N. Ravikiran

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N. Ravikiran
Ravikiran 33A.jpg
Background information
Born (1967-02-12)12 February 1967
Mysore, India
Genres Indian classical music, Carnatic music, world music, melharmony
Occupation(s) Instrumentalist, vocalist, musical composer
Instruments chitravina
Years active 1969 – present
Website ravikiranmusic.com

Chitravina 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]"


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 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]


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] and The Eighteen Steps.

Slide Instrumentalist[edit]

At the age of 10, Ravikiran switched over to the 21-stringed chitravina and gave his maiden chitravina concert at age 11.

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] and Brisbane Festival, Australia and was the first to introduce Carnatic music in several countries such as Slovakia, Croatia and Slovenia.

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] He is also known for a highly vocalised style of playing and is one of the rare full-time instrumentalists who has attracted a large number of vocalists as his disciples.


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] His compositions span over five languages – Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Hindi. He has many singular creations to his credit such as varnams in rarely used talas like Adi Tala - Khanda Gati, Adi - Tishra Gati, Mishra Chapu and Sankeerna Chapu besides schematic svarakshara compositions like Sadaramutonu (Shankarabharanam), Sarigadamma (Keeravani) and Sada sadayudai (Hindolam). The lyrics of several of his compositions are available online just as a comprehensive list of his compositions.


Ravikiran has also set to music works of several azhwars, verses of Vedanta Desika,[42] verses from ancient Tamil sangam literature,[43] 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[44][45] 13th Jan: 420 in under 6 hours, average about 70 per hour.[46] 14th Jan: 560 in 6 hours average of over 93 per hour.

Total: 16 hours for 1330 verses. Average verses per hour: 83.125[47]

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"[48]
  • Savithri[49]
  • Vinayaka Vaibhavam[50]
  • Ramayana - Bala Kandam
  • Ramayana - Yuddha Kandam[51]
  • Mahabharata (Karna Shapatam and Geetopadesham)[52]
  • The Almighty Trinity, a production composed entirely in Telugu, highlighting the harmonious interactions between Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.[53][54]
  • Panchakriya
  • Panchali Shapatam

His cross-cultural dance productions include" Cosmos", "Pushed to the Edge, "Translation" & Illusion to Resolution. Ravikiran also directed the dance project "Divine Equations" with Dr Vyjayantimala Bali and Natya Dance Company, Chicago, based on Oottukkadu Venkata Kavi's compositions.

For more information and a list of select traditional and melharmonic works of Ravikiran, visit the Compositions of Chitravina N Ravikiran page.


Ravikiran is well known for his cutting-edge concept of melharmony,[55] 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[56] by taking into cognisance the rules and aesthetics of all fused systems in any given collaboration. Ravikiran introduced this award-winning concept[57] during his collaboration with artists of the BBC Philharmonic, at the Millennium Festival, UK in Oct 2000.[58]

Melharmony concerts with major orchestras like Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra's have attracted audiences of 45,000 people at times.[59] The concept has inspired critical discussion among scholars[60] in international conferences including Society for Music Theory Conference, Boston (2005) and Melody, Harmony, Melharmony conference, Houston (2014).[61] 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.[62][63]

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.[64]


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,[65] Larry Coryell, Martin Simpson, George Brooks, Simon Phillips, Roland van Campenhout and orchestras such as BBC Philharmonic,[66] Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, Goettingen Quintet, Germany, Apollo Chamber Players, Houston,[67] Middleton Community Symphony Orchestra[68] and Sacramento Symphony.[69] He founded the world music group, ta-ki-Ta Trio[70] with 4-time Grammy Awardee Glen Velez and Voice Percussionist, Loire Cotler.

Among Indian maestros, he has performed with Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, T. Brinda, Girija Devi, Pt Birju Maharaj,[71] Dr M. Balamuralikrishna,[72] Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Dr N. Ramani, R. K. Srikanthan, Pt Kishan Maharaj, Nedunuri Krishnamurthy, Mandolin U Shrinivas[73] and others.

Arts educator[edit]

Ravikiran, renowned for his vast repertoire (in excess of 1000 compositions of master Indian composers apart from over 800 of his own creations) has trained numerous disciples all over the world,[74] many of whom are award-winning performers and teachers. [75][76][77][78] Several of his students are also major contributors in other arenas. [79]He pioneered the concept of tele-teaching in 1996. 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[80] through concerts, workshops, books and articles.[81]

Ambassador of Culture[edit]

An active champion of culture,[82][83] 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.[84] He has since taken his culture to numerous countries across the world and also used it extensively to unite people across the world. He has inspired initiatives such as Combating Climate Crisis (CCC) Project of the Melharmony Foundation, USA.

Rural Music Education Projects[edit]

Ravikiran is credited as one of the first, if not the first who takes classical music to the masses.[85] 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.[86] He authored the book, Inaiyatra Innishai and produced a 2-volume DVD with the same title which featured special demos by some of India's top legends. Ravikiran also composed two new pieces and also tuned a few others in core-classical ragas like Sahana and Yadukulakambhodhi, proving that classical music was accessible to all and beyond communal or caste divides. Ravikiran has proved this further by training disciples from diverse communities, regions and countries, several of whom have gone become award-winners and performers. He has also given hundreds of outreach concerts and lectures in schools and colleges across India, USA and other countries.

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

A lobbyist for cultural renaissance in India,[87] 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.[88] 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.[89]

Ravikiran's concerts have raised substantial funds for disaster relief including Hurricane Katrina,[90] Tsunami of 2004 as well as for educational, health and cultural initiatives.

Innovations & Contributions[edit]

Some of Ravikiran's other contributions[91] include:

  • Introducing the portable, bright toned, 20-stringed slide instrument, Nava-chitravina
  • Inventing the Visual Rhythm Metronome, Taal Acharya with Vanitha and Krishnan Suresh[92]
  • Resurrecting and championing the works of the composer Oottukkadu Venkata Kavi[80][93][94]
  • Introducing Indian music in a number of schools in India and USA[95]
  • Pioneering twin composer festivals such as Oottukkadu Venkata Kavi-J S Bach Festival and Tyagaraja-Mozart Festival in cities such as Madison and Chicago
  • Pioneering the use of teflon-slides in world music
  • Introducing revolutionary concepts in rhythm such as "Seamless korvais (rhythmic cadenzas)"[96], 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[97][98]
  • Introducing Tamil compositions to North Indian dance forms like Kathak & Odissi
  • Numerous workshops and music camps in various countries on both practice pieces,[99] performance repertoire[100] as well as Improvisational aspects such as Neraval,[101] Kalpana Swaras[102] and Alapanas[103]
  • Inspired several others to innovate using his core musical ideas[104][105]


Ravikiran has authored several sought after books on Carnatic Music including

  • Appreciating Carnatic Music[106][107]
  • Perfecting Carnatic Music Level I and II[108]
  • Life and Contributions of Oottukkadu Venkata Kavi[109]
  • Saptaratnas and Navavaranams of Oottukkadu Venkata Kavi[109]
  • Inaiyatra innishai (The incomparable music)[110]

He has also penned a number of articles in leading Journals and Dailies.[111][112][113][114][115]


Ravikiran has lectured extensively 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[116]
  • Raktitvam[117]
  • CMCM[118]
  • Ragam tanam pallavi[119]

His critical presentations on topics such as CMCM (Common Mistakes in Carnatic Music) have attracted critical acclaim from musicians, musicologists, students and music lovers.[120] 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.[121]


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.[122] He has received the prestigious title of Sangita Kalanidhi from the Madras Music Academy for 2018.[123]


- Millennium Festival Award (Millennium Commission, Government of UK) – 2000
– Citation from City of Houston, USA
– Citation from City of Tulsa, USA
- Annual Melharmony Day proclamation by the city of Middleton, USA - 2013
- Melharmony Day proclamation by city of Madison, USA - Nov 8, 2015
– Best Contemporary World Album (New Age Voice Awards, USA) – 2001

National & State:

- Sangita Kalanidhi (Madras Music Academy) - 2018
– President of India's Sangeet Natak Akademi Award – 2007
- Star of India Award (Wisdom International) – 1985
– Sanskriti Award (Sanskriti Foundation) – 1990
– Kalaimamani (Tamil Nadu State Award) – 1985
– Kumar Gandharva Samman (Madhya Pradesh State Award) – 1996


– Arul Isai Selvan – 1973
– Music Academy Senior Awards – several, since 1979
– Lion's International Award – 1979
– Nada Sudharnava – 1980
– Tantri Gana Visharada – 1983
– Sangeet Samraat (Wisdom International) – 1985
– Rotary Vocational Award – 1985
– Madhura Naada Mannar – 1986
– Isai Peroli (Kartik Fine Arts) – 1991
– Sangeeta Choodamani (Krishna Gana Sabha) – 1995
– Chitravina Vidya Varidhi (Yarl Society, Perth, Australia) – 1996
– Kumar Gandharva Award (Kumar Gandharva Foundation, Bombay) – 2000
– Vadya Ratnakara (India Fine Arts, Austin, TX), 2002
– Lifetime Achievement Award (Kanchi Foundation, India), 2003
– Harvard Sangeet Award (Harvard University, USA), 2005
– TTK Award (Music Academy, Madras, India), 2003
– Sangeeta Sapta Saagara (Shanti Fine Arts, Chennai, India), 2005
– Nalli Season Award (Nalli Foundation, Chennai, India), 2006
– Ragalaya Sagara (Ragalaya Foundation, London), Jan 2008
– Sangeeta Ratnakara, Cleveland, USA, 2010
– Rotary Lifetime Achievement Award, July 2011
- Sangeeta Kala Sarathy, Dec 2013 (Parthasarathy Swami Sabha), Chennai[124]

- Vadya Brahmam, Nadabrahmam Sabha, Chennai 2013
- Sangeeta Shastra Virpannar – Lifetime Achievement Award, (SAFE) Chennai Dec 2014
- ISAI Tendral, Feb 2015, ISAI, Chennai, India
- Lifetime Achievement Award, Dayananda Ashram, India

- Chitravina Kala Praveena, Federation of Sabhas, Chennai
- Sangeetha Kalanidhi, The Music Academy, Madras, 2017
[123] [127]

– Chitravina Naada Gnyana Mani, Charubala Trust, Chennai, 2017

- Sangita Kaviraja, Carnatica, 2017
– Bharat Ratna M S Subbulakshmi Award, Music Academy, Madras, 2017
– Sangeeta Kalasagaram, Kalasagaram, Hyderabad, 2017
– Astika Ratna, Astika Samajam, Chennai, 2017
– Nada Vallabha, Nada Sudha, Chennai, 2017

- Purandara Award, Indranagar Sangeeta Sabha, Jan 2018

See also


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  122. ^ http://www.sabhash.com/artist/20/ravi-kiran.htm
  123. ^ a b http://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/sangita-kalanidhi-award-for-chitraveena-maestro-ravikiran/article19288982.ece
  124. ^ The Indian Express, 18 Dec, 2013
  125. ^ http://arshavidya.in/music/
  126. ^ "The Hindu 31 July 2017".
  127. ^ "The Hindu 2 Jan 2018".

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