In the spirit of acculturation, UC Irvine’s Society for the Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Amongst Youth hosted a combined lecture and concert on Sunday, Oct. 22, featuring world-renowned chitravina player Shri Ravikiran.
The chitravina is a traditional Carnatic instrument that is best compared to a modern classical guitar. Also referred to as a gotuvadyam, it is a 21-stringed fretless lute with a 32-inch-long hollow neck from which strings of eerie melodic vibrations escape.
SPICMACAY transformed an average lecture hall into an authentic Indian concert where arriving guests were met by a traditionally dressed man sitting on white sheets laid neatly on the floor. Multiple microphones were set around Ravikiran as he greeted his guests and started the performance demonstrating his knowledge about the chitravina and traditional Carnatic music.
Ravikiran explained that there are two types of instrumental Indian music. The first is Hindstania and the second, on which Ravikiran focused, is Carnatic.
‘Carnatic music means something pleasing to the ear,’ Ravikiran said. Its roots are derived from a 4,000-year-old history that draws from a combination of two major sources in Indian music: the Vedas and the Tamil. Carnatic music can be purely instrumental or can include vocals, but the overall concept behind Carnatic music is to provide a wholesome experience through music.
Ravikiran described his theory of a musical mathematical formula behind the melodic beauty of Carnatic music.
‘It is one of the most amazing things for me because the music theory is so strong and has been so well defined and rationally explained that you start to understand it and become emotionally involved with it,’ Ravikiran said.
Throughout the lecture, Ravikiran would often break into a short serenade for his audience to better demonstrate his points.
The audience was a surprising array of various ethnicities and ages. Soo Hur, a first-year political science major, said, ‘I wanted to attend this event because of the influences from my Indian friends in high school and my friends now, so I really like the music. And it was free!’
After a brief intermission with complementary beverages and samosas from SPICMACAY, audience members were invited to partake in the true Carnatic experience with the artist himself.
The concert consisted of a small trio of musicians. Ravikiran sat in the center with his chitravina. Rather than strapping it to his body, Ravikirin laid his instrument on the flat surface of his Chitrivania case and began an assortment of fast and slow melodies.
Sunday night’s performance showcased not only the talents of a world-renowned Carnatic genius but also the dynamic adaptability of music as a universal synchronizer among various ethnicities, race and ages.