N. Ravikiran

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N. Ravikiran
Ravikiran 33A.jpg
Background information
Born (1967-02-12) 12 February 1967 (age 52)
Mysore, India
GenresIndian classical music, Carnatic music, world music, melharmony
Occupation(s)Instrumentalist, vocalist, musical composer
Instrumentschitravina
Years active1969 – present
Websiteravikiranmusic.com

Narasimhan Ravikiran (born 12 February 1967) is an Indian musician, hailed as a prodigy turned musical genius.[1] A slide instrumentalist, vocalist,[2] composer,[3] guru, author[4][5] and orator, he is also the creator of the concept melharmony[6] in world music. Son and disciple of revolutionary arts educator Chitravina Narasimhan,[7] he is the grandson of musician Gotuvadyam Narayan Iyengar.[8] He is acclaimed as "a musician’s musician and truly a musical polymath – who has taken the chitravina (earlier called the gottuvadyam) to great heights.[9]

Prodigy[edit]

Ravikiran was born in Mysore, Karnataka. Hailed as "the Mozart of Indian Music" by the Wisconsin State Journal, USA,[10] Ravikiran made his first appearance at the age of two[11] in April and again in August 1969 in Bangalore.[12] Soon after, he was presented in The Madras Music Academy,[13] Krishna Gana Sabha he was able to identify and render about 325 ragas (melodic scales) and 175 talas (rhythmic cycles) of Carnatic music.[14] He was quizzed by iconic musicians including Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Pandit Ravi Shankar, M S Subbulakshmi and Flute T R Mahalingam.[15] Ravi Shankar is said to have declared "If you don't believe in God, look at Ravikiran."[16] He was awarded a scholarship from The Madras Music Academy, becoming the first and only musician to have been conferred this distinction at age 2.[17][18] Soon after, he was presented in leading institutions such as Shanmukhananda Fine Arts, Bombay and Tyagaraja Sabha, Coimbatore.[19]

Vocalist[edit]

Following more intense training under his father, Chitravina Narasimhan,[20] Ravikiran debuted as a vocalist in 1972, at a record-setting age of five[21] in Coimbatore and presented concerts in prominent venues in cities such as Madras, Mysore and Bangalore till age 10. His recitals – often over two and a half hours – drew record crowds in major festivals and won critical acclaim in the Indian media. He resumed his appearance as vocalist from 1999 and has since presented voice concerts for major organizations in and outside India including the Cleveland Festival & the Chicago World Music Festival. His vocal albums include Genius at Work,[22] Sahityanubhava – Oottukkadu Venkata Kavi.[23]

Slide Instrumentalist[edit]

Hailed as a precocious instrumental genius,[24] Ravikiran established himself as a frontline Indian string instrumentalist within the next 3 years with recitals in major venues and festivals across the world and is regarded as a classy, yet popular musician.[25][26] In July 1985, he set a record with a 24-hour non-stop solo concert in Chennai.[27] He won an exemption to perform professional concerts for Indian Radio and Television (Doordarshan) at age 12 and was invited to represent his country in Festivals of India in France (1985),[28] Switzerland (1987), Germany (1992), Brazil (2012) and countries like Poland, Czech Republic, Austria and Yugoslavia (1997). He has performed extensively in major events and venues across the world including the Chicago World Music Festival,[29] Theatre de la Ville Paris,[30] Europalia Festival, Belgium,[31] Millennium Festival (UK), Rudolstadt Festival, Germany, Masters of Indian Music, Budapest,[32] Sadlers Wells & Tate Modern (UK), Esplanade Festival (Singapore), Oji Hall (Tokyo), Harborfront Festival, Canada, Cleveland Festival & Madison Festival (USA).[33]

From 1986–96, Ravikiran had the rare distinction of training under the celebrated vocalist T. Brinda, an acknowledged musicians' musician, renowned for her microscopic nuances, authentic repertoire and uncompromising values. Ravikiran's concerts on the chitravina won acclaim across the world for his "teasing precision" and "dazzling effects"[34] and he is regarded as an artist of titanic proportions today.[35] He is celebrated for exploring avenues of reviving classical values among the youth.[36] Ravikiran has performed a wide variety of co-artists and presented several innovative concerts including pure solos, duos with kanjira/ghatam/mridangam apart from conventional recitals with multiple accompanists and collaborations with piano, keyboard, guitar and other instruments.[37]

Technical innovations and virtuosity[edit]

Ravikiran is hailed for having introduced several technical innovations on the chitravina, which have enabled him to produce 'breathless' phrases of incredible continuity with a single strum, an impossibility in plucked instruments.[38]

Composer[edit]

Ravikiran has over 800 classical Indian and contemporary/world/melharmony compositions to his credit, making him arguably the most prolific composer of his era. His Indian classical pieces include musical forms such as varnam, krti, javali, tillana and padam. He discovered a raga at the age of two and named it Choodamani after his mother. He also discovered other ragas such as Keshavapriya, Snehapriya, Andhakarini and Mohini.[39] He is the first composer to have created pieces in each of the 35-talas of Carnatic Music.[40] He is also the only composer to have created the 72-mela ragamalika geetam, a 13-part piece that spans over all the 72-parent ragas of Carnatic music in just 7 minutes.[41]

New ragas on Beethoven, Mahatma Gandhi and others[edit]

Ravikiran has created a number of new ragas. [42] These include:

  • Veetavanam in honour of Ludwig van Beethoven [43]
  • Mohini dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi
  • Choodamani, created at age two and named after his mother [44] [45]
  • Keshavapriya, Vaishnavi, Katyayani, Samapriya, Shivamanohari, Andhakarini and others [46]

Melodist[edit]

Ravikiran has also set to music works of several azhwars, verses of Vedanta Desika,[47] verses from ancient Tamil sangam literature,[48] compositions of Purandara Dasa, D V Gundappa and a few contemporary composers.

Historic Initiative[edit]

In Jan 2016, Ravikiran set a world composing record of a unique kind by setting music to 1330 tirukkural verses in 16 hours spread over 3 days at the International Institute of Tamil Studies, Taramani, Chennai (India). The tirukkural verses, set in unconventional meter have been considered challenging to tune in classical form, without prejudicing the lyrical content.

12th Jan: 350 verses in about 3.5 hours, average of 100 verses per hour[49][50] 13th Jan: 420 in under 6 hours, average about 70 per hour.[51] 14th Jan: 560 in 6 hours average of over 93 per hour.

Total: 16 hours for 1330 verses. Average verses per hour: 83.125[52]

Dance & Operatic Creations[edit]

Ravikiran is the most prolific creator in the dance arena today with hundreds of compositions and numerous operas which have been staged in USA, India, Canada, Australia and other countries by leading performers like Pt Birju Maharaj, Dr Vyjayantimala Bali, Prof C V Chandrashekhar, Adyar Lakshman and premiere institutions. These include:

  • Lakshmi Prabhavam, which featured "Inventive instrumentation"[53]
  • Savithri[54]
  • Vinayaka Vaibhavam[55]
  • Ramayana - Bala Kandam
  • Ramayana - Yuddha Kandam[56]
  • Mahabharata (Karna Shapatam and Geetopadesham)[57]
  • The Almighty Trinity, a production composed entirely in Telugu, highlighting the harmonious interactions between Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.[58][59]
  • Panchakriya
  • Panchali Shapatam

Melharmony[edit]

Ravikiran is well known for his cutting-edge concept of melharmony,[60] which explores Western style harmony anchored on (Eastern style) melodic rules of evolved systems such as the raga system of Indian music. Melharmony has endeavoured to unify music systems of the world[61] by taking into cognisance the rules and aesthetics of all fused systems in any given collaboration. Ravikiran introduced this award-winning concept[62] during his collaboration with artists of the BBC Philharmonic, at the Millennium Festival, UK in Oct 2000.[63]

Melharmony concerts with major orchestras like Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra's have attracted audiences of 45,000 people at times.[64] The concept has inspired critical discussion among scholars[65] in international conferences including Society for Music Theory Conference, Boston (2005) and Melody, Harmony, Melharmony conference, Houston (2014).[66] Melharmony shows with School Orchestras have enabled middle and high school children in the West glean insights into how harmony can be centered on sophisticated rules of melody.[67][68]

Ravikiran has also melharmonically rearranged and showcased the works of the great Masters in the twin-Composer series of festivals - OVK-Bach, Tyagaraja-Mozart and Dikshitar-Beethoven since 2013.[69]

Collaborations[edit]

Ravikiran has created music for Western Classical Symphony Orchestras, Chamber Orchestras, String Quartets as well as Caprices for solo violins. He has collaborated with top-draw artistes of various genres such as Taj Mahal,[70] Larry Coryell, Martin Simpson, George Brooks, Simon Phillips, Roland van Campenhout and orchestras such as BBC Philharmonic,[71] Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, Goettingen Quintet, Germany, Apollo Chamber Players, Houston,[72] Middleton Community Symphony Orchestra[73] and Sacramento Symphony.[74]

Among Indian maestros, he has performed with Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, T. Brinda, Girija Devi, Pt Birju Maharaj,[75] Dr M. Balamuralikrishna,[76] Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Dr N. Ramani, R. K. Srikanthan, Pt Kishan Maharaj, Nedunuri Krishnamurthy, Mandolin U Shrinivas[77] and others.

Arts educator[edit]

Ravikiran, renowned for his vast repertoire has trained numerous disciples all over the world,[78] many of whom are award-winning performers and teachers.[79][80][81][82] Several of his students are also major contributors in other arenas.[83] Remarkably, his disciples span a cross section of vocalists, violinists as well as exponents of flute, guitar, veena, keyboard in addition to the chitravina. He is the first guru to have used the Flip teaching method through structured syllabuses online, and many of his video lessons are hosted by Acharyanet.com. Ravikiran also has presented the maximum number of arangetrams (maiden recitals of students graduating to concert levels) among leading melodic performers across the world. He also brought to light hundreds of compositions of 18th century composer, Oothukkadu Venkata Kavi[84] through concerts, workshops, books and articles.[85]

Ambassador of Culture[edit]

An active champion of culture,[86][87] Ravikiran has performed extensively in both urban and rural schools & colleges across various countries. At age 20, he organised a symbolic non-stop 72-hour (which extended to almost 75 hours) concert for "world peace and prosperity" that brought together the who's who of Carnatic music.[88]

Rural Music Education Projects[edit]

Ravikiran is credited as one of the first, if not the first who takes classical music to the masses.[89] In 2006, Ravikiran pioneered an initiative for Rural Children in India with the largest music camp of its kind for over 31,000 children in Tamil Nadu, India for the Indian Government's Sarva Shiksha Abhyan.[90]

Music in Schools & Universities in USA and India[edit]

A lobbyist for cultural renaissance in India,[91] he was invited to provide syllabuses for Music Education in Schools in India for Grades I – VIII. In 2013, he introduced Indian music through Melharmonic creations for Middle and High School level orchestras in School Districts in USA such as Middleton & Sun Prairie, WI.[92] A summer course on Melharmony was introduced at the Eastman School of Music in 2015, by Ravikiran and renowned American Composer-Musician Prof. Robert Morris.

He has introduced Carnatic music in several countries such as Slovakia, Croatia and Slovenia.[93]

Ravikiran's concerts have raised substantial funds for disaster relief including Hurricane Katrina,[94] Tsunami of 2004 as well as for educational, health and cultural initiatives.

Innovations & Contributions[edit]

Some of Ravikiran's other contributions[95] include:

  • Resurrecting and championing the works of the composer Oottukkadu Venkata Kavi[84][96][97]
  • Introducing Indian music in a number of schools in India and USA[98]
  • Pioneering Twin Composer Celebrations such as Oottukkadu Venkata Kavi-J S Bach Festival and Tyagaraja-Mozart Festival in cities such as Madison and Chicago, USA
  • Pioneering Classical Concerts for Social Harmony with students from diverse communities and relegions trained for years in classical music with professionals [99]
  • Introducing the portable, bright toned, 20-stringed slide instrument, Nava-chitravina
  • Pioneering the use of teflon-slides in world music
  • Inventing the Visual Rhythm Metronome, Taal Acharya with Vanitha and Krishnan Suresh[100]
  • Introducing revolutionary concepts in rhythm such as "Seamless korvais (rhythmic cadenzas)",[101] mrdanga & damaru yati korvais, magic korvais etc.
  • New perspectives on millennia old concepts such as "22 shrutis"
  • Dance augmentation for instrumental concerts with dancer Smitha Madhav[102][103]
  • Introducing Tamil compositions to North Indian dance forms like Kathak & Odissi
  • Numerous workshops and music camps in various countries on both practice pieces,[104] performance repertoire[105] as well as Improvisational aspects such as Neraval,[106] Kalpana Swaras[107] and Alapanas[108]
  • Inspired several others to innovate using his core musical ideas[109][110]

Author[edit]

Ravikiran has authored several sought after books on Carnatic Music including

  • Appreciating Carnatic Music[111][112]
  • Perfecting Carnatic Music Level I and II[113]
  • Life and Contributions of Oottukkadu Venkata Kavi[114]
  • Saptaratnas and Navavaranams of Oottukkadu Venkata Kavi[114]
  • Inaiyatra innishai (The incomparable music)[115]

He has also penned a number of articles in leading Journals and Dailies.[116][117][118][119][76]

Orator[edit]

Ravikiran has lectured in venues such as Sydney Conservatory of Music, Leeds College of Music, Stanford University, Carnegie Mellon, CalArts and University of Ljubljana (Slovenia) and Indian Institute of Technology on topics such as:

  • Appreciating Carnatic Music
  • Melody, Harmony & Melharmony
  • Revolutionary Techniques in slide instruments
  • Tyagaraja Panchartnam Oottukkadu Saptaratnam[120]
  • Raktitvam[121]
  • CMCM[122]
  • Ragam tanam pallavi[123]

His critical presentations on topics such as CMCM (Common Mistakes in Carnatic Music) have attracted critical acclaim from musicians, musicologists, students and music lovers.[124] Ravikiran has also presented papers in conferences like The Society for Music Theory Conference, Boston, The India-Amsterdam Conference, Netherlands and in several conferences of The Music Academy, Madras.[125]

Awards[edit]

Youngest musician to win India's highest award for artistic excellence from the President of India (at age 39), Ravikiran is one of the most decorated artistes from India at the International, National, State and artistic levels. In most cases, he has been the first or youngest to have received such recognition, including a Fellowship from The Madras Music Academy at age two.[126]

International

  • Melharmony Day Proclamation, Wisconsin [127]
  • Melharmony Day Proclamation, Madison [128]
  • Citation from City of Houston< USA [129]
  • Citation from Tulsa, USA [130]
  • The Millenium Festival Award, UK - 2000 [131]
  • The New Age Voice Finalist Award, USA - 2001 [132]


National & State:

  • Kalaimamani (Tamil Nadu State Award) – 1985[133]
  • Star of India (Wisdom International) – 1985 [134]
  • Kumar Gandharva Samman (Madhya Pradesh State Award) – 1996[135]

Artistic

  • Nada Sudharnava – 1980[136]
  • Sangeeta Choodamani, Krishna Gana Sabha [137]
  • Vadya Ratnakara - Austin India Fine Arts
  • Isai Peroli - Kartik Fine Arts
  • Nada Sudharnava – 1980[138]
  • Sangeeta Kala Sarathy, Dec 2013 (Parthasarathy Swami Sabha), Chennai[139]
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Dayananda Ashram, India[140]
  • Chitravina Kala Praveena, Federation of Sabhas, Chennai[141]
  • Sangeetha Kalanidhi, The Music Academy, Madras, 2017[142][143]

Sexual Harassment Allegations[edit]

In connection with the Me Too movement, multiple anonymous claims that Ravikiran participated in workplace harassment of his students and subordinates surfaced.[144] Ravikiran, in an interview with the India Times and on his Facebook account, strongly denies the allegations.[145][146] Following these allegations, the Madras Music Academy dropped his concerts in the December Season 2018 music festival, along with six other musicians also accused.[147][148][149]

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