N Ravikiran

Acharya Pitamaha Chitravina Narasimhan

The musician

Chitravina N Narasimhan, a trendsetter in Carnatic music, chose to create a new path in music education and child education, rather than pursue the customary route of performances and routine music tuitions. He had his training under his father Gotuvadyam Narayana Iyengar, and was an accomplished vocalist before he was 10. He then took to the chitravina and performed brilliantly all over the country, popularising Carnatic music in the process. Narasimhan enriched his musical experience by learning from greats such as T Brinda, G N Balasubramaniam, Budalur Krishnamoorthy Shastrigal and Musiri Subramaniam Iyer.

His stylish playing won him acclaim from stalwarts such as Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Flute Mali, Dr Balamuralikrishna and Veena Balachandar as also from leaders like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri and Dr Radhakrishnan. Baba Allauddin Khan guru of Pandit Ravi Shankar) heard him live in his hometown and was moved to spontaneously write him a certificate of merit. The All India Radio exempted him from audition and granted him direct grading.

Narasimhan also popularised Narayana Iyengar’s tuning methods and playing techniques among many other players of this instrument. He has composed several ragam-tanam-pallavi-s in intricate talas and evolved intricate melo-rhythmic techniques that leave both practitioners and professionals spell bound.

Scarcely interested in public attention and adulation, he has turned down several awards and honours. Those he accepted include Gotuvadya Kalanidhi, Gotuvadya Praveena, Hanumad Gana Shiromani, Acharya Ratnakara (from Aradhana Committee, Cleveland, USA) and Acharya Pitamaha (San Diego, USA).

The master

Narasimhan is easily one of the best gurus of this art form. It is not merely because he holds the world record for presenting an artiste at the age of two. It is more because he was among the first to conceive that child prodigies need not only be born but could also be made.

He made world headlines first in 1969, when he presented his two-year-old son, Ravikiran. Thousands of people watched these demonstrations in major cities, even as veterans like Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ramnad Krishnan, T N Krishnan and Alla Rakha tested Ravikiran. Narasimhan had channelled his son’s talent to enable him to identify 325 ragas, 175 talas, various composers, and effortlessly answer numerous other questions related to Carnatic music.

Narasimhan then presented Ravikiran as a full-fledged vocalist at the age of five, in 1972, with a repertoire of nearly 500 compositions, without straining him in anyway. This is one of his greatest achievements: teaching in huge quantities, without stressing or boring the child. He also presented Shashikiran, Kiranavali and Ganesh as child prodigies and they are all active performing artistes today.

Narasimhan’s revolutionary work has directly or otherwise inspired innumerable musicians and parents in the direction of child teaching, childcare and development.

His lectures-demonstrations and workshops in San Diego, Houston, San Jose, Philadelphia and other cities in the USA, enabled numerous students, parents and music lovers to get a glimpse of his immense musicianship and revolutionary methods of teaching and nurturing precocious children.