Ravikiran's fascination for the chitravina (earlier called gotuvadyam), which was also the chosen medium of expression for his grandfather and father, began at the age of two. Against the background of his earlier musical accomplishments, Ravikiran was soon able to paint his musical ideas on the chitravina.
His maiden instrumental performance was in 1979, at age 12. Today, he is recognised as one of the most eminent instrumentalists in the world, and has performed at prominent venues like the Theatre de la Ville(Paris), Vienna Palace (Austria), Tate Modern Gallery (London), National Theatre (Australia), the Institute of World Music (New York), Oji Hall (Japan), Esplanade (Singapore), Sadler's Wells (London) and at events such as The Millennium Festival, World Circuit Arts Festival (UK), International Music Festival (France), Brisbane Festival (Australia), Flanders Festival (Belgium), Radio Koln Festival (Germany), Harborfront Festival (Canada), Masters of India Festival (Hungary), Festivals of India (France, Germany and Switzerland), Amsterdam-India Festival (Holland) and the Cleveland Tyagaraja Festival (USA).
Consolidating the achievements of his predecessors, Ravikiran has re-established the chitravina's rightful stature as an ideal medium to express Carnatic music. The enormity of his contribution has to be measured against the backdrop that for a brief while before his arrival, the chitravina used to be considered as an ideal instrument for sorrowful times (with the All India Radio regularly using recordings of the instrument while announcing the demise of national leaders). Since Ravikiran's entry into the scene, the instrument has been conspicuous in auspicious occasions including weddings, international academic/social conferences and other political events.
At the global level, Ravikiran has showcased the chitravina's unique prowesses through collaborations with top-notch musicians from diverse systems such as Jazz, Western Classical, African, Brazilian, Mid-Eastern, Chinese not to mention North Indian. While his interpretation of Pavane by Gabriel Urbain Fauré with artistes of BBC Philharmonic touched hearts in UK, his re-creation of Luiz Gonzaga's famous Asa Branca had audiences spontaneously singing along in concerts across Brazil.
His style is a combination of emotive appeal, intellectual sophistication, virtuosity and classicism, without detracting from grammatical correctness or aesthetic values. In his fidelity to pitch, rhythm and ornamentation, and in his perception and communication of the musical spirit of great composers, Ravikiran stands out as a deeply evolved musician. His awareness of the lyrics and meanings of the compositions he plays and his appreciation of their spirit come through in every interpretation of his.
Ravikiran's penchant to project instrumental capabilities has also given him room for numerous artistic innovations. A case in point is his concert in Madras in November 1995, where he played a unique ragam-tanam-pallavi using over 100
He proved the versatility of the chitravina with his collaborative concerts with legendary Indian vocalists including Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Dr Balamuralikrishna,
T Brinda, Girija Devi, R K Shrikanthan, Nedanoori Krishnamurthy and instrumentalists like Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and Dr N Ramani.
Ravikiran has expanded the horizons of the instrument as well, by introducing several measures that have positively impacted the world of slide-instruments. For instance, his adoption of teflon slide at the behest of Mr Hemmige Varadarajan, a scientist based in California, (as opposed to ebony, bison horn, glass or steel) has definitely improved the purity of the instrument's output and has inspired a few others to do the same. He has also worked on what he himself calls "faithful amplifying techniques", whereby he has made it possible for the microtonal nuances of the normally soft chitravina to be heard by large audiences while retaining its original tone to a large extent.
Ravikiran has also performed on the electric slide-guitar (Hawaiian guitar) but has found it inadequate to express all his musical ideas. This resulted in his designing the navachitravina, a sleek 20-stringed slide-instrument that also gives him flexibility in pitch, apart from a sharper tone.