In search of real music

A. Maheshwar Rao. Photo courtesy: Tridhara

A. Maheshwar Rao. Photo courtesy: Tridhara   | Photo Credit: 12dfrrao

Hindustani vocalist and composer A. Maheshwar Rao on his life in music.

A. Maheshwar Rao, Head of Programmes, Doordarshan Kendra, Bhubaneswar, is also a Hindustani vocalist and a composer. He has been particularly known for his outstanding renditions and music compositions for Sanskrit hymns and stotras. The musician was awarded the Guru Raghunath Dutta Award in 2013 for his contribution in the field of dance and music.

Rao, who performed at this year’s Debaprasad Das Award Festival recently, spoke about his journey in music. Excerpts: How do you balance your pursuit in music along with your responsibilities in Doordarshan?

Even though I am working in Doordarshan, my only passion has been music. My day begins and ends with music. The moment I get back from office, I sit for riyaz. I have also been teaching music regularly. Do you perform regularly too?

Yes. I am a Hindustani classical vocalist but I sing “aprachalita” (seldom heard) ragas such as Nat Kedar, Rewa,Vasanti Kedar, Dhanasree and so on. I particularly like Nat Kedar, Lalita Gauri, Barua and Gour Kalyan. I sing Hindi bhajans and light songs too but am passionate about singing Sanskrit hymns, and I compose my own music.

Being in Odisha, haven’t you developed an interest in Odissi music?

I have learnt in music because I have been an Odissi music composer! I have composed music for at least 100 dance dramas and ballets. At the beginning, I worked with “Prermad’, a trio of Madhavi Mudgal, Prerna Sreemali and Rama Vaidyanathan, in Delhi. I had made a composition of Mayadhar Mansingh for them with Odia literature in the Odissi dance style, Bharatanatyam and Kathak style. It was a presentation of one hour and thirty minutes staged at Kamani auditorium.

After I came to Odisha, I composed dance dramas for many dancers like Meera Das, Jyotsna, (who dances in all my ballets) and even for “Kanchi Abhijaan” for the Odissi Research Centre. I sing in Odia too but I am ‘stamped’ for Sanskrit singing. Raghunath Panigrahiji was the doyen of Sanskrit music in Odisha. After him, there has been a vacuum in Sanskrit singing in the State. I am trying to fill it up. Sanskrit words are not easy to pronounce clearly and correctly. It depends on how you punctuate and recite. Whenever I have sung Sanskrit songs, listeners have appreciated my pronunciation and singing. I thank God for it!

What made you learn Hindustani classical and not Carnatic?

Because I was born and brought up in Odisha. and in Odisha there is no Carnatic music. When I was 10 or 11 years old, I used to sing bhajans, and one of my teachers, Bidhubhushan Das, told me to go for Hindustani classical. At that time the only person was Kundala Adinarayanaji sir. I learnt from him for six years in Cuttack. Then I went to his disciple, Gopal Chandra Panda, andcompleted the alankar (advanced stage). I thereafter went to Kashna Shankar Boras in Kanpur and then to JVS Rao. Both the gurus are no more! Now, sometimes, I take guidance from Bikash Kashalkar of Pune. I feel, for a musician, learning never ends. Even if you are teaching someone, you are also learning from that person. And teaching?

I began teaching music in 1986. Between 1987 and ’89, I was at the Odissi Research Centre as a faculty member teaching Hindustani classical.

When did you join Doordarshan?

Pandit Bhubaneswar Mishra liked my voice and helped me join Doordarshan. My life has been a zigzag. I started as a teacher in Odisha Police High School where I taught Mathematics and English. Then I became an assistant sub-inspector of police for 12 years. During that period, I completed my alankar and gave up the job, came to ORC and then joined Doordarshan. I am still in search of my real music.

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Printable version | May 24, 2020 10:30:29 AM |

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