Maestro Kala Ramnath with her ‘Singing Violin’ stands among the world’s finest, most inspirational instrumentalists. Her playing has been featured on the Grammy-nominated Miles from India project, compositions of hers have appeared on the Grammy-winning album In 27 Pieces and the Kronos Quartet’s 50 For The Future. The UK-based Songlines magazine hailed Kala Ramnath as one of the 50 world’s best instrumentalists and selected album Kala as one of its 50 best recordings. She was the first Indian violinist ever to be featured in the violin Bible, The Strad. She was the subject of a solo essay in the third edition to The Encyclopedia- Rough Guide to World Music. Her contributions feature in Hollywood soundtracks like the Oscar-nominated Blood Diamond and many more.
And, most significantly in an Indian context, in May 2017 she was awarded the most illustrious Sangeet Natak Academy Puraskar for her contributions to the violin in Hindustani Classical Music.
Born into a dynasty of prodigious musical talent, one which has given Indian music such violin legends as her paternal uncle Prof. T.N. Krishnan and paternal aunt Dr. N. Rajam, Kala’s violinistic vision began manifesting early. Recognizing her innate talent, her astute grandfather, Vidwan A. Narayan Iyer took her under his tutelage. Thus began her most auspicious journey on the road to astounding renown and international acclaim.
She became a pre-eminent disciple of the legendary vocalist Pandit Jasraj. During this mentorship Kala began revolutionizing approaches to vocalized Hindustani violin technique. During this time she began formulating a voice quite unlike other Indian or non-Indian violinists. Justifiably her voice came to be dubbed ‘Singing Violin’.
Acknowledged as a virtuoso of staggering proportions, Kala has performed at the most prestigious music festivals in India. She has appeared on world stages including the Sydney Opera House, Paris’ Théâtre de la Ville, London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts, Singapore’s Esplanade, New York’s Carnegie Hall, the Rudolstadt Festival in Germany and the Edinburgh Music Festival in Scotland.
Kala is at the vanguard of the present generation of Indian instrumental super-stars. Due to her rigorous training in the Hindustani classical tradition and familiarity with the Karnatic classical tradition she comfortably forges musical alliances with artists of renown from different genres around the globe incorporating elements of Western Classical, Jazz, Flamenco and traditional African music into her rich and varied repertoire.
“…If Mozart had been transported to the South Asian subcontinent, this is what he and improvised Western classical music might have sounded like. This comparison is not thrown in to befuddle or impress. Kala Ramnath is a musician of giant like qualities…” Ken Hunt in the Jazz Wise magazine review of September 2004.
Kala is a sought-after artist to work and experiment with such orchestras as the London Symphony and London Philharmonic and world music legends like George Brooks, Kai Eckhart, Bela Fleck, Terry Bozzio, Giovanni Hidalgo Ustad Zakir Hussain, Abbos Kossimov, Ray Manzarek of the Doors, Edgar Meyer and Airto Moreira to name but a few. Raga Afrika, Global Conversation and Yashila are bands Kala has founded with her fellow world music artists.
Along with being a stellar performer, Kala is also a sought-after teacher. Beside her busy performing and composing schedules, she continues to teach, lecture and conduct workshops all around the world. In changing times music still needs to be passed on and taught. It still needs to be communicated. Among recent ‘outlets’ have been the Rotterdam Conservatory of Music in Netherlands, University of Giessen in Germany and the Weill Institute in association with the Carnegie Hall in New York.
Kala has been bestowed the ‘A Top’ grade by India’s Radio and Television and is one of the youngest artists to have achieved this honour. She is the recipient of many awards – notable among them are the ‘Rashtriya Kumar Gandharva Sanman’, ‘Pandit Jasraj Gaurav Puraskar’ and the ‘Sur Ratna’. But recently and most notably of all, the Sangeet Natak Academy Puraskar.
An established name in the world music scene, Kala today is keen to enrich the lives of under-privileged and sick children through music in the form of her foundation, ‘Kalashree’.