Research is Arati Rao’s forte

Arati Rao

Arati Rao   | Photo Credit: V_V_KRISHNAN


Dr. Arati Rao has been chosen for the Musicologist award of the Music Academy

Dr. Arati N. Rao is interested in the history and evolution of Carnatic music. Beginning her training in music at a very early age, Arati learnt vocal music from gurus Sethulakshmi Viswanathan and Kamala Swami in Lucknow and Nagpur respectively. “My mother Manjula Rao, a vocalist and a veena player, introduced me to good music,” she says. Later she took to veena and continued to learn from R. K. Srinivasamurthy, son of eminent veena vidwan R.S Keshavamurthy. She also trained with his disciple E.P. Alamelu and his son R.K. Prakash. She went on to obtain a Master’s degree in music from the University of Madras and a doctorate from the University of Mysore. A first rank holder in Vidwat examination conducted by the Government of Karnataka, she is currently learning from Revathi Sadasivam, another well-known vainika.

“I left my career in Information Technology in 2005 to focus on music. For my Ph.D., my guide Dr. C.S. Sreedhara suggested that I take up the research on Vijayanagara as a seat of music. My father’s collection of old publications of Haridasa compositions convinced me to take this as the subject of my research,” informs Arati.

She carried on her research about the Sulaadi songs and notated those she came across in Roman script. “Sulaadis are Kannada devotional compositions of Haridasa saints such as Sripadaraya, Vyasaraya and Purandara dasa. The songs have several stanzas, each set to a different tala. The last stanza called ‘jate’ in two lines thematically summarises the composition,” she says. The other part of her research was about Lakshana Granthas in Sanskrit. “My Perspective was to compare it with lakshya, the practical aspect of music.”

During her research, Arati could find 24 such Sulaadi songs in the manuscripts of Thanjavur Maharaja Serfoji's Saraswati Mahal Library (TMSSML). “I realised that there is a huge treasure waiting to be explored and continued my research further after submitting my thesis. I must mention here that the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), Bangalore, has a vast microfilm archive of manuscripts from Thanjavur, Mysore and other places that help me in my research projects immensely.”

Arati received a grant from IGCNA for studying Sulaadi songs of Thanjavur manuscripts and a book on the study is to be released soon. She is a recipient of Senior Fellowship from the Government of India for notating sulaadis, alapas and thayas. The recent grant she has received is for studying geeta, prabandha and other forms of compositions from the Thanjavur manuscripts. “Many songs are noticed by scholars. But the knowledge of the availability of these manuscripts in IGCNA and the absence of any index make the study tedious. We are trying to fill this lacuna,” she says.

She contributes many articles and publications to, an online resource website for music, hosted by Dr. N. Ramanathan along with Vidya Jayaraman. “Dr. N. Ramanathan was my academic advisor in the project of Sulaadi compositions. His valuable advice was to not arrive at any conclusion looking at small data. ‘There could be more if you dig deep,’ he said,” she informs.

“The Musicologist Award from The Music Academy is a recognition for my research and an encouragement to do more work. I am still at the start of the journey,” says Arati. “These notations and scripts are not meant for practice or the concert platform. Similar to the study of abstract concepts in mathematics, this research is purely academic. To me, understanding music is a holistic process. I believe that music is connected to every aspect of human life and that motivates me to continue my research,” she says.

(Dr. Arati N. Rao will present a lec-dem on ‘Ragas of early Haridasas’ at the Music Academy on December 18, 2019, at 8.05 a.m.)

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Printable version | Dec 15, 2019 8:54:39 PM |

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