his disciples.He also won the Sangeetha kalanidhi award(1985).The American ethnomusicologist David Nelson studied with him.
In 1981 Ramanathan released an album of Carnatic music, Navagraha Krtis (The 9 Planets), Cāturdaṡa Rāgamālika (The 14 Worlds) and Srī Gurunā: By Muttuswāmī Dīkṣitar (1775-1835), on Folkways Records.
- S. Ramanathan page
- Ramanathan page
- Ramanathan page at the Wayback Machine (archived August 11, 2006)
- Musica Nirvana biography
- Navagraha Krtis (The 9 Planets), Cāturdaṡa Rāgamālika (The 14 Worlds) and Srī Gurunā: By Muttuswāmī Dīkṣitar (1775-1835) at Smithsonian Folkways
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