Rao Plays To Success

One of Fiji’s multi-talented musicians, Samresh Rao is set to return home to spread the essence of Indian classical music. The 32-year-old of Samabula, Suva, graduated with Bachelor of Instrumental
17 Jul 2015 10:04
Rao Plays To Success
Samresh Rao (left), has big plans when he returns home. Photo: Shratika Naidu

One of Fiji’s multi-talented musicians, Samresh Rao is set to return home to spread the essence of Indian classical music.

The 32-year-old of Samabula, Suva, graduated with Bachelor of Instrumental Music from Rabinadra Bharati University in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), India, specialising in Indian classical music.

Mr Rao, a professional Fijian musician for the past 12 years, had always wanted to study classical music in India.

His dream came true in 2012 when he was awarded a scholarship by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) under the Cultural Scheme.

Mr Rao, commonly known as Sam, has played in a number of bands in Fiji and while studying in India.

In Fiji, he featured as a drummer and percussionist in Hindi bands like Kohinoor Orchestra, Sangeet Sitare, Jhankaar and Hiz Masters Orchestra (the revival).

He gained popularity as a drummer for the Bad Boyz Orchestra, which performed in public and private events throughout Fiji.

In India, he performed with bands like Naad (Indian Rock), Still Alive, Rong Tuli (Bengali folk) Swar Dhara (vocal fusion) and the Rishop Band where he played the drums during the Bangla Music Festival.

He made 70 professional appearances playing in Kolkata, Delhi, Bangalore, Chandigar and Orissa.

He did multiple recordings on percussion instruments for bands like Naad and Nemississ.

“Being a graduate musician feels good, but what is more valuable is the experience I gained during my stay in India by being around so many talented and experienced classical musicians,” Mr Rao said.

Unlike normal Bachelor of Degree course classroom set-up, Mr Rao’s study life was different.

“Music classes were conducted in a very traditional manner.”

He said the professors and students sit on the floor inside the tutorial rooms with their instruments during classes.

“My final exam was not in writing papers; instead I had to present a performance.”

He said he had to perform a solo item in various percussion instruments before a panel of judges. Sometimes this is also attended by other audiences.

“They graded me along with other students according to our individual performing ability, stage confidence, improvisation skills and experience,” Mr Rao said.

“There were lots of new challenges and difficulties, but I was fortunate to be surrounded by great people who helped me in every struggle.”

Mr Rao’s music interest started when he was 10 when he was introduced to his first music tutor Bhakra Nand who taught him the basics of Indian tala in tabla.

“I started performing in temples and religious groups at the age of 13,” he said.

When Mr Rao began his higher education at Suva Grammar School. He was introduced to western music by his music teacher Finau Tuqota.

“I was very active in the school’s annual concerts and became a talented stage performer,” he ssaid.

“My introduction as a professional artist came when I joined University of the South Pacific (USP) as a foundation student.”

Later he joined a USP’s Band playing on the tabla, naal and octapad.

Since then, he was said to have performed in almost all major shows and festivals featuring Hindi bands.

Mr Rao made history in Fiji by becoming the first musician to play the tabla (an Indian classical instrument) with the Fiji’s national anthem at the opening ceremony of the South Pacific Games in 2003.

Since his debut as a professional musician, he started taking advanced music lessons from his teacher (Guru) Viveka Nand.

Mr Nand has been a professional vocalist and tutor to many musicians in Indian classical and semi-classical music in Fiji.

He is also a tutor and performer for the Indian Cultural Centre.

“I have been under the guidance of Mr Nand for more than a decade now and I still continue to learn the concepts of Indian tala system in tabla, dholak and other commercial percussion instruments that he plays,” Mr Rao said.

Mr Rao was an accompanist for Mr Nand playing tabla, dholak, naal, acoustic drums, electronic percussions and other instruments like the conga.

Fiji-born singer Sumeet Tappoo, who is now a professional semi-classical and Bollywood artist, had also preferred Mr Rao to be his accompanist on many occasions.

Mr Rao has big plans when he returns home.

“I want to create an interest within the greater Pacific community on the ancient art of Indian classical music,” he said.

The former director of Indian Cultural Centre and currently a Professor at the University of Calcutta in India, Kamal Mishra, said they were happy to see progress made by the Fijian students.

“I feel happy because I know Mr Rao and his valuable work will be a remarkable bridge between India and Fiji.” Mr Mishra said.

“I congratulate Mr Rao.”



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