Padmini Rao takes Music abroad
By PTI - Apr 19, 2004, 13:29
She could well have become a research chemist or even an actress, but it was music that she chose for a vocation, and now, despite living abroad, Padmini Rao has emerged as one of the most promising classical singers of the Kirana Gharana.
Based in New York, Rao, who has made a mark in Khayal singing, admits that being away from India has meant not being able to interact with her gurus as much as she would like to.
But she has turned the handicap into an advantage by performing all over the world and was recently in India as part of a global tour. Having already performed in the US and the UK on the tour, Rao held concerts in New Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai.
Rao, who has been described as one of the most promising singers of the Kirana Gharana, the genre that maestros like Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and Gangubai Hangal belong to, has become a global ambassador for Indian classical music and has performed in several countries, including Holland, Germany, France, the US as well as the Middle East.
Going abroad after her marriage, Rao, in her early 40's now, lived for many years in the Middle East where her husband was working before they moved to the US recently, but this vocalist's love for music only grew despite the distance from her gurus - Ustad Zia Moinuddin Dagar and Prabha Atre.
"Of course, had I continued to live in India, I would have had a better chance of learning from my gurus and also enjoyed better visibility in the country. But I have continued to be dedicated to music against all odds, and there has been no dearth of audience wherever I have been," says Rao, informing that the expatriate Indian population does appreciate Indian classical music.
But the singer, despite having moved abroad, has been taken note of by experts, and is being seen as one of the most talented of Atre's disciples.
Writes Mohan Nadkarni in his book `The Great Masters - Profiles in Hindustani Classical Vocal Music': "Several young students have benefitted from her (Atre's) guidance. Among the shagirds... The youngest of them all, Padmini Rao has matured as a concert performer over the years."
Rao says she owes all her success to her gurus.
"As a child, I was always listening to music as my parents, although they were not musicians themselves, were deeply interested in Indian classical music. And they counted among friends such masters as, under whose tutelage, I went on to learn music," recounts Rao, adding in the same breath that she, however, wasn't sure until she graduated about whether she wanted to have a career in music.
Having learnt music from Ustad Dagar since the age of 15, Rao, belonging to a Chitrapur Saraswat family settled in Mumbai, graduated in chemistry in 1981, and was a rank holder in Bombay University.
But not sure about what she wanted to become in life, Rao who was also dabbling with theatre at that time, decided to take a year off to decide, and finally went on do post-graduation in music.
"It was during my post-graduation that I began learning music from Dr Prabha Atre, and that association still continues," she says About her decision to specialise in Khayal singing, Rao says the reason why she adopted the style was because she liked its "vocabulary, the freedom to experiment that it gave." Moreover, she says, it is one of the most ancient forms of singing that have stood the test of time.
Rao, who also enjoys singing light-classical forms like bhajans and thumris, says music has become "a way of life" for her. "It is as essential for me as breathing is. I could even say music is worship for me. I have unconditionally and completely surrendered to it," she says