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“Padmini Rao has kept her musical passions alive by performing regularly all over the world and spreading the musical heritage and khayal."
By Priyadershini, The Hindu, 4th October 2010

Hindustani classical singer Padmini Rao talks about her musical lineage, values and teaching.
“I will show you the path but you have to find the lanes,” said her guru, Ustad Zia Mohiuddinn Khan Dagar to classical Hindustani singer Padmini Rao. And that's what the shishya has been doing - finding the different musical lanes. Padmini who performed recently at Abad Chulikkal, at a concert conducted by ‘Musical Meet' and ‘Shudh Kalyan', has been away from India for the past 23 years. She has kept her musical passions alive by performing regularly all over the world and spreading the musical heritage of dhrupad and khayal.

Revered gurus:

Though she sings khayal, she is trained in dhrupad by Dagar sahib. She recollects how he would cite analogies while teaching. A mother's bosom fills with tenderness when she sees her child sleeping ,that is the emotion to be delivered while rendering a particular raga, he would demand. “That's the kind of teaching I underwent,” she says. And so she searches in her music the peculiarity and personality of a raga and communicates that in her inimitable style. Her other renowned teacher is Dr. Prabha Atre under whom she did her MA in Music from SNDT, Mumbai. “I am blessed to have such gurus. They have been very large hearted in sharing their knowledge with me,” she says repeatedly.

Living away from India has its drawbacks for a musician of Indian classical music but it has its advantages too. Padmini had to self-learn a lot, which meant more disciplined ‘riyaaz' and a self imposed dedication.

Singing to a non-Indian audience meant double effort at communication and a thorough explanation of the nuances of her music. “They do not know the concept of say ‘ roothna ‘or ‘manaana', so I have to explain that before I sing,” she gives an example.

As a teacher she encourages her students to listen, listen and listen. It is something that's missing among the new generation youth. Even the audience she says has come to relish condensed format concerts with say a khayal, thumri and a bhajan all thrown in. “But it is better to adapt than to be extinct,” she remarks as one who can foresee the fast changing scenario. She rues the fact that though she has no solutions to make this precious musical heritage commercially viable, a support from the government or introducing music at school level would definitely help.

“It's not about playing a complex play station but it is about watching a sunset, or listening to a bird sing.” That's what classical music teaches- the very way to live.

Teaching is her way forward. Through her students she is able to create, “if not performers at least an enlightened interested audience” and that will take the tradition onwards.

Her early days in singing were under Pandit Manohar Otavkar, before she moved on to higher music. “I was a restless child.” Music seemed to have calmed her down, she recalls. Studying to be a chemist and with diverse interests in theatre and language it was her ‘taanpura' that quite strangely sounded in her the choice of music as career. And that's how music came about for Padmini and that's how it has been for nearly three decades.

Since the last five years she has begun composing music for bhajans, something she said happened after her visit to Vrindavan, where her love for poetry and literature came to the fore. She is now taking “baby steps” in composing khayal. And moving on she would like to study music therapy- the healing traits of music- where quite strangely her studies in chemistry and in music will blend.

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