Born on 21 May 1946 in New Delhi, Shri N. Ramanathan is a leading scholar, teacher, and motivator of research in music. He was educated at the Sri Venkateswara University at Tirupati and Banaras Hindu University, where he took his PhD in musicology in 1980. Together with this, he received thorough training in Carnatic violin and vocal music from teachers including Kodanganallur Sri Subramanian, K. Mahadeva Bhagavatar, P. Ramanathan, V. Venkatarama nujan, and D. Pasupathi. His teachers in musicology were S.R. Janakiraman and Prem lata Sharma, besides his wife Hema Ramanathan.
Starting out as a teacher at the Indira Kala Sangit Vishwavidyalaya, Khairagarh, Shri Ramanathan joined the Department of Indian Music, University of Madras, in 1978, where he served at a stretch for twenty-six years retring as Professor in 2004. Over this period he wrote copiously on various facets of music and directed new research at the University by students who now carry on his work. At present, he is associated with the Chennai Mathematical Institute as Adjunct Professor of Music. He continues his research supported by three websites created by himself. He has also been associated with Kalakshetra, Chennai, as a Distinguished Fellow. Shri Ramanathan's publications include Musical Forms in Sangitaratnakara (1999) and Essays on Tala and Laya (1997) besides numerous papers and reviews published in periodicals. He has presented over a hundred papers at seminars on music in India and other countries. He also sings and plays the violin in public concert s and has performed on radio and television.
Shri Ramanathan was awarded a Fellow ship of the Institute for Advanced Study, Indiana University, Bloomington, U.S.A., in 1991.
Shri N. Ramanathan receives the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for his contribution to scholarship in Indian music.