‘Every stage is a classroom'

V.V. Ravi

V.V. Ravi  

I t was really difficult getting him to talk and it took a lot of prodding to get information from him. The man, whose initials indicate a great lineage, strongly believes that his music should do the talking. It is none other than violin vidwan V.V. Ravi. Excerpts from the interview held at his Mylapore residence. (His Tamil that has a tinge of Malayalam is music to the ears)…

First lessons and thereafter

My father, Vadakkanchery Veeraraghava Iyer was both a vocalist and violin vidwan. His brothers Mani Bhagavathar, Rama Bhagavathar, Lakshminarayanan and Krishna Iyer were all accomplished vidwans in at least two faculties of music. Initially, my father taught me the basics and then my elder brother V.V. Subramaniam took over the responsibility. As Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar was a good friend of my father, he started teaching me every day in the evenings after I returned from school (P.S. High School). Many do not know that Chembai was good at playing the violin too. He polished my fingering techniques and taught me the nuances of accompanying vocal concerts and also playing kritis. I was lucky enough to have been trained by Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer who taught me Navavarnam, Navagraha and many other Dikshitar kritis. I also trained under P.S. Narayanaswami Iyer before going on stage. Practising alongside Thanjavur S. Kalyanaraman opened up a whole new world for me. All this was in Chennai.

Initiation into concerts

When I began my career, T.K. Govinda Rao and Trichur Ramachandran gave me enough opportunities to accompany them. Simultaneously, I started playing duets with my elder brother. Since he was already in the big league, I was noticed by stalwarts such as M.S. Subbulakshmi, Nedunuri Krishnamurthy Bhagavathar, M.D. Ramanathan, M. Balamuralikrishna, D.K. Jayaraman, N. Ramani and KVN, who featured me in their concerts.

Joining AIR

During my college days at Vivekananda, I won several college level competitions. Soon after I played as a casual artiste for All India Radio (AIR) and finally joined the organisation in 1982, as a member of the Vadya Vrinda group. I have played in orchestras conducted by M.Y. Kama Sastry, S. Balachander, S.V. Venkatraman, Lalgudi Jayaraman, M. Balamuralikrishna, MSV and Kunnakudi, to name a few. I am happy that after so many years, I have now become a composer for Vadya Vrinda. I am an ‘A Top' artiste with AIR.

Vadya Vrinda and my favourites

I have been experimenting with chords, samvadhi, vivaadhi and graha bedham in my Vadya Vrinda compositions. I still cannot forget S. Balachander's ‘Bumble Bee' in Western music for AIR in which I played. Gopalakrishnan's (guru of Shobhana Rangachari) Vadya Vrinda in Mukhari and Syama are haunting. I love playing Dikshitar's compositions. Kalyani is my favourite raga for it helped me pass audition tests.

Elder brother VVS

Playing with my elder brother has always been a rewarding experience. Prior to the concerts, my diffidence vanishes thanks to his encouragement. Although he is at a different level, I have always tried my best to keep pace with him. Trying to emulate my brother has thus fostered my growth which in turn has helped me while accompanying stalwarts. The precious piece of advice he has given me is to play ragas not merely as swara korvai but as meaningful phrases – for this, he made me listen to veterans.

Playing dual roles

As an accompanist, my role is limited for I have to tread the main singer's path. In solos and duets, I am able to unleash my real potential. I do derive immense satisfaction in both forms. I consider every stage to be a classroom that creates enough scope for improvement.

My family

My son Raghav Krishna is PSN's disciple. He is also an accomplished magician and is into performances. [Raghav demonstrates some incredible hand tricks with coins and playing cards]. He also is a painter. [His painting of actor Kamal Haasan is to be seen to be believed and will make the actor proud!]. My daughter is a dubbing and voice over artiste. You can hear her voice in many jingles, serials and films. My wife too dubs for many actors, in popular Tamil serials.


Playing with my elder brother V.V. Subramaniam has always been a rewarding experience.

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