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Article: Ravikiran’s concept of Melharmony

By Vikas Mouli

Chitravina N Ravikiran, hailed as the Mozart of Indian music, needs no introduction to music lovers across the world. He stormed the music world as the world’s youngest performing artiste at the age of two, in 1969 and has never looked back. His contributions as a vocalist, instrumentalist and composer have made a great impact not only on Indian music but also on world music as he has consistently sought to extend the borders of any area he focuses on. Acclaimed as ‘probably the greatest slide instrumentalist in the world today’ (Radio National, Australia), he is one of the busiest performers in the world today.

In recent times, Ravikiran has also become synonymous with the term, Melharmony, an exciting new approach to compositions and aesthetics in world music that he pioneered at the Millennium Festival in UK in Oct 2000.

What exactly is Melharmony?
According to Ravikiran himself, Melharmony can be defined as melody with harmony and chords that conforms to the modal/scalar, sequential, and ornamentation principles of highly evolved melodic systems such as the Raga system of Indian music. The concept dictates that a composition based on a well-defined scale such as the raga not only feature chords and harmonies drawn from notes permitted in the raga but also highlight the sequence and typical ornamentation that bestow the raga its unique identity and distinctiveness. This looks like child’s play but it is seldom a reality in world music for two reasons:

i. Melodic systems rarely venture out in the region of chords.
ii. Systems such as Western Classical that predominantly use chords follow a different set of aesthetics that do not bind the composers into using notes native to any specific scale.

In other words, the approaches to primarily melodic or harmonic systems are quite distinct. While each sounds excellent to a person listening with the necessary aesthetic mindset, many things do not resolve themselves to a person from the other side of the fence. To elaborate, for someone who listens to Western classical or jazz or other systems with a raga in mind, certain chord combinations may appear to use notes quite foreign to the raga. Similarly, for someone attuned to harmonic systems, a purely melodic system may not sound wholesome all the time. Ravikiran's Melharmonic approach has aimed to address at least some of these issues.

Melharmonic compositions and concerts
During the Millennium Festival in UK, Ravikiran premiered some of his melharmonic compositions in collaboration with members of the world renowned BBC Philharmonic Orchestra in various cities including London and Manchester. Melharmony received wide praise from audiences everywhere and the concert in Bradford was chosen as one of the five best out of nearly 2000 events from various parts of the world in the Millennium Festival. Ravikiran has composed and performed a number of concerts with top-level artists and groups from many parts of the world featuring Melharmony. His compositions add a whole new dimension to music that have enriched both melodic and harmonic systems. Full of with exciting and often highly original rhythmic patterns, his compositions have started blazing a new trail in world music. His latest creation is Ujjwal, a full-fledged, first of its kind, 45-minute long Melharmonic Concerto.

Critical acclaim
Melharmony has also received approbation from the media. The BBC Magazine’s cover story entitled 'BBC Melharmonic' is noteworthy. Several other publications have carried interviews on Melharmony. A good recent example is the one by

Melharmonic collaborations
Melharmony has also aroused the interest of top Western composers and academicians such as Professor Robert Morris of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester. Over the last few months, the Ravikiran-Robert Morris team has been churning out a few arrangements for orchestras of various sizes. More significantly, Ravikiran hopes to create a new set of aesthetics and rules of desirable chords with respect to each individual mode (raga) that will enable any composer in any part of the world to create Melharmonic compositions. Surely, that would be a great day for world music!




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