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Carnatic music is the most complete melodic system in the world, feels Chitravina Ravikiran
Forty of forty two! This is not about how the dashing opener Virender Sehwag scores in the game of cricket. Well, this is all about Chitravina N. Ravikiran, who completes 40 years of service to the cause of Carnatic music in just 42 years. From a child prodigy to an accomplished name, he has traversed a long way in the last four decades. He is a young veteran in this field! On the right side of 40s, Ravikiran is keen to do for Carnatic music what the great Pt. Ravi Shankar did for Hindustani music several decades ago. On December 1, 2009, Ravikiran will be feted by his disciples and rasikas alike for his wonderful effort to promote this art form within and without. He shares his thoughts with in this interview.

When you take a peep down memory lane at this point in time, what thought crosses your mind?
Ravikiran: The first and foremost thought is that I have a long way to go in several areas... as a musician, composer, guru and as an ambassador of our culture, on the whole. I also firmly believe that God has been incredibly kind on the whole so far, giving me no cause to feel anything other than thankfulness. My gurus - Chitravina Narasimhan, Sangita Kalanidhi T. Brinda and others such as late Gotuvadyam A. Narayana Iyer gave me so much to cherish and nourish. My mother late Choodamani helped me with languages such as Sanskrit, that has surely enriched my life further. It is up to me to consolidate on all these and contribute to the field over the next few years.

How do you look at the future - from your perspective and from the angle of Carnatic music as such?
Ravikiran: I think Carnatic music is booming through the world now - lot more high profile organizations and fests are featuring Carnatic concerts now than say some 25 years ago. I believe that our musicians must appreciate this big picture and go all out to project the greatness of our system to global audiences in the language that they can relate to - shruti purity and tonal clarity. If a set of our top artistes can accomplish this over the next 30 to 40 years without compromising on the core Carnatic values and its consummate emotive and intellectual aspects, it can shape the very future of our system and put it on the mainstream map.

As for my own future, I have endeavoured to do for our music what the great Pt. Ravi Shankar did for Hindustani music several decades ago - reach out to global audience and make them appreciate our system for what it is and not for just 'exotic' reasons. While I have been performing for several years both solo as well as collaborative concerts with artistes such as Larry Coryell, Taj Mahal etc, I have - over the last 8 to 10 years - got more active as a composer to do this more effectively. Hence, the concept of Melharmony! (

What does Carnatic music mean to you?
Ravikiran: Everything - passion, profession, personal growth, path to perception through perfection. In short, it is the closest constant in my life. From personal experience through collaborations with artistes from various systems such as western classical, Jazz, Chinese, South American, African etc, I can objectively say that Carnatic music is probably the most complete melodic system in the world (as opposed to Harmonic systems like western classical). Undiluted Carnatic music can be dazzling to divine, if rendered in the right way. Each aspect of it - melody, rhythm, lyrics, improvisational and compositional forms - can take lifetimes to appreciate, leave alone master. I believe that the best way to do this is to keep the mind free of extra baggage and at least 90 per cent occupied with music alone. I am a student - who is forever keen to learn as much as possible in the years to come.

What had been the high and low points of your journey thus far?
Ravikiran: I take things as they come, on the whole. My personal high points would definitely be my interactions with legends such as Semmangudi sir, M.S. Subbulakshmi, MLV, DKP, Pt. Ravi Shankar and flute Mali, Ramnad Krishnan (to name a few); as also composers such as Papanasham Sivan, Shuddhananda Bharati, Tanjavur Shankara Iyer and Periyasami Tooran; and philosophers and seers such as Kanchi Paramacharya and J. Krishnamurthy and also great personalities from other areas. As for low points, each time I don't sing or play to my satisfaction, it is a low point in my journey. And, that is too big a list to be placed here!

Read also: Disciples to fete Chitravina Ravikiran for completing four decades of service to Carnatic music in 42 years

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