The Instrument To the layman,
the gottuvadyam appears as a strange hybrid between the veena, the sarod and the sitar. It
has seven main strings, twelve strings for sympathetic vibration and three for rhythm. The
sympathetic strings could be tuned to enhance the richness of the tonal quality of the
instrument. The instrument is fretless; notes are produced by gliding a cylindrical piece
of wood or horn called gottu (by which the name gottuvadyam is derived) over the strings
by the left hand, while the right hand fingers pluck the strings. The fretless nature of
the gottuvadyam and the gliding quality of the gottu help to produce a rich, melodious and
a continuous flow of sound in close approximation to the human voice. There have been very
few exponents of this rare instrument. Notable among the past stalwarts are Sakharama Rao
(who devised the gottuvadyam), Narayana Iyengar (the grandfather of Ravi Kiran) and
Budalur Krishnamurthy Sastry.
The Artist On Feb 12, 1967, Ravi Kiran was born the grandson of Narayana Iyengar, one of the pioneering exponents of Carnatic music on Gottuvadyam. Just three months later, his father saw him respond to classical music. At two and a half years of age, Ravi Kiran could identify more than 325 Carnatic ragas and 175 talas. At five, he gave his first concert (vocal). Even at this age, critics found, in his performance, an "unerring sense of rhythm" and a "good grasp of the form of the raga". He gave a public concert on the Gottuvadyam at the age of twelve in the prestigious Music Academy in Madras. The Hindu, a prominent Indian newspaper, wrote that his display on the difficult instrument was "sure, stylish and effortless". Commenting on a concert he gave in Madras in January, 1981, The Hindu hailed him as an "instrumental prodigy exercising his gifts expressively to communicate uncommonly ripe traditional gnana"- in Sanskrit, gnana means knowledge. Since then, Ravi Kiran has consolidated his position as one of the best Carnatic musicians. He has represented India at the "Festival of India" in Paris (1985) and in Switzerland (1987) and has given invited lecture demonstrations at leading institutions in London, Amsterdam and Hamburg. From 1985, he has been listed among the top five solo instrumentalists of India by the leading music magazine, "Sruti".
At 21, he has probably already realized one of his primary objectives- that of reviving the Gottuvadyam. Child prodigies are rare in music but even rarer is the instance of a child prodigy developing into a consummate musician. Some experts feel that the very nature of the ready skill that they possess hinders them in their pursuit of higher musical awareness, the attainment of which requires tremendous dedication. In this respect, critics were amazed at the strong sense of identity with the depth of the traditional art displayed by Ravi Kiran even in his early teens. One reason for this, certainly, is his father Narasimhan, himself a musician, who was instrumental in channeling the springs of natural talent in the right direction. He started teaching his son musical pieces at a very early age and later taught him all the intricacies of the gottuvadyam. Ravi Kiran's accomplishments do not end at the concert platform. In July 1985, he played the Gottuvadyam for 24 hours at a stretch and without food or water. He did not even move from his seat on a platform in the temple in which he performed this unique feat. After the event, Ravi Kiran said that his objective was not to enter the Guinness book of world records. He considered his effort as his offering to God. In August 1987, deeply troubled by the unsavory incidents all over the world, Ravi Kiran organized a 72-hour non-stop "musical penance". Nearly 150 musicians, through their music, prayed for international peace and prosperity. However, Ravi Kiran is not a believer of miracles. "This is a symbolic gesture of showing that we are concerned", he said. "It is intensity that matters. A response from a higher aspect of human nature enables us to rise to a condition of sublimated aesthetic awareness". These words, coming from a 20-year old, speak of a profoundity that probably stems from the music that he excels in.
From root Sun Jan 1 00:00:00 1996 Newsgroups:
From: email@example.com (Mahalingam Sankararaman) Subject: Ravi Kiran/Gottuvadyam Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org> Sender: email@example.com (USENET news) Organization: Purdue University Engineering Computer Network Date: Tue, 9 Feb 1993 00:53:08 GMT Lines: 92 Status: RO Here is one more on the Gottuvadyam. This was written and distributed by the India Students Association at Purdue when Ravi Kiran came here few years ago. Sankar
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